Star comment: Time for ministers to trust the regions on climate crisis

There is always a danger with any conference on climate change that it ends up becoming little more than a talking shop.

Climate change.
Climate change.

Leaders say all the right things while all those around them nod in agreement and then nothing much happens when it comes to actual policy change.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26 as it’s known, which is due to take place later this year, simply has to be different. It is widely recognised as the most important climate conference for some time, with the need to halve global emissions over the next nine years now a matter of great urgency.

To achieve such an ambitious aim, governments all over the world will need to work closely together, but that in itself will not be enough. Clearly, local councils and regions have a major role to play in the race for net zero. But for them to play their part they need to be backed by government, in terms of both powers and finance.

In years to come, yesterday’s international net zero conference in Birmingham may be looked back on as a watershed moment for climate change. It could be seen as the time when ministers finally saw the light and gave regions such as the West Midlands, Shropshire and Staffordshire the tools required to kickstart the race for net zero.

Cooperation is the key, and in the coming years there needs to be collaboration on a scale rarely seen. It needs to transcend political allegiance and geographical boundaries, and while every area wants to become the centre of the green industrial revolution, there is consensus that we are better when we all work together. As Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti put it in his conference speech: “The climate crisis isn’t limited by any municipal boundary or national border, so our solutions can’t be limited either.”

Here in the UK, ministers must realise that time is of the essence and they have to find solutions now. Otherwise, the climate crisis will deepen and solutions will become more and more difficult to tackle.

Now is the time for ministers put their trust in the regions to deliver.

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