South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) is one of 21 authorities joining forces nationally to help each other achieve carbon zero goals and promote the voice of the countryside in the climate change debate.
The Countryside Climate Network (CCN) aims to bring together ambitious councils to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster.
In a letter published yesterday, June 24, the CCN, a cross-party group of 21 councils from every region in England, warns that ‘rural communities are at the frontline of feeling the effects of climate change’ and that ‘the countryside offers far more than a place to plant millions of trees to offset carbon emissions’.
The group aims ‘to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster’ and its new chairman, the leader of Cambridgeshire warns that rural areas face ‘unfair barriers to decarbonise’ including lower budgets and funding rules which favour urban concentrations but may have less overall carbon reduction.
The group wants the Government’s delayed £100bn infrastructure fund ‘to support the ambitions of rural areas and the opportunities our countryside and green infrastructure can provide’.
The new network has been established by UK100, a network of local leaders that campaigns on climate change.
The 21 councils represent 14.3 million people in total, a quarter of the population (25 percent) and two fifths (41 percent) of England by area.
The letter says the countryside offers more than a place to plant millions of trees to combat climate change and rural communities have always been a great source of national progress and innovation.
The group is chaired by the Conservative leader of Cambridgeshire Council, Cllr Steve Count, who writes in an article also published: “From Cornwall to County Durham we have decided to take a stand.
“We’re frustrated that climate solutions and green recovery packages haven’t found the right balance, largely missing the rural voice.
“It can be hard to meet our sustainable ambitions when urban areas have no need to fund essential bus services to remote communities or invest in broadband because the market doesn’t reach isolated areas.
“These examples of typical rural disadvantages add up, combined with a funding gap in rural areas twice that of our urban counterparts, means our stretched resources are diminished making the challenge of funding sustainable solutions even harder.
“[We need] a green recovery that works for the two thirds that live outside the most urban cities and towns.
“However, rural communities face unfair barriers in trying to decarbonise – it is harder to attract funding for projects which don’t fit traditional cost benefit analyses, which favour urban concentrations yet may have less overall carbon reduction impact.”
The network will also help authorities who want to do more, share ideas and best practice, find solutions and achieve carbon reduction goals.
Councillor Dyan Jones, SLDC’s portfolio holder for climate emergency and localism, said: “During this climate emergency, our rural communities can offer so much more than places to plant trees.
“We know first-hand how climate change impacts our land, food crop productivity, rainfall run off, biodiversity and rhythm of nature.
“South Lakeland District Council has long been at the forefront of action to combat climate change, including declaring a climate emergency and formulating our Climate Change Action Plan.
“We are delighted to be part of the Countryside Climate Network and are excited to be able to share our experiences, best practice and ideas with other authorities.
“We look forward to collaborating with network partners to improve further all work influencing and informing; to address the impact of climate change and promote biodiversity within our districts and across the UK.”
Polly Billington, Director of UK100, said: “Climate change affects every area and every person, and rural towns and villages can be more vulnerable to the impacts, such as extreme weather.
“Countryside councils are well placed to tackle climate change and meet the needs and ambitions of their communities for economic recovery and better health and well being, with innovative solutions along with the democratic legitimacy to deliver lasting change.”
The group points out that rural areas can be more vulnerable to extreme weather events such as the devastating floods last winter.
The number of extreme weather events has doubled since 1980.