Local elections are coming up on May 6th. Candidates for county, borough and district councils are joining in and signing the ABCD climate action pledge. They are agreeing, if elected, to press their council to: Aim higher, Build partnerships, Communicate, and Divest from fossil fuels. Are your local candidates among them?
In this blog, SECA Coordinator, Sally Barnard, explains how candidates can make the pledge and explains the background to this SECA campaign, which is all designed to ensure climate change stays centre stage in the local election.
*** This post covers the 2021 elections. To see 2023 election pledge plans click here ***
HOW CANDIDATES CAN SIGN UP
There’s four steps involved:
- Download the pledge card and ask candidates to fill in the details – pdf file here
- Take a photo of the candidate holding up the pledge card
- Record the pledge with SECA so we can keep a register of who’s signed (see below)
- Post the photo on your facebook/social media with the hashtag #abcdpledge
Candidates can do all this themselves, or campaigners could approach candidates and work with them to take the photo and record the pledge.
Recording the pledge
There’s two ways to do this is to:
- EITHER – enter the details and upload the photo directly onto our online Google Form: http://bit.ly/ABCDregister (you’ll need a google account for this)
- OR – email the photo to SECA, together with the candidates name, the election they are standing in, the political party and the name of the electoral ward. Here’s the address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Who’s signed so far
Here is the current list of who has signed the Pledge so far. It’s available as a read-only Google Sheet that you can access at: http://bit.ly/ABCDsignatories
We’ll be updating the list and sharing photos of who’s signed as more pledges come in. You can see the latest collection of candidate photos here: http://bit.ly/ABCDphotos
BACKGROUND TO THE PLEDGE
Why these elections matter
The local elections on May 6th are a key moment in the democratic process, and a chance to ensure that climate action stays centre stage and doesn’t get sidelined by other pressing issues. Councils across the country have been hammered by Covid 19. Many are facing severe budget stresses. It would be easy for climate change to fall off the agenda. If we get our collective act together, SECA member groups could play an important part in making sure this doesn’t happen.
Where elections are being held
These are the councils where seats are being contested:
County councils: Hampshire, Kent, Surrey, East and West Sussex
Unitary authorities: Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, Southampton
District and Borough councils: Adur, Basingstoke, Crawley, Eastleigh, Elmbridge, Fareham, Gosport, Hart, Hastings, Havant, Maidstone, Mole Valley, Reigate, Runnymede, Rushmoor, Tandridge, Tunbridge Wells, Winchester, Woking, Worthing.
Coordinating our efforts
We are suggesting that member groups contact all the candidates for their local area ahead of the election. Explain in your own words that you are concerned about climate change, and ask them to sign the pledge. You could point them to this article to give the instructions and background.
ABCD Pledge Card
The SECA Pledge Card can be download as a pdf file here and as a Powerpoint file here (in case you want to adjust it or add your group’s logo). It focuses on four ways that councils can step up their efforts – we’re calling it the A, B, C, D of Climate Action.
The front of the card is for candidates to sign; the reverse side spells out the pledges in a bit more detail.
The pledges focus on four areas where further action by most councils is urgently needed. Here’s the thinking behind them:
A. Aim Higher – we want all councils to commit to a leadership role and set ambitious 2030 emission targets for their whole council area, not just the council owned estate. Some councils have already done so and set a net zero target for their whole area by 2030. Others are now aligned to the UK COP 26 target for 2030 (68% reduction on 1990 carbon levels by 2030). But around half of councils in the South East do not have any target for their whole area, or have a distant 2050 target. The UK-wide COP 26 target should set a new minimum baseline for councils to aim for.
B. Build Partnerships – although there have been notable exceptions, like Canterbury, Adur & Worthing, and Eastbourne, many councils have been slow to reach out and build alliances with community groups, business, and other local stakeholders. They need to step up in this area if they are to play a leadership role in galvanising climate action.
C. Communicate – this, too, is a weak spot for many councils. Some councils, like Eastleigh, are doing a good job on their website but hardly any others mention climate on their website homepage, and as this article outlines only a few pioneers like Woking have really put resources and imagination into reaching out to local residents.
D. Divest from Fossil Fuels – this is a touchstone issue for many climate campaigners. How can councils recognise the climate emergency yet ignore the impact of their multi-million pound pension fund investments in polluting fossil fuel companies? None of the county councils in our region have grasped this nettle so far and instructed their pension advisors to get out of fossil fuels. But with many of the councillors who sit on pensions committees up for reelection, now is the perfect time to apply some political leverage to change minds.
Some candidates in district and borough councils will argue that pension fund management is not within their remit, as it is delegated to the county level. But it is possible for district and borough councils to pass a motion calling on county council pension fund trustees to divest, as Adur and Worthing Council did in December 2019.
Some councils are further ahead than others on the four pledge areas. You can check what climate targets your council has already agreed to, and see how they are performing on partnerships, communication and divestment, by looking your council up on the SECA Survey. There’s a tab for each county, and details for every local authority in the South East.
Many people will be voting early by post this year due to Covid, so we need to get a move on. These are the key deadlines:
April 9th Official lists of candidates and contact details will be published on your local District Council website. Note that District Councils are responsible for organising elections for their residents, even when the election is for the County Council.
April 18th We understand that this is the date that postal votes will be sent out. Voters often post them back straight away, so a significant amount of campaigning needs to happen before this time.
May 6th election day
Postal addresses of candidates (or their agents) are now available on your District/Borough council website (this applies even for County Council elections). For most candidates you can find their emails by checking the Who Can I Vote For website where you put in your postcode and it tells you who is standing.
Here is the outline of a template letter you can adapt and send if that’s easiest.
Note that it is good practice to contact all political parties. If you are using SECA materials please make sure that you do so, as we take care to be non-party political.
Given Covid restrictions, this is going to be a local election like no other. Friends of the Earth have produced some excellent guidance on their website on why this local election is important and how to campaign effectively. This includes advice on how to meet with you local candidates, which is always one of the best tactics, and also a guide to planning an online election hustings. They also have some templates to use and a series of training webinars you can sign up for. Friends of the Earth are also promoting their own pledge. It is less specific that SECA’s, but you might decide this suits you better for your council.
Winchester Climate Action (WinACC) have also produced a useful guidance sheet with questions to ask candidates, canvassers and political parties.
Depending where you are based, you may have both a county and district or borough election to think about. So you will need to decide where to concentrate your efforts. If one or other has been lagging behind in its climate efforts, that would be a good reason to target it with your campaign.
At the county level there is scope for SECA member groups joining forces, for example to organise a county-wide hustings event. Please contact SECA if you’d like to talk this over and be put in touch with other groups in your county – just email us at: email@example.com
Sally Barnard is Coordinator of the South East Climate Alliance, and has been closely involved in developing and updating the SECA Survey. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org