Local authorities across the UK have been declaring climate emergencies since the end of 2018, in response to the rapid rise in carbon emissions we have seen in the past few decades. Air pollution is on the rise, mostly caused by our buildings and transport. More people than ever are in fuel poverty, and our housing stock is poorly insulated and draughty, meaning hundreds of thousands face a cold winter with expensive fuel bills.
By declaring a climate emergency, councils are committing to cut emissions, plant more trees, insulate more houses and make sure that the transition to a zero-carbon economy leaves everyone is a better position than before.
It’s all very well declaring a climate emergency, but what happens next?
A new Friends of the Earth tool examines how councils across England and Wales are tackling the things driving climate change. It measures their performance in areas including transport, housing, energy, trees and waste. The tool compares this performance with that of councils in similar areas (using the Office of National Statistics groupings of local authorities). This information is open to everyone, and means councils can be held to account by residents.
The tool also identifies goals for local authorities, like how many homes each year need to improve their energy performance certificate rating. Seeing how far your local authority has come, and how far it still has to go, makes it easier to pressure your MPs and councillors on specific issues. Friends of the Earth have made it easy for you to get involved and sign up for their climate action campaign.
They are also publishing a simpler look-up tool to give people a snapshot of their council's performance - this will score the local authority compared to others of a similar size and political orientation.
If you work in a local authority, or would like yours to do more, you should read and share the Ashden Co-Benefits toolkit, which outlines all the benefits of climate action. These include better health, better wellbeing and living conditions, more jobs and a future-proofed the economy, as well as community building and improved social cohesion.
Ashden is working with Friends of the Earth to produce 30 actions that all councils declaring climate emergencies should consider taking. The list of actions will include information on their cost and potential savings created. If you'd like to receive a copy once it is published, email Emma.Jones@ashden.org.