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How can local leaders help England reach net zero?

Ed Cox & Shirley Rodrigues discussed what role England’s mayors and local leaders can play in decarbonising the economy and public services.

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In 2019, the UK government passed trailblazing legislation committing itself to achieving ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The UK has already made significant progress in decarbonising its economy: carbon emissions have fallen by over 45% from the 1990s levels. This has been mainly achieved through centrally directed policy to decrease emissions from power generation, by substituting coal generation for gas and investment in renewable energy.

But reducing emissions further will require disruptive policy and behavioural change across a wider range of sectors, involving a more diffuse set of actors. Metro mayors and local government in England will play a key role, given their powers in critical areas such as transport, planning, housing, skills and economic strategy.

This event explored how mayors and other local leaders are using devolved powers to achieve net zero at the regional level, by supporting the growth of green industry and energy, investing in clean transport and infrastructure, retrofitting houses and buildings to reduce emissions, and upskilling the population for the green jobs of the future.

Drawing on research it published earlier this year, Net zero and devolution: The role of England’s mayors in the climate transition, the Institute for Government hosted a virtual event in partnership with The Royal Society to discuss these questions.

To explore these questions and more, our expert panel included: 

  • Ed Cox, Executive Director - Strategy, Economy & Net Zero at the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA)
  • Professor Joanna D. Haigh, Research Fellow at Imperial College London
  • Rosa Hodgkin, Researcher at the Institute for Government
  • Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy at the Greater London Authority

The event was chaired by Akash Paun, Programme Director at the Institute for Government.

Follow us on X (formerly known as Twitter) @ifgevents and join the conversation using #IfGnetzero

This event was kindly supported by The Royal Society.

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