Why a Whole Systems Approach is Needed to Help Local Authorities Transition to Net Zero

Published on 18th June 2021
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Local Authorities are facing huge challenges, particularly when it comes to addressing Net Zero Carbon targets. This is due to the UK government committing to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels – a pledge that will be enshrined in law by the end of this month.

In April we wrote how Planning, BIM and construction (PBC) Today reported that Britain’s 28 million homes contribute 20% of the country’s carbon emissions. While reducing carbon emissions is undoubtedly a positive step, it is certainly a daunting one for Local Authorities.

The challenges councils and the public sector face lie in the fact that many have buildings with poor energy efficiency levels within their housing stock and property portfolios, which begs the questions:

  1. How are the much-needed energy efficiency measures on such a large-scale going to be implemented and by whom?
  2. Where is the funding for the changes going to come from?

A Whole Systems Approach

Our Business Development Director, Phil Bull, last week enjoyed attending Unlock Net Zero’s “A whole systems approach to Net Zero” webinar. Phil found the collaborative approach to achieving Net Zero promoted by the webinar, which was hosted by Places for People’s Group Chief Executive David Cowans, interesting.

Before networking, Phil benefitted from three twenty-minute presentations from:

  1. Mike Colechin, Founder of Cultivate Innovation Ltd, which is an organisation that consults in academia and with firms and not-for-profits to deliver low carbon energy solutions and strategies that propel innovation forward and engage with project stakeholders in creative ways.
  2. Robert Greenoak, Innovation Programme Manager at UK Power Networks, who own and maintain electricity cables and lines across London, the South East and East of England.
  3. Heleni Pentelidou, Infrastructure Engineer and Low Carbon Specialist at Arup, a firm which provides engineering, architecture, design, planning, project management and consulting services for all aspects of the built environment.

As well as highlighting how energy sources are interdependent and how no one sector can work in isolation to achieve decarbonisation, the webinar covered:

  1. What we can learn from what is currently going on around the world with regards to cutting emissions.
  2. What current Local Authority engagement is taking place.
  3. How Local Authorities can make a positive start by seeking to improve their worst-performing energy efficiency properties.

A Whole Systems Approach at Government Level

The Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology (CST) released a set of recommendations on how the government can utilise a whole systems approach to achieve Net Zero in practice. They noted: “The new legal commitment to net zero by 2050 represents a significant step change in the UK’s level of ambition. Putting this on a statutory basis is good, but without an equally strong and effective structure inside government the legal commitment alone will not drive the required transformation of our economy and society.”

A whole systems approach is the key to achieving net zero carbon emissions

Their paper shone a spotlight on the advantages of a whole systems approach to delivering Net Zero which included:

  • Enabling decision-makers to understand the complex challenges posed by the Net Zero target and establish solutions and innovations that are more likely to succeed.
  • Uncertainties are better managed, including technical and behavioural factors and requires the use of both qualitative and quantitative approaches, including systems engineering.
  • A whole systems approach being a discovery process that opens up and informs decision-markers’ thinking by combining structured approaches to understanding and managing physical factors (for example infrastructure and advanced/novel technologies) with broader perspectives on economic, behavioural, and other issues, considering complex interactions.

CST’s recommendations are split into three parts:

  1. Strengthen the institutions, governance frameworks, and leadership structures needed across central government to galvanise action to achieve Net Zero.
  2. Develop the analytical capability, flow of information, and reporting needed to inform decisions.
  3. Maximise the contribution of technology, mobilise financial systems and galvanise international collaboration.

You can read the full details of their recommendations here.

How Can Avonside Group Help the Public Sector and Local Authorities?

With 49 branches across England, Wales, and Scotland, spanning the divisions of Energy, Roofing, and Plumbing, and comprehensive access to labour, Avonside Group can supply actionable, yet innovative and effective solutions to Public Sector organisations and Local Authorities looking to overcome the challenges presented by the government’s Net Zero targets.

Please contact our Business Development Director Phillip Bull at: Phillip.Bull@avonsidegroup.co.uk if you would like to discuss how Avonside Group can guide your organisation through the transition to Net Zero.