COP26 Day 11: Cities, regions and built environment

Word of the day: Local

After Wednesday away from the Blue Zone, I was ready to get back to the hustle and bustle of the pavilions. Thursday’s theme was Cities, Regions and Built Environment. Around COP26, the day was also referred to as local authority/local government day, emphasising how local governments can work with communities going forward. The UK Pavilion again had a fantastic series of panel sessions, and I found myself at a number of them throughout the day.

UK Pavilion: UK100: Local Leaders Change the National Net Zero Conversation, How In-Country Local Government Networks Accelerate Climate Action

UK100 took this opportunity to showcase how networking and collaboration enable UK and international local government climate action. They launched their report on in-country local climate networks across the globe.


  • Badar Khan – President, National Grid US
  • Simon Bradshaw – Research Director at the Climate Council
  • Isobel Seccombe OBE – Leader of Warwickshire County Council
  • John Tanner – Board member for Climate Alliance and former Lord Mayor of Oxford
  • Dr Karen Barrass – Policy and Research Manager, UK100

The panel’s distinct focus was on bridging the divide between national strategy and local delivery and making the most of local policymakers and community members. Dr Karen Barrass from UK100 also made a point of advocating for additional powers and resources that local governments need to deliver the required climate action.

“Local policymakers are key. More than most, they have their finger on the pulse of our local customers’ needs. They work hand in hand to shape policy and advance projects that meet our customers and communities needs. Key decisions, like siting and permitting for community energy investments, happen locally. We need to ensure that these investments aren’t going to disrupt our communities but actually improve them, and that requires local engagement and local support.”

Badar Khan – President, National Grid, US

An impassioned speech from former Oxford Lord mayor, John Tanner, discussed the need ‘to not wait and to talk to each other, so no one feels they’re battling alone.’ The event highlighted the importance of working together and best practice knowledge sharing as the key to accelerating climate action through local government.

UK Pavilion: UK Green Building Council Launch of Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the Built Environment

This event launched the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the UK built environment, inviting responses from panellists on how we can realise it. The goal of the roadmap is to find ways to decarbonise the infrastructure of buildings.


  • Lord Callanan – Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility, BEIS
  • Mark Allan – CEO, Landsec
  • Donald Brenninkmejer – Chair of Laudes Foundation
  • Tanya Cox – Chair, World GBC
  • Sunand Prasad – Chair, UKGBC
  • Julie Hirigoyen – CEO, UKGBC

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) told world leaders at COP26 that a net-zero built environment sector by 2050 is achievable – but only with urgent government action, including a nationwide retrofitting programme. The roadmap detailed the necessary measures they say government and industry must take to achieve net-zero across the sector. These four steps include:

  1. Establishing a national ‘fabric first’ home retrofitting program to aid the transition away from fossil fuel heating. It also calls for the cut-off date for the sale of gas and oil boilers to be brought forward to 2030, for EPC ratings to be reformed, new government grants for low-income households, and VAT to be removed on energy-efficient building works.
  2. Energy performance disclosure for non-domestic buildings. To ensure that real-world performance of assets is visible to the market and can influence asset valuation, market transactions, and management decisions.
  3. Design for Performance Approach to new buildings. To shift away from theoretical “notional building” approaches and focus on real-world energy performance alongside other key net-zero enablers.
  4. Whole life carbon measurements.

For the first time, the report quantifies the particular emission decreases across sub-sectors of the built environment rather than the built environment sector as a whole. These reductions are tracked year on year and will need to be met to meet the 2050 deadline set by the UK government. It argues that only with urgent measures and intervention can the UK deliver on its interim target to cut 78% of emissions by 2035.

UK Pavilion: Zero Carbon Communities – Incentivising Timely Investment in Local Energy

Finally, the UK Government and Scottish Power brought us a panel session presenting perspectives from different local leaders, businesses, the regulator and the finance sector on how we can incentivise investment in local energy infrastructure that meets the needs of communities.


  • Susan Aitken – Leader of Glasgow City Council
  • Steve Rotheram – Metro Mayor of Liverpool
  • Keith Anderson – CE of Scottish Power
  • Tracy Brabin – Metro Mayor of West Yorkshire
  • Jane Dennett-Thorpe – OFGEM

This excellent panel called for more explicit expectations from national and local governments and a better balance between regulation and framework. Local governments and communities can be great agents of change when moving toward a just transition and ensuring the creation of a fair and equitable energy system.

A common thread running through many of the panels and conversations from Thursday is the need for more intersectional thinking and removing siloing to connect all the dots across systems, sectors, and demographics.

“This is a brilliant opportunity to reindustrialise communities in a sustainable way with green skills…We need to make sure and have the authority as a region to be able to identify and work with businesses. What do you need for your business? and we will implement that skills pathway.”

Tracy Brabin, Metro Mayor of West Yorkshire

Overall, this was an excellent final day with many opportunities to speak with local governments about community energy and multiple organisations. The asks I heard from organisations like the UKGBC and local governments was generally very positive and called for suitable climate positive policies. Still, it remains to be seen if the government will act on this advice and put these plans into action.

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