Over half of the UK’s principal local authorities have declared a climate emergency

PDP_Climate Emergency

More than half of the UK’s principal local authorities have now declared a climate emergency, making it one of the fastest growing environmental movements in recent history, according to data compiled by Climate Emergency UK. In the past eight months, 205 of the UK’s 408 Principal Authorities (County, Unitary, Metropolitan, London Boroughs, District), with widespread support across political groups, have declared a climate emergency, committing them to take urgent action to reduce their carbon emissions at a local level. Many have set 2030 as a target date for going carbon zero, 20 years ahead of central government’s 2050 target.

The declarations are spread geographically across the UK. England leads the declarations with 54% percentage declaring. Wales comes next with 41%, then Scotland with 31% and Northern Ireland with 18%.

Cllr. Kevin Frea, co-chair of the Climate Emergency Network and deputy leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “This movement is being led by every political group and is involving local people in planning the actions needed to cut carbon through working groups and citizens assemblies. It has re-engaged people in their local councils: public galleries have been packed when motions to declare are discussed, with many residents – including experts and young people – speaking in the debates.

“Councils have already started delivering on their declarations, switching to renewable energy suppliers on their estate, insulating existing homes and building more energy efficient new ones, planting trees and decarbonising transport.

“Combined with a recent poll showing that climate change has overtaken Brexit as the public’s top concern, it gives me hope that the Government will have to take notice soon and provide the legislation and resources that we need to put our climate emergency declarations fully into practice. We have written to the new BEIS Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom, and the new Local Government SoS, Robert Jenrick, asking for an urgent meeting to address our concerns.”

It will be very interesting to see what impact this has at a local level where a number of local authorities including Amber Valley Borough Council, Cheshire East Council, Derby City Council, Derbyshire Dales District Council, North East Derbyshire District Council and Sheffield City Council are all amongst those to join the movement. According to the Town and Country Planning Association, the revised National Planning Policy Framework published in 2018 contains four headline implications for planning for climate change, which are as follows:

  • The revised NPPF retains the key link between planning policy and the provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008. This means all local plans must set a carbon dioxide emissions reduction target and lay out clear ways of measuring progress on carbon dioxide emissions reduction
  • Guidance for viability testing has been rebalanced, creating more opportunity for policy that might address climate change
  • There is still real confusion about the scope of planning authorities to set ambitious targets beyond the Building Regulations on energy efficiency
  • There is nothing to stop local plans adopting requirements for on-site renewable energy generation

Will there be a return to widespread support for onshore wind? Will it be commonplace that the conversion of traditional or listed buildings includes an element of renewable energy? Or will more modern and more energy efficient materials be allowed in ‘sensitive’ locations? These are just some of the questions which spring to mind at a local level. Watch this space.

Richard Pigott, Director, Planning & Design

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