Many councils are busy preparing their climate action plans with ambitious deadlines to reach net zero emissions, some as soon as 2028. Council leaders were keen to see measures in the budget that could help them deliver the radical carbon reductions needed.

Some of the measures will be very welcome such as the £500m for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, the doubling in investment in flood defences and £640m for new tree planting. But local authorities will be disappointed by the relatively small funding sums for cycling and walking and for increasing the energy efficiency of buildings.

The £1bn promised through the Transforming Cities Fund, is a tiny fraction of the £27bn investment in roads, which is likely to increase private car use. 

Ashden and Friends of the Earth have put together an evidence-based list of the 31 most effective actions councils can take on climate that also benefit other areas of the economy, as well as improving well-being and health. 

Electrification of transport will not be enough to get to net zero, or to eliminate air pollution or address traffic congestion in our towns and cities. Councils like Ashden winner Waltham Forest have demonstrated that with the right investment, new cycling infrastructure can boost physical activity, reduce poor respiratory health as well as encouraging people out of their cars.

For most councils, leaky hard-to-heat homes are responsible for a high proportion of their carbon emissions, and unfortunately there are few measures in the budget to address this. There are no new incentives through variation of stamp duty or reducing VAT for low carbon refurbishments and no new investment to help scale up ‘deep retrofit’ through innovative solutions such as Energiesprong, which won an Ashden Award last year. A large, locally lead programme to retrofit homes could create thousands of green jobs, reduce fuel poverty as well as slashing carbon emissions.

There has been a step change in activity by local councils of all political flavours, responding to unprecedented levels of climate concerns from residents. Most of the technical solutions are already here, and have been demonstrated by trailblazing councils. Over the next few months in the lead up to COP26, government must provide regulation and investment to help scale up this good work.

Head of Cities, Simon Brammer said, ‘At Ashden we believe that action on climate must be shaped to ensure that the net-zero transition is a just and fair one. That is why we support a strong green new deal. Such a deal will help decarbonise our industry, transport, agriculture and buildings, whilst at the same time restoring nature - all essential to keep us below 1.5C of warming. However, it will give us much more than that; it will create hundreds of thousands of new fairly paid jobs particularly important for post-industrial regions. It will create cheaper to heat homes, cleaner air and sustainable food – improving the lives of us all.’