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Ministers should empower locally elected leaders to be net zero trailblazers

A new Institute for Government report calls on the UK government to put England’s mayors at the heart of its net zero strategy.

Manchester tram stop exchange
Metro trams in Manchester. England's mayors can take a strategic approac on a regional level to some of the most challenging parts of the net zero strategy, including promoting low-carbon travel.

A new Institute for Government report calls on the UK government to put England’s mayors at the heart of its net zero strategy and give England’s locally-elected leaders the powers and funding to become trailblazers in transitioning to a green economy. 

Published today, Net zero and devolution: The role of England’s mayors in the climate transition, says the UK government’s current top-down approach to net zero has hamstrung locally elected mayors’ efforts to deliver net zero.

The new IfG report argues that England’s mayors, and the authorities they lead, have the potential to play a big role in decarbonising the UK economy. They can take a strategic approach on a regional level to some of the most challenging parts of the net zero strategy: retrofitting homes, promoting low-carbon travel, and ensuring workers have the skills to meet the needs of the green economy. 

But England’s mayors currently have no formal role in the UK’s net zero strategy, receive little funding to work specifically on net zero objectives, and have little clarity about long-term funding in key areas like housing and transport. At the same time stop-start policy making in Whitehall has undermined consumer confidence and business investment. 

With the UK government required to produce an updated net zero strategy by March 2023, the new IfG report sets out a series of recommendations designed to integrate mayors into the UK’s net zero strategy and give them the powers to help deliver it.

The report’s recommendations for government include:  

  • Placing the role of regional and local government at the heart of the 2023 net sero strategy, and creating a net zero delivery board – made up of ministers, mayors, industry and local representatives – to act as a high level forum to help government deliver the policies set out in the strategy 
  • Providing consolidated, long-term net zero delivery funding to mayoral devolved authorities, including funding for buildings retrofit, industrial decarbonisation, clean energy generation and climate-change adaptation.  
  • Supporting regional delivery of green skills by ending policy churn and setting a consistent net zero policy framework, supported by credible targets and long-term funding 
  • Improving data sharing between devolved subnational government and Whitehall, to improve information exchange in relation to net zero particularly in areas such as skills.  
  • Consolidating the fragmented grants for retrofitting homes into a multi-year funding pot that devolved mayoral authorities can administer in co-ordination with local authorities.

Alex Nice, co-author of the report, said: 

“Mayors in England’s city regions see net zero as a core part of their mission. They have the local knowledge and the ability to think strategically at a regional level. The government now needs to give them the tools and funding so they can deliver their ambitious emission reduction goals.” 

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