Climate Emergency: What next?

Climate Action at the Local Level: Resources for councillors and campaigners

If you're a councillor or campaigner looking for ideas about what can be done in your local area to address the Climate Emergency then this is the page for you. 

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Although every local authority is different, there is still so much more we can do when we work together to share lessons and resources across different areas and groups. 

Climate Emergency UK

Priority Areas for Local Climate Action 

Climate change is connected to almost every area of modern life. So it can be hard to know where to start when deciding what actions to push your local authority to take. We've identified four priority areas to get you started:

  1. Planning: Currently, national legislation imposes a duty on councils to ensure that local planning policies contribute to emissions reduction targets. Yet for years this duty has been neglected. You can read more about the Local Plans and the Climate Emergency and how you can get involved in the planning process here or check out the recording of a recent webinar on the topic hosted by Climate Emergency UK.
  2. Transport:The transport sector is UK’s single biggest source of carbon emissions. Reforming our transport system to reduce reliance on passenger cars and move towards a system based on public transport, walking, and cycling is vital if the UK is to meet emissions reduction targets. Ideas for how local authorities can step up their game on creating low-carbon transit systems can be found on the website of the Campaign for Better Transport.
  3. Energy: Local councils have enormous potential to increase energy efficiency and reduce reliance on fossil fuel-based energy sources. From identifying new sites for renewable energy projects and refusing permission for fossil fuel extraction to developing district heating systems, providing funding for community energy schemes, and forming their own energy companies, local authorities across the country are already impacting the UK’s energy mix. There is huge potential to scale up these interventions. This guide produced by UK100, a network of ambitious local councils, and UK Power Networks provides information to help councils and others to understand how.
  4. Central Government Engagement: Over the last ten years, local councils' ability to act on climate change has suffered significant setbacks thanks to massive funding cuts, the loss of skill staff, and the government’s policy of deregulation. In order to do improve their capacity to act on climate change local governments should coordinate their engagement with central government to demand the powers they need. This briefing from Friends of the Earth provides insights into 12 actions that could be taken in Westminster to support communities to achieve their climate mitigation targets.


Additional Resources

  • Setting science-based emissions reduction targets and developing pathways to meet these targets is a crucial first step for cities. Sheffield, in partnership with the Tyndall Centre, has recently commissioned a ground-breaking report on its targets and how it plans to meet them. You can read the report here.
  • Friends of the Earth have put together a briefing with 33 actions that councils can take to help get to net zero emissions. The briefing includes info on how these actions can be funded and examples from other areas where they’ve already been successful. 
  • To see how other councils are already implementing their Climate Emergency declarations, you might want to read about the actions Stroud District Council is planning to take here. You can also check out this briefing note on actions other councils are taking put together for Swindon Borough Council's Cross Part Climate Change Working Group.
  • You can find more ideas for actions local councils can take in this guide to planning for climate change by the Town and Country Planning Assocation and in this article on civic plans for the climate emergency published by the Rapid Transition Alliance. This discussion paper from Paul Chatterton also provides some good ideas for thinking about what a civic plan for a climate emergency could look like.
  • ARUP have also recently produced this report with gudiance on 9 steps local councils can take to act on the Climate Emergency.
  • Local, community owned energy is also crucial to a low carbon economy. Help your local area benefit from these changes by encouraging your council to work with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Local Energy Hubs, which have been set up to support local energy initiatives.
  • Inspiration can also be found in what municipalities around the world are doing. You can access information about actions being taken by Finnish municipalities here. The City of Darebin in Victoria, Australia have also published their "Climate Emergency Plan" setting out how they plan to get to net zero for both council and community emissions by 2020.
  • If your parish or town council has recently declared a Climate Emergency, then you might want to check out this resource to see whether your local community could come together to create a low-carbon Neighbourhood Development Plan.
  • Finally, local citizens assemblies are gaining popularity as a way of involving more of the public in conversations about de-carbonization. Check out this blog from Green Alliance explaining how citizens assemblies can create a mandate for ambitious climate action. You might also want to read this blog by Councillor Tom Hayes from Oxford City Council about Oxford’s plans to be the first local authority in the country to hold a citizens assembly on climate change.
  • What can parish councils do? Updates from Ide Parish Council on their climate emergency declaration.