Which councils have declared so far?
According to the Climate Emergency UK website, over 200 councils in the UK have so far taken the step to declare a climate emergency. This is happening quickly; all have declared since November 2018. Councils of all political persuasions have got on board with this idea, and in many cases the motion to declare an emergency has been passed unanimously, demonstrating the degree of cross-party agreement on the issue. Click on the map to find out more.
Here in the South East, councils are also responding. More and more councils are debating climate motions and pledging to step up climate action. More than two thirds of the primary and secondary councils have now either declared a climate emergency, or passed a motion in direct response to the climate emergency.
Here is a progress checklist showing which councils in the South East have declared a climate emergency (in green), or passed a climate motion (in yellow). Those where campaigns are underway are coloured blue.
What happens next?
Declaring an emergency is an important first step. But how does a council turn that declaration into meaningful action at a scale that makes a difference? What will they do differently? Without specific follow-up steps, a declaration risks being little more than window dressing. Most have approached this through a combination of setting targets and agreeing concrete actions:
Setting targets – most councils that have declared a climate emergency have set themselves targets to meet zero emissions at an earlier date than is required under national legislation – for example, zero emissions by 2030, rather than the 2050 target set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act (this was amended in June 2019 from a 80% to a 100% reduction by 2050). Definitions of what is meant by ‘net zero emissions’ or being ‘carbon neutral’ also vary somewhat between councils – precision is important here in making targets meaningful.
Investigative period – to provide time to think through the options and their implications, some councils are setting in motion an investigative period, with council officers being instructed to report back in 6 months with an action plan on how this could be achieved
Specific actions – many council motions cite specific actions for the council to take. These steps are cited in Lancaster’s motion, for example:
- increasing the energy efficiency of buildings
- prioritising these measures for council housing and private sector housing to address fuel poverty
- building solar and other renewable energy generating and storage plant
- requiring all new housing and commercial developments to be low carbon
- replacing the vehicle fleet with electric and/or hydrogen powered vehicles
- switching to 100% renewable energy
- setting up a council run energy company (eg. Robin Hood Energy)
- adapting the Council’s purchasing policy
Supportive measures – to bolster their efforts, some councils are setting up a Climate Change Advisory Board (eg Lancaster), holding Citizens Assemblies (eg Totnes), or appointing a Sustainability Officer (eg Scarborough), to help inform and support their choices.
Appealing to central government – most council motions call on the government and other relevant councils above them to provide the powers and resources to make the earlier target possible.
Examples of motions that have already been approved:
Here are links to the text of the emergency motions from a cross-section of councils:
- Bristol City Council – the first in the UK to declare (Labour)
- Reigate and Bansted Borough Council (Conservative)
- Scarborough Borough Council (Conservative)
- Lancaster Borough Council (Labour minority)
- Totnes Town Council
- Climate Action Co-Benefits Toolkit – a in-depth toolkit for local councils demonstrating the spin off benefits of taking action on climate, for example on health, economic development, equity and resilience. Produced by the independent Ashden organisation (July 2019).
- A research paper from the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) on ‘Local authority climate emergency declarations’ which provides an understanding of what declaring a climate emergency can do, when to use it and how it can be used in the context of local councils. (Note the summary report is free, but the full report is available on subscription)
- An excellent Friends of the Earth Briefing Paper on 33 Actions Local Authorities can take (Mar 2019) has been followed up with Your Climate Action Plan which broadens the focus further and provides a checklist of 50 actions local councils can take (Aug 2019).
- A useful introduction on how Citizens Assemblies can be used to get debate going on climate actions, from the Shared Futures website (Mar 2019)
- Energy South to East: towards a low carbon economy. An Energy Strategy for the South East produced by a consortium of three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) Includes associated Action Plan and Project Models. (Mar 2019)
- A Civic Plan for a Climate Emergency: building a 1.5C city – A discussion document for city leaders. Produced by Prof. Paul Chatterton, Univ of Leeds (Mar 2019)
- How Government Should Address the Climate Emergency – an 11 point roadmap for what central government should be doing, prepared by Greenpeace (Aug 2019).
- Dublin’s Climate Action Plan (Feb 2019)
- Unlocking the Potential of Zero Carbon Jobs – A report from the Green European Foundation (Dec 2019)
- Darebin Climate Emergency Plan – a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, the City of Darebin was one of the first councils in the world to declare a climate emergency in 2017
- The ‘Solutions’ page on the Climate Emergency UK website
- ‘Planning for Climate Change: a guide for local authorities’ – produced by The Town and Country Planning Association and the Royal Town Planning Institute (May 2018)
- Zero Carbon Britain – a series of three reports from the Centre for Alternative Technology (2017)
- Climate emergency resources for citizens and councils – from Zero Carbon Britain (2019)
- Councillor Briefing Pack on Resilient Communities – from the Local Government Association (2015)
- Councillor’s Workbook on acting on climate change – from the Local Government Association (2017)
- Can do Cities website
Let us know an any other useful resources you come across. Just email us at: email@example.com
Climate emergency conference
A special Climate & Environmental Emergency Conference was held in Lancaster on March 29th 2019, bringing together local council members, council officials and campaigners. It includes workshops on a range of topics including local planning, engaging business, and the ‘New Green Deal’. Click here for a report on the conference by Geoff Barnard, who attended on behalf of SECA.