Law firm ClientEarth is threatening 100 UK councils with legal action should they not deliver evidence-based carbon reduction plans.
Each of the local councils have planning underway, and the lawyers have given authorities an 8-week deadline to create a clear and comprehensive plan, or fall short of their legal obligations.
The environmental law firm said it launched the initiative following a “massive shortfall in compliant local planning policy” across the UK, and to advise local councils of their legal obligations under environmental and planning laws.
The lawyers believe that carbon targets are central, and policies and practices should be developed relative to real emissions results.
They add local planning authorities also need to monitor performance against local targets at least annually.
Climate Lawyer Sam Hunter Jones said: “There is a collective failure by local authorities across England to plan adequately for climate change. Too often climate change is perceived to be just a national or international issue and therefore solely the responsibility of central government.
“Clearly central government needs to do more, as the recent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) progress reports stress. Yet so many of the daily decisions around new and existing infrastructure – such as new buildings, roads and utilities – are made at the local level. All of these decisions will ‘lock-in’ an area’s future emissions and its resilience to climate change.
“Each and every planning decision taken today must be in line with long term climate goals because what and how we build today will determine our climate impact and resilience in the crucial decades to come.”
The Local Government Association said councils are already doing a “great deal” to protect the environment and health of communities, including mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.
’Environment spokesman David Renard added: “This includes tackling harmful air pollution by devising clean air zones and protecting at-risk areas outside schools, encouraging the use of electric vehicles through promoting recharging points, and investing in cycling.
“However, councils can do so much more if they are properly and sustainably funded, allowed to set planning fees locally and if policies such as permitted development rights are scrapped as they allow developers to ignore community needs and undermine local plans.