Local leaders pledge to ‘resist dragging climate policies into culture wars’

Local Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Green Party leaders have pledged to “resist dragging climate policies into culture wars” ahead of the May elections.

The move is part of a pledge, announced in the run up to the local and mayoral polls next month, which also commits local leaders to counter climate “misinformation” while addressing legitimate concerns about policies.

The pledge is being coordinated by UK100, a cross-party network of local leaders committed to climate action, and former minister and net zero tsar Chris Skidmore’s Mission Zero Coalition.

The cross-party pledge has been signed by local and regional politicians, including council leaders from Wiltshire, Warwickshire, Birmingham, Westminster, Lancaster, Southampton and Cardiff.

It comes as a report from UK100 and the Mission Zero Coalition suggests 2024 is set to see the UK’s first net zero elections, with politicians elected this year having a pivotal role in delivering climate action.

The pledge sees leaders commit to rise above party politics when addressing the climate crisis and support an evidence-based conversation on the issue “by resisting the urge to drag climate policies into culture wars or use misinformation as a tool for division”.

Signatories are calling on national politicians to do the same.

Parties in Westminster have sought to draw dividing lines on climate action, with the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak rowing back on net zero policies and the Conservatives criticising Labour’s green spending plans.

Local environmental policies such as London’s ultra low emissions zone (Ulez) are also at the fore in the run up to the elections in May.

The pledge commits local politicians to acknowledge the dangers of misinformation, countering it with accurate, accessible information about climate policies, and communicating their benefits while addressing legitimate concerns.

They promise to champion the role of local authorities in the net zero transition – which requires changes to all areas of life including transport, home heating and power to cut emissions to zero overall by 2050 – and engage residents, groups and businesses in designing local action plans.

Mr Skidmore, who resigned as an MP over the Government’s decision to prioritise and “politicise” new oil and gas licences, said: “Local authorities are the unsung heroes of the net zero transition.

“Day in, day out they are delivering the practical changes we need to see, from upgrading homes to improving public transport.

“But they can’t do it alone. This pledge sends a powerful message that local leaders are united in their commitment to tackling the climate crisis.

“Now we need to see that same spirit of collaboration from Westminster, with a clear policy and funding framework to empower local delivery.”

Christopher Hammond, chief executive of UK100, said the journey to net zero would not be easy.

“But that’s not a reason for inaction, indulging in scare campaigns, or pitting communities against each other.

“Honesty, openness, and engaging residents are essential foundations for the rapid, inclusive net zero transition we need to see,” he said.

Izzi Seccombe, Conservative Warwickshire County Council leader, added: “By signing this pledge, I’m underlining my commitment to working across the political divide to engage openly and honestly with our residents about both the challenges and opportunities of the net zero transition.

“Only by bringing our communities with us can we hope to accelerate progress towards a cleaner, greener, more prosperous future for all.”