Episode 8 of the Environment Journal Podcast is now LIVE!

This month in the Environment Journal Podcast we are starting to look forward to the COP26 intergovernmental conference which will be held in Glasgow at the start of next month.

This is billed as the most important intergovernmental meeting since the Paris Agreement was reached in 2015. Since that time the IPCC has been working on its 6th report and it continues to deliver harder and harder-hitting messages about the disastrous effects of climate change on communities around the world.

The UK Government is proud to be Chairing this meeting but has a heavy responsibility to ensure that the discussions lead to a meaningful outcome – as we know there have been intergovernmental meetings in the past where this has not been the case.

But the UK will come under increasing scrutiny as it performs the Chairman role of the meeting in terms of its own position.

Early innovation – such as the UK being the first country in the world to adopt legally binding emissions reduction targets – is now starting to fade and the country has to continually demonstrate that it is ‘walking the walk’ as well as ‘talking the talk.’

So with the focus being strongly drawn towards Government policy, we invited the UK100 group to discuss this.

The UK100 Group is a network of highly ambitious local government leaders, seeking to devise and implement plans for the transition to clean energy that are ambitious, cost-effective and take the public and business with them.

Polly Billington is the Chief Executive of UK100 and has been at the forefront of lobbying the Government and others in relation to climate change policy and is able to offer an excellent insight into how the UK Government is preparing for the Conference.

Polly starts by saying something about the group, which has only been in existence for around 5 years.

Originally its focus was energy, with a pledge from all of its members to reach energy self-sufficiency in renewables by 2050, but it decided that such aspirations are not that challenging now and so it subtly moved across to span the wider areas of climate, clean energy and air quality.

In specifics on policy in the UK, the Heat and Buildings Strategy and the Net Zero roadmap were specific topics of discussion. Polly indicates that she does not believe that ministers have yet gripped this agenda sufficiently and the interface between different departments of Government is also an issue.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly adopted the mantra ‘coal, cash, cars, trees’ and used this recently at the Youth Meeting in Milan and so that is a good indication of the direction of travel.

As for the institutes of Government, the new Levelling Up Ministry (which includes local government and has the influential Michael Gove at its head) she suggests bodes well for action in the future.

One of the key issues is powers for local authorities to act.

Here, UK 100 has sought to help by the publication of a paper called ‘Power Shift:  research into local authority powers relating to climate action’. This was published earlier this year and analyses a whole range of LA powers and what they cover. More importantly, it indicates where there are gaps in the policy and regulatory framework which the Government might need to act to fill.

She also mentioned the latest initiative of a ‘network of networks’ which involves seeking to join together organisations working elsewhere in Europe and beyond doing the same thing as UK 100.

Mutual learning and sharing of information is seen as a powerful tool and UK 100 believes that this will help in the fight to combat climate change.

Polly is a thoroughly passionate and well-informed advocate and this Podcast is a vibrant discussion around these key areas.


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