When Alberta pledged to phase out coal, it sent a signal that was heard way beyond Canada's borders. Indeed, subnational emission reduction targets and clean energy initiatives are becoming an increasingly important part of international climate politics.
In the UK, for instance, the ruling Conservative Party have been sending decidedly mixed signals. On the one hand, they too have pledged to completely phase out coal-generated electricity (unless carbon capture and storage finally becomes a real thing), and they've promised to do so as soon as 2025. On the other hand, they've been catching flack for radically slashing support for solar and onshore wind.
Most of Britain's major cities, however, have other ideas. And it just so happens that they tend to be firmly in the grip of the Labour Party, currently in opposition on the national stage. That's why 50 Labour Councils have signed a pledge that, according to The Guardian, will pretty much eradicate carbon emissions from electricity, heating and transportation within their city boundaries. That means, if these councils intend to deliver on their promises, that cities including Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Nottingham, Glasgow and many other major population centers will be moving firmly toward a complete decarbonization of the economy within the next 35 years. And given the sheer amount of resources at their disposal, there's little doubt that such an ambitious push would help move the rest of the country along with them.
Indeed, the move is already influencing politics in London too where mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan pledged his support for the 100% London campaign (launch video below) which is pushing for very similar goals. Given that Khan's major rival, Conservative Zac Goldsmith, used to be editor of The Ecologist magazine, it seems a fair bet that candidates will be working hard to out-green each other on the campaign trail.
Which all leaves the big question: If most of the cities in any given country are moving in one direction, how much power does the national government have to derail them anymore? That may be what Labour's shadow environment and climate change secretary Lisa Nandy may have been getting at when she talked about the pledge by Labour councils with The Guardian:
“Where Labour is in power we will push for a clean energy boom even if the government will not,” she said. “Ministers say they support devolution to our towns and cities so they should back these council leaders by ending their attack on the schemes that can help to make this safer, cleaner future a reality.”
This could get interesting.