By Ben Gill, Head of Customer Success

Majority of local governments have declared a climate emergency and created climate strategies. We now reach the critical phase of the process – implementation. And as if this wasn’t challenging enough – how can it be achieved in a world of constrained budgets and over-stretched council staff? 

The emissions and impacts of a local government fall into three categories:

  1. Direct emissions for their own buildings and operations
  2. Indirect emissions from the procurement of services and goods
  3. Influence on the emissions of the district or region as a whole.

As we move down the list, the degree of control of the council falls, but the scale of the emissions increases. For example, scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions that are not produced by the council itself but occur in their value chain) can be over 90% of a local government’s carbon footprint. The total emissions of the region can be another 100 times greater. 

Therefore, although a climate officer may be primarily focused on reducing the council’s direct emissions, the biggest impact and carbon savings may come from addressing procurement, embedding carbon into strategies and engaging key stakeholders. Yet it is much harder to track what has been delivered and the specific benefits and achievements of initiatives that aim to influence procurement, policy and stakeholders. 

What is needed

What is clear is that we need a whole government response to climate change, with all policies aligned with carbon targets. A critical opportunity in this area is to leverage the co-benefits of climate action. For example, reducing car usage and encouraging active travel also improves air quality, and increases physical activity of residents. Yet for this to happen council officers need to be able to view each strategy through their own ‘lens’ – how does the transport plan contribute or conflict with health, does the climate plan contribute to equality?

More than this, the plans need to be connected and aligned – almost existing as subsets of a single strategy. This allows procurement and all policies to then be aligned with the council’s carbon targets. 

The next challenge is aligning the efforts of key local stakeholders. Many business, schools and government organisations have a climate strategy, are they aligned, do they overlap, are there huge gaps? It is almost impossible to tell unless they can be connected to a single set of Outcomes and Indicators. 

Have a look at our case studies to see how we’re helping local governments address these challenges.