Can devolution drive a low carbon future?
Vision10, a cross-party initiative to create a long term low carbon strategy for the UK, held an evidence session in Parliament last week, chaired by Polly Billington, director of the UK100 cities network. MPs, Peers and experts from local government, think-tanks and industry discussed devolved city-regions’ unique ability to advance green and smart cities.
Vision10 is a growing campaign to develop an industrial strategy which addresses climate change, and is backed by senior thinkers including Sir Vince Cable, former Business Secretary, Laura Sandys, Chair of the European Movement, Lord Whitty, LGA Vice President, Prof. Paul Ekins OBE, of UCL, and Baroness Featherstone.
Panellists at the meeting made clear that local control over energy sources is important, with Dr Alan Whitehead MP, Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, suggesting that central government ‘let go’ of the centralised energy system. If energy systems were regionalised, people could become active in the production of the energy they consume, and more likely to be considerate of their usage and less NIMBYed in their approach. Current legislation makes operating more locally than regionally or nationally difficult, argued Dr Whitehead.
As MP for Cardiff North and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for International Trade and Climate Change, Anna McMorrin MP has experience of pushing climate change policy in a devolved nation and argued that devolved governments are potential leaders in green energy, a need accentuated in light of Brexit. Faye Scott of Ashden also stressed that, although environmental policy is not devolved, it is tied up in other sectors: for example, authorities could make sustainable choices for energy, transport and housing. Green policies in these areas would improve lives regardless of environmental impact.
Chris Hewett, CEO of Solar Trade Association, said that localised energy would have to involve public and private sector cooperation, and that the sector is ‘enthusiastic’, but significant local authority financial backing is needed. Billington was quick to point out that businesses need to show what they can do for local authorities and residents, as well as the other way round.
Vision10’s expert advisory group will now collate the evidence from its three evidence sessions and develop a ‘charter’ where businesses will be able to show their commitment to its goals, as well as ultimately winning Ministerial support for the campaign.
If you would like to know more or get involved with Vision10, please contact Vision10@devoconnect.co.uk.