Minister of State Sean Canney TD, Chair of the CCMA Environment and Climate Action Committee Paddy Mahon, and Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton TD, at the signing of the Local Government Climate Charter, 29 October 2019.
Councils stand ready to lead on climate action and have huge ambition for what the local authority sector can achieve with government support, Michael Walsh, Chair of the County and City Management Association (CCMA) said as a new Local Government Climate Charter was introduced.
The new Charter was developed in consultation with the local government sector and commits signatories to a number of objectives to address the climate challenge and advocate for climate action and behavioural change among citizens.
The Charter reflects the extensive work councils are already undertaking and have planned in the area of climate action. Of significant note, in September all councils published Climate Adaptation strategies that set out the measures each will take to respond effectively to climate change and to enhance resilience to its impact.
Michael Walsh, CCMA Chair said: “Climate change is the defining issue of our time. It requires a serious and urgent response. Councils recognise that we have a duty to capitalise on our unique position to lead lasting change for the country.
“Councils anticipated and planned for the enhanced role now falling to us and have positioned the sector over the last number of years to build on the expertise and competencies we have to work with all sectors of the community to provide the local leadership necessary to bring about real and meaningful change.”
Mr Walsh added: “Councils are thinking ambitiously and creatively about what we can do to have real impact. We are thinking big; for example, we have a plan to train all 29,000 local government employees to lead and animate climate change issues at a local level.”
Climate Action Plan
The Climate Charter is one of the measures included in the government’s Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown, which names local authorities as Lead Partners in 7 Actions and as Key Stakeholders in a further 22.
Paddy Mahon, Chair of the CCMA Environment and Climate Action Committee said: “The Government Action Plan is a measure of how involved councils will be in addressing the climate challenge. Already, we are making progress across a range of areas, reducing the carbon footprint of our internal operations, increasing the energy efficiency of our housing stock, prioritising climate considerations in development planning and actively engaging our communities on climate issues. We are ready to build on what we have achieved.”
Among the wide-ranging actions required of local authorities under the Government Climate Action Plan are to:
undertake deep retrofits of local authority buildings and social housing stock;
develop and implement cycle network plans for all major cities;
develop a sustainable transport plan for all cities with a population exceeding 75,000;
climate-proof development plans and deliver National Planning Framework objectives for compact growth;
deliver technical and behavioural change training to local authority staff;
support the development of one-stop-shops for residential and commercial energy efficiency;
develop an online checklist for companies to measure their sustainability;
manage low emission zones including through pricing policies and restricted access;
roll out Electric Vehicle charging network and deploy electric vehicles within council fleets;
develop plans for ‘decarbonising zones’; and,
implement a new National Waste Prevention Programme and Regional Waste Management Plans.
Paddy Mahon emphasised that councils are already undertaking significant climate mitigation and adaptation measures from within existing resources:
All councils have prepared and will implement Climate Adaptation Strategies.
Four Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs) have been established as a shared local authority service to support capacity within the sector and act as a catalyst for wider change.
Climate and environmental sustainability are key considerations for councils in their strategic planning and day-to-day actions across all service areas, most significantly in planning, transport, housing, lighting, waste management, and economic development.
Councils are leading the way on electric vehicle charging points, walking and cycling routes, waste management, biodiversity and other key areas.
Councils are to the forefront in responding to extreme weather events caused by climate change such as the flooding, storms and drought of recent years.