What do local leaders think about the climate crisis?

Written by

James Wood


From the Queen and Prince Charles to David Attenborough and Gretta Thunberg, a range of high-profile figures have waded into the climate debate as world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26.

While the focus of the summit is on achieving multilateral commitments aimed at tackling climate change, it important to remember that here in the UK, around 40% of emissions come from our households.

This means our homes and the planning system as a whole, has a key role to play in meeting our 2050 net zero commitment.

A cross-party group of MPs recently shone a light on the problems facing the housing sector as it continues grapples with the climate challenge.

For existing homes, they have called for the Government to provide viable choices and incentives to help homeowners retrofit their homes.

For new homes, they have urged the Government to place our net zero target at the heart of the NPPF – against which planning applications are judged.

But one thing the cross-party report also highlights is the “crucial role” local authorities have in raising people’s understanding about the changes taking place.

This raises an interesting question which affects everyone operating in the built environment sector.

What do local leaders think about the climate crisis and the sector’s response to it?

Over the past year, we have commissioned a range of climate-focused polling to understand the attitudes of stakeholders and the wider public about the climate emergency.

Our report published earlier this year focuses on the attitudes of local councillors towards net zero and the government’s approach to climate change.

It is taken from a representative sample of more than 400 councillors from across all parties in England.

Key findings include:

  1. Climate change is a top priority for councillors in making planning decisions
    89% of councillors place sustainability and the environment at the top of their list when making planning decisions, on par with traffic and highway safety.
  1. Some sustainability measures are more important to councillors than others
    Councillors see sustainable transport connections, efficient insulation and use of natural light as by far the most important sustainability measures in planning – well above biodiversity, solar panels or electric vehicle charging points.
  1. Councillors doubt some elements of the Government 10-point plan for a green recovery
    Only 20% of councillors believe the government will achieve its aim of installing 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
  1. Councillors generally support onshore renewable energy projects
    Over 80% of councillors say they support the development of local onshore renewable projects in their area, although this figure drops to 67% among Conservative councillors.
  1. Councillors view climate change targets with an element of scepticism
    Only 45% of councillors believe their own local authority is on course to meet their net zero targets, while just 30% believe the UK as a whole will meet its 2050 target.

With three quarters of UK local authorities having declared a climate emergency, it has never been more important to understand how the climate agenda could affect the way investment into our built environment is perceived by decision-makers.

Download our free report to discover more


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