Resetting the relationship between local and national government. Read our Local Government White Paper

Roundtable: Adapting local economies to climate change impacts and low carbon growth

This roundtable was chaired by Tess Lanning, Strategic Head of Inclusive Economy, Enterprise and Employment Strategy and Skills, at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council. It gave an opportunity for councils to share insights into how they are changing the way they see their role in adapting the local economy and how they have succeeded in low carbon growth.

  • Date: 29 November 2022
  • Chair: Tess Lanning | Strategic Head of Inclusive Economy, Enterprise and Employment Strategy and Skills |  London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council

Welcome and introduction 

Tess welcomed the attendees and gave an introduction though a scene setting case study.

Case Study

Barking and Dagenham have declared a climate emergency and are committed to achieving net zero as a council by 2030 and as a borough by 2050. To help achieve this they commissioned a research piece to understand the carbon footprint of the borough, this found that:

  • Buildings contributed 38 per cent of emissions – which has led to the setting of high efficiency standards for new builds and the securing of funding to drive retrofit.
  • Industrial and commercial contributed 34 per cent of emissions – which has led to further engagement with business to decarbonise.
  • Transport contributed 27 per cent of emissions – which has led to the plan to only use electrical vehicles by 2030, more Electric Vehicles (EV) charging points and working with Transport for London (TFL) to improve public transport and infrastructure.
  • Waste and Recycling contributed 0.6 per cent of emissions – which has led to the further tackling of low rates of recycling.
  • The Council itself is only responsible for 1 per cent of emissions.

The borough is also planting trees over the next eight years to reduce carbon and provide heat protection. It’s also working to restore the natural environment.

To achieve net zero much higher levels of investment are required from national government and wider behaviour change will have to take place among residents.

Supporting SMEs to decarbonise

Barking and Dagenham have worked in partnership with their local business support provider and Better Futures+ to help test and develop a better understanding of what works. The initial offer included:

  • workshops to engage businesses in their need to reduce carbon
  • access to the Climax Community carbon reduction tool
  • 1-2-1 support from expert advisers

Funding has also been secured through the LGA for research by consultancy to inform effective engagement.

The key findings from the initial offer have been:

  • don’t say green but embed support in wider business support
  • businesses engage best when there are small incentives
  • 1-2-1 support is more effective than workshops or information
  • build a network of advocates and champions.

Growing the Green Economy

Barking and Dagenham also wanted to understand where the best opportunities for local jobs in the green economy were and how they could be created. To do this government funding was used for a review to identify how the green economy could be grown, in line with the council’s net zero ambitions, while also generating jobs for local people. This found that:

  • seventy-eight per cent of local companies were interested in finding out more about opportunities for green growth
  • eighty per cent were interested in finding out how they could operate in a more sustainable way
  • the main opportunity for job creation was in domestic retrofit
  • there is further scope to support the shift to EVs among mechanics, promote uptake of solar on industrial buildings, develop small-scale job programmes on biodiversity and promote the circular economy.

Supporting residents to access jobs in green economy

Barking and Dagenham is also working to help residents gain employment in the green economy, this is being done by:

  • ensuring council contracts for retrofit and energy generate job and apprenticeship opportunities for residents
  • the use of a Green Skills, Green Jobs programme to help residents understand and access opportunities
  • improving the pathway into green jobs by promoting green economy courses to local employers and residents
  • meeting training gaps and supporting disadvantaged residents to access opportunities through the Barking Riverside construction and economy training facility.

Adaptation and cost of living

  • set up BD Energy to provide affordable, sustainable energy in two locations in the borough.
  • increasing resources for debt and community advice services.
  • exploring if green finance products can be launched with a local credit union.


  • The use of the terms ‘green’ and ‘climate change’ can be an issue for some, as they can be seen as politically charged.
  • Climate action can be seen as the only focus for sustainable growth, but all 17 sustainable development goals should be focused on, more of an all-encompassing approach needed.
  • Funding flagged as a key issue, including the difficulties in applying for funding and the lack of funding available, with UKSPF insufficient in the grand scheme of things.
  • Insufficient grid infrastructure an issue for areas that use less energy than they produce, as this can’t be exported to other areas and goes to waste.
  • There is a general lack of advisors that know how to effectively communicate with businesses, with some producing very in depth but technical reports that can be off putting.
  • Some building owners aren’t interested in making their buildings more environmentally friendly and business are unlikely to invest in buildings when they haven’t got long on the lease, and they won’t see the benefit.
  • Biodiversity is a big issue that doesn’t necessarily get the focus it deserves, with most focus being on net zero.
  • There are a lack of suppliers with the skills to retrofit buildings, leading to long waiting lists for those wanting to make their properties more efficient.
  • Some green schemes offered to businesses have had limited uptake, so good advertising of schemes is essential.

Good practice


West Sussex 

A successful bid has been made to Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Low Carbon Skills Fund for funding to produce heat decarbonisation plans for 50 council sites.


  • In general businesses are interested in how they can grow their businesses in a green way.
  • It’s clear that businesses are happy to invest in decarbonising, if it’s shown to them that growth is still possible while decarbonising.
  • It’s essential that economic teams within the council upskill themselves to better communicate green schemes with businesses.  
  • More rural areas are looking at using farmland in a more holistic way to generate better yields in a greener way.
  • Solar farms are working well and can be used in tandem with better energy storage facilities.

Good practice: 

West Sussex

A video series has been produced highlighting good green practice from a range of local businesses, this has had the effect of encouraging other businesses to implement green messages. The peer-to-peer learning produced by this series seems to be more effective than solely council produced content.

Oxford are working on a sustainable food strategy, this is aiming to make food both more environmentally friendly to produce and more affordable, tackling both the climate and cost of living crisis at the same time. It will also support local businesses and the local economy.

Summary and closing comments 

Tess to summarise the discussion and to advise on next steps:

The LGA will anonymise key discussion topics, good practice examples and publish to their Economic Growth Support Hub to support other councils that may be experiencing similar challenges.