Which net-zero policies do people want? Launching the Local Green New Deals report

12 December, 2023

Tim Foxon

Siobhán Stack-Maddox

Reading time: 7 minutes

Siobhán Stack-Maddox and Tim Foxon outline the highlights of the Green New Deal report, launched on 11 December.

On Monday 11 December 2023, over 200 academic, NGO, policy and local government representatives attended one of CREDS’ final webinars to hear answers to the question: ‘Which net-zero policies do people want?’

CREDS and New Economics FoundationOpens in a new tab researchers were joined at the webinar by high-profile policy speakers as they launched their new report, Local Green New Deals: A transformative plan for achieving the UK’s climate, social and economic goals locally.

The report outlines evidence, proposals and policy recommendations for how local and regional action could help to achieve the UK’s net-zero climate goals, whilst providing economic, social and environmental benefits to citizens, via Local Green New Deals. It draws on case studies and in-depth engagement with citizens in two contrasting UK regions: Greater Brighton and North of Tyne.

Following an introduction by Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Green New Deal, co-authors Prof Tim Foxon, Claire Copeland, Dr Donal Brown and Christian Jaccarini presented evidence on citizens’ support for local measures that would help to reduce energy demand, and recommendations for policy ideas to implement these measures. Attendees then heard responses to the report from Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor, and Sian Berry, Green MP Candidate for Brighton Pavilion, followed by a wide-ranging Q&A discussion, which was also joined by Ross Lowrie, Principal Manager for Net Zero at the North of Tyne Combined Authority.

In her introduction to the webinar and foreword to the report, Caroline Lucas said, ‘If we design it right, climate action is win-win. Local Green New Deals will create jobs, deliver warmer homes and lower energy bills, and make our neighbourhoods more pleasant places to be.’

Drawing on engagement with citizens in the two regions, the report explores the potential scale of energy demand reduction measures needed to realise these transformative changes in relation to four key objectives:

  1. Cheaper, warmer, zero carbon homes:
    Area-based retrofit programmes should ensure all homes meet a decent standard of energy efficiency, with funding for low-income households and local one-stop shops to support delivery in each neighbourhood. Support for the adoption of low-carbon heating technologies should also be greatly expanded.
  2. Affordable, sustainable public transport:
    Access to public transport must be greatly improved to support a reduction in car use. This will require the expansion of bus routes, new light rail and train services and the electrification of these systems. The current expensive, fragmented and privatised model of public transport provision is unlikely to be compatible with these aims.
  3. Car-free city centres and active travel:
    Urban centres which are free of traffic, pollution and noise are better and safer places for communities. Alongside expanded public transport provision, car-free zones, extensive active travel routes and walkable towns and cities are key components of improving local health and wellbeing while meeting net-zero goals.
  4. Expanding green spaces and nature restoration:
    Nature-based solutions are a critical means of sequestering carbon and addressing wider environmental issues such as air pollution. Additionally, by greatly expanding wild spaces, citizens can enjoy the benefits of spending time in nature, and we can restore the UK’s depleted biodiversity.

Caroline Lucas reflected:

One of the most striking revelations in this report is the overwhelming popularity of the policies that were put to residents”.

Citizens value the diverse benefits associated with these policies, from tackling climate change and improving air quality to improving physical and mental health and quality of life. However, respondents also highlighted that the way that these policies are implemented is key to ensuring that these benefits are realised. They stressed the importance of ensuring fairness, equal access and improving the reliability and affordability of services.

The report highlights that an increased role for local government is essential to making a Green New Deal a reality, and makes proposals across three domains: 1) New institutions for delivery; 2) New powers; and 3) New funding, including:

  • Providing a 10-year Local Retrofit Delivery Framework, supporting regions to set up a Retrofit Taskforce and local one-stop shops;
  • Lifting the ban on municipal ownership of bus operators;
  • Making Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods less difficult and expensive to implement;
  • Reforming UK food systems to empower farmers to take better care of their land.

In the webinar, as well as welcoming the report’s detailed recommendations that “go beyond lip service to green investment”, Sian Berry said that she was inspired by the evidence of “such support for forward-looking issues”. This shows that citizens “understand the benefits to their lives, to their local communities” offered by Local Green New Deal policies, and evidences their “imagination for things to be different”. People “recognise that we can’t separate climate, economic and social justice”, she said.

Mayor Jamie Driscoll reflected on the similarities in citizen perspectives and support for Green New Deal policies in Brighton and North of Tyne: “people in Brighton want exactly same thing as in the North East,” he said.

Mayor Driscoll also highlighted one of the report’s key messages: the “need to rethink how we calculate public value for money”. Sian Berry echoed this and, drawing on her experience of public transport campaigning, welcomed the report’s recommendations for a more holistic approach to valuing projects, such as new public transport services.

Mayor Driscoll emphasised that we need to consider “mobility as a service not a transaction”, with an emphasis “not on getting more vehicles through narrow spaces on public highways, but on getting people to where they need to be sustainably”.

All of the panellists agreed on the challenge of  “unlocking the money” needed to tackle environmental, social and economic challenges, and the crucial importance of longer term funding to create the stability local governments need to pursue these agendas, in contrast to the current competitive bidding approach. Ross Lowrie said, “We need local solutions and long term funding”, emphasising the importance of a local approach to initiatives like retrofit to effectively engage all members of the community in a way that builds trust and respects communities’ unique local identities.

Sian Berry stressed the need for a nuanced understanding of fairness in policy design, recognising the barriers citizens face – such as cost – which make joined-up policies so important. For example, we must acknowledge the prevalence of car dependency due to the high costs of other transport modes, she said, and ensure that affordable, reliable public transport is available alongside incentives to reduce car use and traffic.

To deliver Green New Deals in a way that benefits people’s daily lives, “devolution and democratic ownership are fundamental”, Sian said, to enable “planning at the right level” to simultaneously achieve the “high quality of life and low energy consumption” which are fundamental to the Local Green New Deal.

Prof Nick Eyre, Director of CREDS, closed the webinar, reflecting on the unique vision for joined-up local action presented in this report, as well as its synergies with key messages from the CREDS research portfolio about the importance of how energy is used, rather than just the type of energy, and the need for a genuinely fair net-zero transition.


Please get in touch with the project’s Principal Investigator, Prof Tim Foxon, if you would like more information at T.J.Foxon@sussex.ac.uk

Banner photo credit: Phil Kiel on Unsplash