Climate crisis is global, but councils can offer local solutions | Stephen Smellie

At Cop26 This year we hear diplomats and heads of state negotiating on targets, but when a river erupts or a storm strikes, it is up to our local councils to clear the controversy. When Hurricane Frank hit Northeast Scotland in the New Year 2016, councilmen, engineers, homeowners, social workers and housekeepers worked day and night to gather 300 volunteers for families. .

In the weeks and months that followed, the Council of Aberdeenshire had to deal with the damage of one mile of damaged roads, three washed pedestrian bridges and several bridges. This is about cleaning and bringing families back home. Despite funding from the Scottish government, the council has about £ 15m left. This is a very interesting, yet very real, response to climate change.

As we look to the future, the task ahead for councilors like me is to think about how to make our homes and neighborhoods more sustainable and stronger and perhaps more equitable along the way.

From our home, 14% of the UK’s total emissions are due to poorly equipped homes. Renovating homes and other buildings to prevent energy from leaking into roofs and walls is a daunting challenge. Leaving this to individual landlords and landlords makes a difference between the rich, the poor, and those who can afford to pay for the walls and ceilings, and the poor, who cannot afford to pay for heating.

Councils are designed to coordinate social housing resources and, on the other hand, benefit other households. Local authorities who have maintained home maintenance teams can renovate their own buildings – but with the enormous scale efficiency of a single-sector project, it will save fuel and energy costs for all other property owners. . If you are doing scaffolding to renovate a house, it is cheaper to build the adjacent house at the same time. At the same time, councils are re-training their own manpower as they create industry-standard training programs. These young people are being trained in the skills they need to succeed in the green economy.

At the community level, councils themselves are faced with the challenge of reducing their dependence on fuel, as they consume so much energy, from street lighting to heating buildings and driving vehicles. However, councils can be a key agent in resolving this issue.

Local councils can use renewable energy for council land and buildings, using wind and solar energy for themselves and the wider community. This could solve the problem of fuel poverty in their area, while the family budget for heating is increasing. There are costs to developing such plans, but the benefits are quickly reaped.

Such municipal energy projects can be an incentive for public sector partners by eliminating the high cost of long-distance transmission through the national grid by linking community and commercial energy projects to council plans. Each roof is fitted with solar panels, and wind turbines are installed on the appropriate council land, bringing communities closer to achieving energy self-sufficiency – the goal can be achieved in two decades.

The benefits may increase if these plans are linked to procurement policies that support nearby businesses. For example, the Community Resource Building Strategy, launched last year at North Irshire Council, ensures that many additional council costs remain in the area.

Of course, to start these plans, councils need government investment. But many of these plans will pay off that investment in 10 to 15 years, saving on energy bills, reducing fuel poverty and improving the local economy. Councils recognize the skills needed to make this transition and recognize the need to retrain some staff. When council ships are converted to electric or green hydrogen vehicles, there will be little work for diesel mechanics. As future social housing is built with electric or pump storage heaters, gas regulators and maintenance teams must learn new skills. Councils, in collaboration with their unions and unions, can ensure that these transitions are fair to existing manpower, tenants, service users and council taxpayers.

With the right national support and planning, councils can become real agents of economic transformation as their main employers, as well as owners of infrastructure, property and land, and procurement of goods and services.

Stephen Smily has worked for the local council for 40 years in community development and training and is currently the secretary of Unison South Lancashire.

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