The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is a tier of local government that has substantial powers and funding covering the Bristol. South Gloucestershire, and Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) areas.
Why is the WECA mayor important?
Bristol, BANES and WECA have all declared climate emergencies and adopted a policy of reaching net zero emissions by 2030. To achieve this it is essential that emissions reduction is at the heart of all WECA policies. This is urgent to ensure the region has a green recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. There is now an enormous amount of evidence that a large part of our decarbonisation needs to happen in the next 5-10 years to avoid the most serious negative consequences.
WECA is the lead authority for:
WECA is responsible for the region’s transport strategies from walking, cycling and electric scooters through public transport and freight. Importantly, it adminsters government funding in this area.
Transport currently amounts to around 25% of CO2 emissions and the proportion is rising.
To get emissions down the region needs to dramatically reduce the amount of car travel, and support electrification for remaining travel and transport.
Industry, skills and training
The training necessary to tackle the regions’ decarbonisation also comes under WECA’s remit, particularly in respect to heat engineering and insulation. A building ‘retrofit revolution’ for energy efficiency and conversion to low-carbon heating and cooling is vital, along with developing and deploying renewable energy supplies such as wind, tidal and solar.
The low uptake of the government’s recent Green Homes Grant was in part due to lack of accredited installers and contractors, so this is an essential and urgent area for skills development and accreditation.
Decarbonisation strategies for all industry and business also needs to be at the top of the agenda, and the mayor needs to ensure the industries encouraged to develop in the region are truly sustainable.
WECA candidates will talk about Green jobs, but too often these are any job outside heavy industry, not jobs which will create a greener future.
Housing and land use
The location of new housing developments in relation to transport infrastructure and jobs is important not only in reducing CO2 emissions from transport and avoiding flooding but also in creating better communities.
The region also needs green places to: promote mental and physical health, absorb CO2 and provide a cooling mechanism, allow people to produce their own food, ensure ecological diversity and provide space for recreation. WECA has a Green Infrastructure plan. They mayor needs to make sure this plan is respected and enhanced and that it plays an significant role in any planning decisions if the region is to remain attractive, biodiverse and meet its climate targets.