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Green Liberal Democrats - Party Leadership Election Environmental Q&A 2) Locally Green

June 18, 2015 6:31 PM
By Tim Farron and Norman Lamb

The Green Liberal Democrats have sent the two leadership candidates a series of questions, to inform party members, through their responses, about their green credentials.

In the run up to our annual conference in Manchester on June 27th, we will be publishing their answers, one question at a time.

Q2. How can local councils promote the green agenda in the absence of a clear will to act at national government level?

Tim FarronTim Farron

Norman Lamb Norman Lamb

There's plenty local authorities can do by themselves; in particular, the City Deals established by the coalition afford considerable scope for the bigger metropolitan councils to adopt innovative solutions, and government and EU support is available for many activities, for councils of all sizes. Possibilities include delivering Green Deal home improvement schemes on a street by street or neighbourhood basis; properly insulating their own buildings; investing in local renewable capacity (solar PV, solar thermal, biomass boilers etc.) on their own facilities and providing help to local communities to do the same; using their procurement policy (for the smaller ones, maybe together with neighbouring authorities) to purchase the greenest products and services; improving the collection of recyclable and food waste; and much more. Perhaps most important, communicating the benefits of these actions to local communities helps to spread understanding of the need for green action. I want to work with Liberal Democrat councillors to ensure that all the councils we run become the greenest local authorities (some of them already are!)

Years ago, as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Green Energy, I visited Germany to see how their approach to renewables had helped them lead the way in Europe in transforming their energy industry. The thing that struck me was their principle that, when a new wind turbine or solar farm was built, the local community all received a share - so everyone benefitted. They said that, when they started to take this approach, local opposition to green energy disappeared overnight. This seems to me a fundamentally liberal approach to take. The coming years will be difficult for green causes - too many in the Tory party just don't care, and David Cameron will struggle to win support from his backbenchers for the national action needed to tackle global man-made climate change. But Lib Dem councils - and I am determined to dramatically increase how many of these there are in the coming years - can play a part locally through the planning system in encouraging this sort of co-operative approach where communities get the benefit of new green energy generation rather than just wealthy landowners. Councils can also act as opinion leaders, leading from the front, demonstrating that, in everything they do they will behave in a green way - as landowners, property owners, in the provision of services and as an employer. They can also build alliances with civic society and enlightened business to lead the way in their localities. When I was leader of the Lib Dem opposition on Norwich City Council way back in about 1989 I proposed an environmental charter which I wanted the council to adopt. I consulted a whole range of civic society organisations. Councils can lead and Lib Dem councils will lead on this agenda.