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District heating needs more support

A cross party group of MPs has called for a clearer policy on encouraging district wide renewable energy and district heating schemes.

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said there was inconsistency in the implementation and development of climate change policy across central, regional and local government – including the effective development of low carbon heating strategies.

Committee chairman Tim Yeo (pictured) said: 'It will be vital to get the right targets in place to deliver the kind of action needed on both mitigation and adaptation.'

The committee report 'Climate Change and Local, Regional and Devolved Government' urged the Government to force local authorities to include climate change indicators in their Local Area Agreement - which sets down an area's priorities.

Taking action on cutting heating and energy costs is covered by the climate change indicators - which will be used to judge an authority's performance and also inform funding decisions.

The report said: 'Climate change is an area where one might expect to see priorities for local
government being set nationally. Targets can be justified for local government on issues of national or international importance that may not be driving local priorities.
'All local authorities should be obliged to include the climate change indicators in their Local Area Agreements, either as negotiated targets or as voluntary targets.'

The report said lack of clear direction cut across a number of areas: 'We believe that local and regional government has in the past faced contradictions in national policy on climate change.

'Some problems with cross-government policy coordination remain; there are tensions between regional airport expansion and the need to limit emissions from aviation; it is not clear how the targets to build more homes will be compatible with efforts to lower emissions; increased road building and lack of a national strategy on road pricing are incompatible with the need to reduce emissions from road transport; it is unclear how district renewable energy and district heating are to be taken into account.'

The report added: “The Climate Change Bill will help but the Government must minimise the inconsistencies between policies and ensure departments across Whitehall have a joined up approach to climate change.

'Government must also provide clear advice and help local, regional and devolved government understand how tensions in policy are to be reconciled, particularly how economic growth and sustainable development are to be prioritised. Economic and environmental policies must be integrated if we are to successfully move to a low-carbon economy.'