Which councils have declared so far?
According to the Climate Emergency UK website, at least 24 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.
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 80% reduction by 2050 set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act. 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
A special Climate & Environmental Emergency Conference is being held in Lancaster on March 29th 2019, aimed at local council members, council officials and campaigners. It will include workshops on a range of topics including local planning, engaging business, and the ‘New Green Deal’. It costs £15 to register, but you can sign up to follow it online for free.
Other useful resources:
- Dublin’s Climate Action Plan (Feb 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)
- 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: firstname.lastname@example.org