The government’s Green Finance Strategy, released this summer, sets out how the UK will rise to the challenge of creating a sustainable and resilient economy through the growth of all things ‘green’. It calls for collective action to deliver far-reaching change that is needed for a greener, more sustainable and prosperous future. This has become even more crucial amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and green finance has become a key focus for economic recovery in the pandemic’s aftermath.
Public sector organisations need to consider how they can get on board the ‘green train’ and deliver more sustainable outcomes.
The Green Finance Strategy has three key elements:
The government wants to encourage local engagement and speed up green investment across the UK by overcoming perceived barriers and building capability in the market. What does this mean for the public sector in relation to its green objectives moving forward?
Firstly, it is clear we need to respond. We are already beginning to see initiatives around the world that are leading the way towards cleaner, sustainable and more resilient economic growth. Closer to home, there are an increasing number of examples of public authorities engaging in ‘green growth’.
For example, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has a five-year Environment Plan where boosting investment in the natural environment is one of five key priorities. As part of this, the GMCA commissioned a Natural Capital Investment Plan to identify opportunities for new sources of funding, including capturing new revenue opportunities by selling habitat and carbon credits to other organisations.
In Cambridgeshire, the council put forward a budget of £16m to reduce emissions from council assets and support other climate resilient initiatives within local communities. The council has already carried out work improving energy efficiency in schools and offices, as well as investing in a solar power plant. A further £56m has been committed up to 2023/24 to further support reductions in carbon emissions - including generating renewable energy for local businesses and encouraging electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Swindon Borough Council has raised £2.4m through crowdfunding to finance two new solar farms with residents able to invest anything between £5 and £20,000. The solar farms now generate enough energy for around 1,200 homes, where residents benefit from cleaner energy and reduced carbon emissions.
These examples just provide a flavour of what is possible. There are a number of issues to consider moving forward:
There are further discussions to be had moving forward about the future of green finance initiatives for local authorities. CIPFA’s Sustainability conference will offer an opportunity to explore these issues in greater depth and explore the ways in which a green approach can be at the heart of what we do.
This article first appeared in the MJ.
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