This year’s #ABCDPledge campaign saw 111 local election candidates pledge to take action on the climate emergency, of whom 30 were elected. This blog by Thalia Griffiths looks at the campaign and what happens next.

Following the May 5th elections, councils throughout the South East have 30 new councillors who have signed the SECA ABCD Pledge.  This means we have 30 more councillors who, now they have been elected, have pledged to press their council to:  Accelerate action, Boost partnerships, Communicate, and Divest from fossil fuels.

The list of candidates who signed the ABCD Pledge can be found here:  https://bit.ly/ABCDsignatories2022, or by clicking on the image below.  Successful candidates are highlighted as “elected” and are shown at the top of the list.  You can see photos of 27 of them here.

Elections were held in 23 District and Borough councils. Overall 111 candidates signed the pledge, slightly down on the 119 pledges received from District and Borough candidates last year.  However the success rate was up this year – 27% compared to 23% last election!

A key element in the success of the pledge campaign, as in previous years, was the invaluable support from SECA member groups like Transition Town Worthing, Worthing CAN, Transition Shoreham, Dorking Climate Emergency, Gosport and Fareham Friends of the Earth and Havant Climate Alliance in publicising the campaign and rounding up the pledges.

Hastings was the standout performer, with 29 pledgers, of whom nine were elected, while Council environment lead Maya Evans also renewed the pledge she made last year. The local Labour and Green parties had urged their candidates to sign, making SECA’s job much easier.  But Hastings also benefited from the sterling efforts of Divest East Sussex in garnering support. A couple of Liberal Democrats also pledged, as did the sole Conservative in the whole of the SECA area, Sophie De-Roe in Silverhill Ward.

Hastings Lib Dems told us they preferred to avoid formal pledges as they tended to come back to haunt them (surely the point!). They offered to show support in a less formal way, but we felt the public, signed commitment to tackling climate change was the whole point of the campaign. Fortunately not all Lib Dems felt the same – Fareham’s 16 pledgers and Gosport’s eight included a strong Lib Dem commitment.  In Gosport the Lib Dems won overall control.

In West Sussex, Worthing and Adur also showed strong support for the campaign. Worthing signed up an impressive 18 pledgers, while Adur had 13, with six winning election in each borough. In Worthing, Labour won overall control of the Council.

Elsewhere, Kent saw good support for the pledge in Maidstone, and a couple of pledges from Tunbridge Wells. Surrey had six, all Greens.

The lack of support among Conservatives region-wide was striking. Last year we had 9 candidates in the Districts and Borough elections signing up, but this year it was just one. Conservatives contacted by SECA were keen to stress their green credentials, but six months after COP26, the party of government does not appear to see the climate crisis as a vote winner.

Like the Lib Dems, Hastings Conservatives also told us they didn’t like formal pledges, though they were keen to talk up their support for the Council’s green initiatives such as EV charging points and higher insulation standards for newbuilds . “We get so many similar requests they all tend to merge, and we are always cautious about putting our name to anything these days,” one Hastings Conservative told SECA.

With national headlines dominated by Partygate and the soaring cost of living, Conservative campaigners were perhaps keen to keep the focus on local issues and concentrate on reassuring their traditional support base, who may be less keen on green policies.

Ultimately, though, the point of ABCD Pledge is to keep climate action in the spotlight during the election campaign. The key now will be holding our new elected pledgers to account. We’re already looking at whether councils have produced climate action plans and how we can keep tabs on progress in implementing them, and as always, pressure from SECA local groups will be crucial.

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