Reflections from COP26
Cllr Bridget Smith, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, and DCN Vice Chair
Cllr Smith is attending COP26 as part of the LGA’s cross-party team of delegates. Below are some of her thoughts on attending the conference, and the great capacity that our members have to deliver a real difference in the fight against climate crisis:
It is the most enormous privilege to be invited to attend COP26 as part of an LGA delegation. I cannot adequately describe how huge and confusing it all is but also how exciting and invigorating. The passion from all of these people of all ages from all over the world is electric.
So why is a mere district council leader here, rubbing shoulders with heads of state and people far more influential than even they are? Well, the bottom line is that climate change affects us all and we all have a part to play and those of us in local government are really worried that our significant role might be overlooked. In the UK alone local government is responsible for the management of up to 30% of carbon emissions. Even though our own estates only produce 1-2% our day job is to plan for the building of infrastructure and houses, the creation and maintenance of green and blue spaces, procurement of thousands of services, the support of business, and many things that have a carbon cost.
In South Cambridgeshire we are leading by example and are already dramatically reducing the emissions from our own offices by installing PVs, ground source heat and 20 electric charging points. We are moving to electric vehicles including our refuse fleet, we have changed our street lights to LEDs, retrofitted our housing stock and given hundreds of thousands of pounds to our villages to move them to being Zero Carbon Communities.
So what do we what to achieve at COP26? We completely agree with everyone asking for higher reduction targets and recognition that this can only be achieved by us all working together. We want the final agreement to explicitly state that all governments will work with those of us in local government to allow us together to do the maximum we can as fast as we can.
And our ask of the UK government is that they trust us, as they eventually trusted us during the height of the pandemic, to take control at a local level and in doing so to give us the freedoms, the powers and the money to really make a difference.