Responding to the climate emergency

By Sean Hanson | 07 February 2020

Emergency: ‘A dangerous or serious situation that needs fast action in order to avoid harmful results’ cit. Cambridge Dictionary

The trajectory of UK carbon emissions is not on track to meet the statutorily binding net zero target for 2050. That is why the UK government, devolved administrations and most councils have declared that there is an emergency. In response, we must act decisively, at both scale and pace. Given the limited time available, it is essential that we identify and implement immediate actions, as well as developing a longer-term plan. Tackling the climate emergency must be about doing more, faster. We can’t afford to be complacent.

Responsibility for carbon management is not new for local authorities. However, scale of delivery has been hampered by unambitious targets, lack of resource and prescriptive financial paybacks.

While some solutions are nascent and some are in early stages of development, there are many we can implement now. This includes fleet electrification, energy efficiency measures, divesting from fossil fuels, rationalising assets, and developing renewables. Where action has stalled, we need to remove barriers, and drive sustainable approaches forward in greater volume.

Our collective response to a declaration of climate emergency must be a bold strategy that addresses greenhouse gas emissions. It must also consider the adaptations a changing climate will require. Councils need to demonstrate a level of resilience that will cope with changing conditions at extremes outside our previous norms. At a local level, there is real potential to demonstrate climate leadership through new partnerships, as well as through utilising existing powers – especially those related to transport, building quality or waste – to increase action across the whole area.

Local Partnerships is leading work to support local and combined authorities develop responses to their declarations of climate emergency and take practical steps to face the huge challenge of tackling the climate crisis. Over the next few weeks we will address some of the actions we believe will help to support our collective climate response, including emissions reporting and carbon audits, adaptations for extreme weather, and critical steps on the trajectory to net zero carbon.

Sean Hanson is chief executive of  Local Partnerships


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