Urban council leaders and elected mayors now rank the climate emergency among the most important issues British cities face, according to a new City Leaders survey by Arup.
In a sign that the ‘Greta Effect’ has cut through the political agenda, half of city council leaders and directly elected mayors contributing to the 2019 Centre for Cities / Arup Urban Voices study cited tackling climate change as a top priority – rising dramatically from just 5% last year.
But they say more funding and support from national government is needed to help them act.
In a message to national politicians fighting the general election, more than two thirds (69%) of council leaders and directly elected mayors blamed insufficient funding as a barrier to action, while almost half (41%) cited deficiencies in national government as an obstacle.
Concern about the climate crisis has also affected their transport priorities. An overwhelming majority (75%) are encouraging the public to ditch cars in favour of cycling and walking, and over half are transitioning to more environmentally friendly council-owned vehicles. Encouraging bus use is also high on their agenda.
When it came to money, eight in ten (81%) urban political leaders would be willing to spend significant extra capital on combating the climate emergency – if it were provided by central government. Even more (94%) of them would allocate extra money from government to public transport investment, further reducing car dependency in cities.
Andrew Carter, Centre for Cities’ chief executive, said: “Cities account for the majority of the country’s population and jobs but there is a concern in city halls that the urban agenda is being side-lined. If cities are going to lead the way on important issues such as climate change then the next government should give them the power and resources that they need. The leaders of Britain’s largest cities still have less powers than their counterparts in New York, Tokyo and Berlin. The next government should correct this inequality.”
Joanna Rowelle, integrated city planning director at Arup, said: “From improving air quality and public transport, to increasing affordable housing and employment opportunities as well as tackling climate change, this survey shows that our urban leaders are prepared to shoulder more responsibility in taking on the most pressing issues facing their communities.
“It is encouraging to see the climate emergency ranked among the most important issues for British cities, but we also see significant barriers to action. These need to be urgently addressed.”