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FOE has welcomed yesterday's conference to launch new government guidance on Local Agenda 21, organised by the Loca...
FOE has welcomed yesterday's conference to launch new government guidance on Local Agenda 21, organised by the Local Government Management Board and the Local Government Association. But its role in meeting international commitments by achieving sustainable development at the local, community level will only succeed if real targets and timetables are set.

Speaking at the conference, Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth said:

'To many people Local Agenda 21 is at best an obscure, worthy-sounding process, at worst they haven't even heard of it. Despite the excellent initiatives taken forward by some local authorities, a great deal more needs to be done if it is to 'play the vital role' in achieving sustainable development as stated at the first Earth Summit over 5 years ago.

Last year, Tony Blair stated that LA21 was 'something to which I am personally committed'. If that's the case, FOE expects to see the government setting real targets and timetables for implementation of LA21 local plans; the provision of some financial support; and a process for evaluating the implementation of plans.'

Friends of the Earth's network of 250 local groups have been closely involved in drafting LA21 plans across the country. At the national level, FOE has joined forces with the LGMB, WWF and several local authorities to produce a public video explaining the LA21 process and citing good practice examples. FOE nationally and locally is also working on a 'LA21 evaluation project' to enable people to assess whether effective progress is being made with the LA21 process locally.


1. Local Agenda 21 sprang from the 1992 'Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro. The key document from the Summit was called 'Agenda 21', which sets out how world nations could achieve sustainable development by the 21st Century. Chapter 28 of Agenda 21 calls on local authorities to adopt a sustainable development strategy for their community. By the end of 1997 70% of local authorities in the UK had initiated some form of activity under this heading.

2. Speaking at the launch of the County Durham (his own local authority region) LA21 action plan on 27 November, Tony Blair said, 'Local Agenda 21 is something to which I am personally committed. The environment is not ours to do with as we want. It is a precious gift which we inherited and must pass on to future generations in a better condition.'

3. Examples of good practice include:

* In Nottingham, the council has been working with Boots, the city's largest employer to reduce traffic congestion and car use. A 'Green Commuter plan' has been drawn up with the aim of reducing the company's employees car use by 10% by 2000, with an additional 10% target by 2005.

* In Bradford, a local organic food enterprise has been set up on a council estate, supplying organic produce at affordable prices to local people as well as offering organic gardening courses. The Springfield Permaculture project is also unique in having a wind generator cited on a council estate.

* In West Devon, the local community's 'quality of life' has been assessed for future provision of services on the basis of indicators such as health; personal safety; cheerfulness, rather than the normal, narrow 'wealth'. Local businesses are being supported ensuring money and jobs stay within the community.

However, some local authorities are failing to understand the depth of commitment required. One responding to a FOE local group LA21 survey stated, 'The setting up of a LA21 unit was under study within the budgetary process, but the council already monitors air pollution, empties dustbins and plants flowers.'

FOE's concerns with the LA21 process is that there are:

* no mandatory, legally binding targets or timetables set

- no additional financial support available to local authorities

- no official framework for achieving the best practice involving local people and drawing up and implementing the plan

- no official body charged with evaluating the plan and its implementation

FOE, through its local groups, has been lobbying local authorities to sign up in their LA21 plans to specific targets and initiatives such as: FOE's Climate Resolution, 30% cuts in CO2 emissions over the next 10 years; traffic reduction targets of 30% by 2010; zero purchase of tropical timber products, unless certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council; a 30% reduction in energy use over 10 years, in line with the Home Energy Conservation Act.

4. 'From Rio to Reality - A Beginner's Guide to Local Agenda 21'

A video funded by Friends of the Earth; the Local Government Management Board; Environment Agency; WWF; Oldham Metropolitan Council; Nottingham Green Partnership and others. Available from FOE: 01582 482297 ref. T418.

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