Climate emergency! Local authorities pledge to act

Climate emergency! Local authorities pledge to act

Home » Climate emergency! Local authorities pledge to act

As CAT’s home town and home county declare climate emergencies, Paul Allen looks at the groundswell of action from towns, cities, counties and regions determined to take action to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the key reasons climate change is such a serious problem is that it is non-linear, containing many systems that feed back on each other and accelerate change.

The reason this is now an emergency situation is that governments and industry have not shown the necessary leadership and, so far, have not acted fast enough. We are not waiting for more efficient wind turbines or cheaper solar panels; what is lacking is visionary leadership.

Fortunately, however, the human response is also non-linear and contains an emerging array of feedbacks that can also accelerate climate solutions. One of the most exciting ways this is revealing itself is the scale and speed that the new leadership is emerging at town, city and regional levels.

Driven by a range of factors, city and town councils are increasingly declaring climate emergencies and are building plans to reach net-zero on timelines from 2028 to 2038.

Councils lead the way

Machynlleth Town Council was the first town council in Wales to declare a ‘climate emergency’ after receiving a petition signed by more than 500 people. The council will now explore ways of working with other partners, including schools, businesses and local groups on proposals that can help the town reach zero carbon.

Powys County Council followed this with unanimous support for a motion declaring a climate emergency and pledging “support for the principles of Zero Carbon Britain and for the work of the Centre for Alternative Technology”.

One of the most recent declarations came from Scarborough Council, which looks to send a signal to other local authorities around Yorkshire and elsewhere in the country to follow their lead. The council has committed to a target of zero carbon emissions by 2030, and will seek up to £80,000 in funding over two years for a sustainability officer to help achieve their goals.

Unanimous declarations

What is most exciting is that declarations such as those made by CAT’s local town of Machynlleth and home county Powys, were unanimous; instead of dividing society, rising to the climate challenge is actually uniting us. Society itself can offer the leadership needed and, as 2019 opens up, I’m sure we will see a wider range of new declarations as civil society decides to rise to the challenge.

The wave of councils declaring climate action is accelerating. LondonBristolFromeMachynllethForest of DeanScarboroughOxfordBrightonTrafford Nottingham and Stroud – with many more in the pipeline.

Support for planning for zero carbon

If you’d like to encourage your local council to declare a climate emergency and start planning for zero carbon, or if you’re part of a local authority that would like support in creating a plan, join us at the ‘Climate Emergency’ conference organised by in Lancaster on 29 March.

I have been invited represent CAT as one of the speakers, and there will be workshops covering what needs to be done, campaign strategies, and engaging with politicians, business and institutions. Find out more and book your place at

In addition, CAT is holding a special Climate Emergency Solutions Summit on 3 May, immediately following our next Zero Carbon Britain short course, which takes place 1-2 May.

CAT’s summit will bring together those who have been using Zero Carbon Britain across the UK to share ideas on what works to accelerate change.

To book your place, visit or call us on 01654 704966.