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Government inaction puts climate goals at risk, warns Mayor

Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “We are doing everything we can to tackle the climate emergency but we need government to take urgent action”

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram has warned the country risks missing its climate targets because of government ‘backsliding’ on its environmental pledges.

Speaking as the region presented its own Five-year Climate Action Plan, the Mayor highlighted reports last week suggesting ministers were planning to drop an £11.6bn flagship climate spending pledge as he urged the government to maintain its commitments.

He warned that while the city region was doing everything possible to reach its net zero targets, the limited powers and funding available locally meant the Combined Authority was still reliant on national government to achieve its goals.

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said:

“The past few years have seen the climate crisis thrust into public consciousness like never before. It presents a challenge on a scale like nothing we have seen – and I believe we all have a moral duty to play our part.

“As Mayor, I’m ensuring that the region does everything possible to go net zero by 2040 at the latest but the government’s waning commitment is putting the entire country’s goals at risk. While devolution has helped us to lead the way in some areas – like our publicly owned hydrogen buses and battery powered trains – the limited powers and funding we have mean that we are still far too reliant on Westminster and Whitehall to meet our targets.

“If the backsliding continues, the government won’t be able to meet its own 2050 targets, let alone our more ambitious 2040 plans. It’s time for them to show that they are serious about those targets by putting their money where their mouth is and power into the hands of those who can deliver.

“Our climate action plan outlines our blueprint for the next few years to help cut emissions, improve our environment and move towards our vision for a cleaner, more equitable region. I will be banging the drum over the next few years for the power, resource and funding from government to make that happen.”

Mayor Rotheram made sure the Combined Authority was the first in the country to declare a Climate Emergency in June 2019 and set an ambitious goal to become net zero by 2040 – at least a decade before national government targets.

At its meeting this Friday (July 14), the Combined Authority will be asked to approve the Five-Year Climate Action Plan which was developed collectively with the city region’s six local authorities in Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral.

The action plan supports and builds on the environmental and carbon reduction work the Combined Authority and the six local authorities are already undertaking to tackle climate change.

This includes the Mayor’s commitment to build a cleaner, greener London-style transport network, having invested £500m in the region’s new publicly owned fleet of battery powered trains and hydrogen buses, as well as investing £70m in active travel infrastructure.

The Combined Authority has made significant investments in world-leading decarbonisation projects such as Glass Futures, based in St Helens, which received £9m of funding. Once open, it has the potential to lead the way in the decarbonisation of energy-intensive industries at home and across the globe.

Mayor Rotheram has also set out his intent to build Mersey Tidal Power, a pioneering energy production scheme that has the potential to generate enough clean, predictable power for a million homes over its 120-year life span. The project is key to realising the Mayor’s ambition to establish the region as the UK’s Renewable Energy Coast, built on strengths in wind, solar, hydrogen and tidal power.

Cllr David Baines, Portfolio Holder for Net-Zero and Air Quality, said:

“Achieving net zero in the Liverpool City Region will require us all to work collectively and quickly. This action plan is a call for everyone, from each individual right up to our largest businesses, to consider what actions they can take to make a difference, as soon as possible.

“We need to keep our eyes on the long-term goal whilst taking urgent, short-term action that moves us in the right direction as fast as possible.

“The challenge of achieving net zero will be difficult but by working together we are confident that we can make great strides forward. We are confident that with the right resources, investment and commitment, we can achieve the sustainable and fair future that our communities deserve.

“This is an existential challenge. We cannot and we will not fail.”

Gideon Ben-Tovim, Chair of the Liverpool City Region Climate Partnership and of Nature Connected, said:

“It’s a great privilege to Chair the Climate Partnership with such a wide range of members –the six local authorities, environmental experts, the universities, the NHS, voluntary sector, business, young people –all working together to give the Metro Mayor and the Combined Authority our best advice on how to respond to the climate and ecological emergency we all face, and how to make our beautiful region one of the greenest in the country. I’m proud we have been able to contribute to this important plan.”

Achieving a net zero city region, mitigating the impact of climate change and building a more resilient natural environment, are key strategic priorities for the Combined Authority.

The actions set out in the plan demonstrate how the Combined Authority will generate and maintain momentum in the Liverpool City Region. However, the plan makes clear the city region will have to “move further and much, much faster” to stay on track to achieve the required carbon reductions.

For example, while the Combined Authority has secured £105m to retrofit energy-efficiency measure such as insulation, air-source heat pumps and solar panels, to around 10,000 homes, it will need to retrofit 60,000 properties every year to reach the 2040 net zero carbon target. With 700,000 houses across the Liverpool City Region, it would cost £12bn to retrofit them all. That can only be done with massive government or private investment.

The plan commits the Combined Authority to a number of actions over the next five years, including:

Progressing the Mersey Tidal project

Continuing the development of an integrated London-style public transport system, including roll-out of the £500m publicly owned new train fleet and hydrogen buses and work on bus reform, including proposals to move to bus franchising

Delivering housing retrofit programmes that will reduce emissions from domestic properties and cut people’s energy bills

Boosting biodiversity through the development of a Local Nature Recovery Strategy

Since 2019-20, the baseline year for carbon reporting, the Combined Authority’s emissions have seen a 32% decrease, partly due to the global pandemic and greening of the electrical grid, as well as its own carbon reduction projects.

Cllr Gill Wood, Vice Chair of the Climate Partnership, said:

“We’re making great progress towards reducing carbon dioxide emissions but we’re not complacent and know we have a long road ahead of us.

“The climate threat is very real and very urgent and this document provides an excellent plan of activity through to 2028 as we relentlessly pursue our target of being a net zero-carbon city region by 2040.”

Transport and infrastructure schemes feature prominently in the comprehensive 80-point plan. Waste and sustainable energy projects are also included along with policy, planning and collaboration.

The plan recognises that choices made by individuals will be vital to avoiding a climate emergency so it includes education as well as a behaviour change campaign around net zero and natural environment issues.