The research was led by the Centre for Sustainability, Equality and Climate Action at Queen’s University Belfast and the Place-Based Climate Action Network for UK100.
The report’s key finding is that local climate action investment would result in over 800,000 new jobs across the UK by 2030. This figure will rise to 1.38 million jobs by 2050. It also found that for every £1 invested in climate mitigation and protecting communities from the impacts of extreme weather events, a further £9 is saved.
It provides cross-sector insight on how investment in local climate action can result in tangible emission reductions, but also can create good quality green jobs, important economic co-benefits, and level up areas across Britain as we seek to recover the COVID-19 pandemic. It presents clear evidence that demonstrates that Net Zero transformation is possible and that inaction can have devastating consequences.
It also considers the benefits of these benefits in the context for rebuilding after the COVID-19 epidemic and the effects the public health emergency had on local authorities, finances, and local economies throughout the UK.
John Barry Professor of Green Political Economy at Queen’s University and lead researcher on the report, said: “It is in the very difficult context of COVID-19 that local authorities must consider the meaningful, lasting and interrelated benefits of decarbonising across all sectors, confronting the climate crisis, and harnessing the economic opportunities of local climate action.
“Fortunately, this economic shift can unlock correspondingly significant social and economic benefits for our society. If done correctly and within the timeline suggested by climate scientists, we can not only prevent the worst effects of climate changes but also reap the enormous economic and other benefits of urgent transformative climate actions at scale. Our report clearly shows that ‘building back better’ from the pandemic is to green and climate proof our societies and local economies.”
Avoiding rising costs of climate impacts is one of the strongest economic arguments in the report.
The report highlights the estimated annual cost of floods in the UK has reached £340 million, and is expected to rise to £428 million if global temperatures rise by 2°C, reaching £619 million if post-industrial warming reaches 4°C.
Seán Fearon, co-author of the report and researcher at Queen’s, added: “A primary aim of this report was an attempt to change the perception of climate action among local authorities as a ‘cost’ or as an unaffordable ‘burden’.
“In fact, tackling the climate crisis through our councils can be the main vehicle for meaningful and positive change in our communities, creating a healthier and more inclusive society, and more democratic local economies which prioritise decent jobs and environmental wellbeing.”
Professor Ian Greer, President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s, concluded: “Queen’s is a world leader in research, and we know that by enabling our talent to develop solutions we can have a very real impact in creating a sustainable future for all.
“That’s why we’ve recently made a multi-million-pound investment in a new sustainability action plan to help play our part in tackling the global climate emergency.”