Doing it all: Integrating Net Zero, climate resilience, public health and inclusion into Economic Development Strategies

This new landmark report examines the extent to which the 12 UK local and combined authorities within the Inclusive Growth Network (IGN) have successfully integrated key environmental and social issues into their local economic plans. In a first of its kind, the report, produced by us at Quantum, looks at how the integration of these three priority issues in economic strategies is playing out on the ground and sets out recommendations for local and regional government on how to foster better integration.

All IGN member places have declared a climate emergency, with many aiming to achieve Net Zero across their areas by 2030, well ahead of central government’s legislated target of 2050. As we emerge from the pandemic into a cost-of-living crisis, the intertwined and urgent challenges of climate change, health inequalities and economic inclusion must be addressed in tandem.

Traditionally, strategies to address these challenges have sat in silos. This means economic development has been addressed in isolation from, and often prioritised over, strategic activities on climate change or public health. Integration means viewing these challenges, and working to address them, holistically – recognising that a green economy that everyone can contribute to and benefit from will be better for health and wellbeing, and that a population with better health and wellbeing is better for business, productivity and full participation in the economy.

The report highlights that economic development strategies that acknowledge the interconnection between climate change and public health are now emerging, recognising that these issues are entwined with economic activity and viewing the success of all three as integral to a prosperous local economy.

Key characteristics of a well-integrated economic strategy include:

  • Climate change, public health and inclusion are key pillars that run throughout the strategy
  • The relationships between climate change, the economy, health and people’s lives are clearly set out, and sections of the community most at risk are identified
  • The strategy sets out how all parts of the economy, all jobs and all carbon emissions must change, not just focusing on developing one specific sector such as jobs in renewable energy
  • It includes an assessment of the investment required across the whole of the economy and where that investment is expected to come from, including external public funding, incentives needed and investment from the finance sector, businesses and individuals
  • It is clear about who will need to act, and how they will work in partnership: businesses, communities and individuals as well as the public sector
  • It is honest about the challenges that will be faced

The report also highlights that moving towards local integration will create a more nuanced and complex view of development decisions but removes the risk of different strategies diverging from each other. It will also encourage better outcomes and value for money for local government.

The overarching benefits of integrated strategies and delivery are:

  1. Better value for money delivering benefits across a range of different areas beyond Net Zero, including health, jobs, local supply chains, resilience and regeneration
  2. Better places which in turn attract investment, fostering enterprise and thriving communities
  3. Better cross-departmental collaboration within authorities and their partners

Successfully developing and delivering an integrated strategy requires a rapid culture change across the whole of an authority and its partner organisations. Encouragingly, the report finds that the approaches and tools needed for full integration are already being used across the different local and combined authorities within the networkbut these have yet to be deployed holistically within one authority. There is an urgent need to expand and share the good practice that is taking place and the IGN provides a mechanism to coordinate peer to peer support that enables places to learn from each other and rise to this challenge.