TEPR Projects: Support Councils in addressing the climate emergency
More and more local authorities in the UK are declaring a climate emergency to signal a recognition of the need to take action to address climate change. The declaration is usually accompanied by a target for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of the councils themselves, and often those of the town, city or district, more generally. DCA, of which TEPR’s Ian Skinner is an Associate, are supporting a Council in England to help them identify how to make the Council’s activities, and the district itself, carbon neutral by 2030.
The need to address climate change
There is broad scientific consensus that human activity is contributing to warming the planet. This is highly likely to change the climate, which risks increasing the frequency of adverse weather events, such as storms and droughts, and increasing average temperatures. This could have significant adverse impacts on various human activities, including how we lead our daily lives.
An international panel of scientists – known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or ‘IPCC’ – regularly reviews the evidence for climate change from around the world. The IPCC has urged all governments to take action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (or ‘GHGs’) in order to limit the likely global, average temperature rise. The most recent international agreement between governments on limiting global warming – known as the Paris Agreement – committed signatories to aim to limit warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
UK action to address climate change
In 2008, the UK was one of the first countries in the world to commit to reducing its GHG emissions by 80% by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels). This was the level that the IPCC at the time considered to be appropriate for developed countries. However, a lack of action to reduce emissions in the last decade, as well as increasing evidence of the impacts of climate change, has led to the recognition that GHG emissions need to be reduced by 100% by 2050. This is referred to as ‘net zero GHG emissions’ or being ‘carbon neutral’, as one of the main GHGs is carbon dioxide (or ‘CO2’). In declaring a ‘climate emergency’, a Council is committing to taking action to reduce its GHG emissions, often to be carbon neutral, by at least 2050 and sometimes as early as 2030.
The activities that will be affected in delivering carbon neutrality
CO2 is the main GHG emitted by the transport sector, e.g. when petrol and diesel are used in cars, vans, lorries and motorcycles, and is also produced by the gas that is used in many homes for heating and cooking. CO2 is also emitted when gas, oil and coal are burnt to generate electricity. Methane, another GHG, is emitted by various farming activities, while various GHGs, including CO2, are emitted by different industries, including the waste sector.
How can a Council deliver carbon neutrality?
In order to make the Council itself carbon neutral, action will be needed on the way in which the Council heats, and uses energy more generally in, its buildings and also operates its services, particularly any that involve transport. In order to make the wider town, city or district carbon neutral, a Council will need to support its residents and businesses in reducing the impact of their own activities and engage with other stakeholders in the area and beyond. This will need to involve the Council communicating widely about where it needs to be by the year of its target, and then set out a series of actions in transport, buildings and other sectors to deliver this.
Support for local authorities that have declared a climate emergency
DCA – including TEPR’s Ian Skinner – are currently supporting an English Council in identifying how the Council might go deliver a climate neutral authority and a climate neutral district by 2030. If you work for a local authority that has declared a climate emergency, please get in touch with Simon Graham (DCA) or Ian Skinner (email@example.com; 01892 663289) to talk about how we can support you in delivering carbon neutrality in your authority and town or city.
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