There’s many ways of campaigning to get your local council to declare a climate emergency and different groups will want to do things in their own way. SECA is here to make suggestions, share resources, and coordinate action. We are advocating a deliberately cross-party approach since this is most likely to lead to consensus decisions by councils, with actions that will be followed up on irrespective of which party is in power. Here are some suggestions on approaches to take.
In the run up to the May 2nd 2019 district and borough elections we mounted a big letter writing and lobbying campaign to encourage candidates to pledge their support for a Climate Emergency declaration if they were elected. Sixteen out of the 43 candidates who gave their individual support were successful. Five in Brighton & Hove, two in Chichester, seven in Horsham, and two in Worthing. This doesn’t include a further 10 Lib Dems who pledged support in Horsham as a party group, and possibly others we didn’t get to hear about. This means there will be a strong voice in these four councils for taking decisive action on the climate. Here’s a list of candidates who pledged their support and won seats. They were spread across all four main parties, giving us hope that climate change will be addressed as a cross-party issue.
Contacting sitting councillors
Now local elections are over and councils are in place a different set of tactics is needed. Engaging with your local councillors is still one of the best approaches. Either as individuals or local groups you can write to – or even better – meet your councillors to let them know your thoughts on climate change and ask whether they would be prepared to support a climate emergency. And if not, what are their reasons?
For example, the Dorking Climate Emergency Group has written to all councillors in nine of the Surrey electoral districts making this case, using this letter and background note providing examples of CE motions from Lancaster and Stroud – which could provide useful inspiration for others.
To magnify your impact pass the word around to contacts and friends in the area, and in other wards, to encourage them to write letters too. ‘Ordinary people’ who are not normally environmental activists can be particularly valuable in raising the issue as this shows councillors that mainstream concern is growing.
It’s easy to find your local councillors and send them a message. Use the Write to Them website. You just put in your post code and you can select the people you want to write to, and send your message directly from there.
Say who you are, where you live, that you are asking them to support a Declaration of Climate Emergency, that this should be a cross party issue, and why you think it is important in your own words. Councillors get bombarded with campaign material and tend to ignore ‘cut and paste’ letters.
Tactics for mobilising support
We need to rally as many local residents as possible if our campaigns are to succeed. Here’s some ideas on other ways of doing this
- Street stalls
- Petitions (here’s examples run in Adur and Worthing using the GoPetition website)
- Demonstrations and other direct actions
- Leafleting householders
- Letter writing events – for example opening up village hall on a Saturday morning, perhaps offering tea and cakes as an enticement;
- Contacting other community groups and ask for their help in spreading the word (eg Eco churches, wildlife groups, gardening groups, etc.)
- Engaging young people through schools, sports clubs and youth groups (taking advantage of the publicity and momentum created by the inspirational Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, and the recent Youth Strike for Climate demonstration )
Here’s a link to the Campaign Guide on the Climate Emergency UK website.
Friends of the Earth run an ongoing series of webinars to help climate campaigners get up to speed on both the substance of climate change, and campaigning tactics. They’ve also produced some handy how to guides for campaigners.
Here’s a blog article on what SECA has been learning on campaigning tactics with our top tips.
Other resources to help local campaigns
- I support a climate emergency declaration pledge card
- Draft letter to local election candidates
- A Vote for Climate Action poster
- A South East Climate Alliance A3 Poster
We’ve created a checklist showing progress made in different councils across the South East in declaring a climate emergency. What was all red a few months ago is steadily changing colour: blue for ‘campaign in progress’; yellow for ‘climate motion passed’; and green for ‘climate emergency declared’.
This is work in progress, and almost certainly misses some important actions. Please help us keep up to date by feeding back any developments you’re aware of. Email us at: email@example.com