The changes in weather patterns we are all experiencing, from heatwaves to torrential downfalls, is our most visible symptom of the reality of climate change.
The average world temperature increase of 1°C (and still rising) over the past 70 years is unprecedented in terms of time scale, and scientists from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) say this is unequivocally due to human influence including the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (“carbon emissions”) rather than to natural causes.
The government has set a target for reducing carbon emissions to net zero, and we all have a part to play by:
- Reducing our own carbon emissions wherever we can (“mitigation”)
- Responding as communities to impacts such as flooding (“adaptation”)
- Supporting threatened habitats and wildlife (“nature recovery”)
Town, parish and community councils have an important role not just in reviewing our own landholding and operations but also working with communities, who in many cases are already getting involved in climate action of several kinds. While in Wales there are broader statutory responsibilities under the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, in both England and Wales there is a statutory duty to consider biodiversity and so support nature recovery in all we do.
At the same time there are other community benefits from climate action, including better health and nutrition as well as financial savings, which all local councils can understand and help to encourage.
SLCC Members Survey 2023
Just declaring a climate or nature recovery emergency is no longer enough, but we all need advice on what to do next.
Over a quarter of responses to the April 2023 survey commented on climate change, and the principal requests for advice were about:
- Action planning – what can we do to make a difference?
- What can smaller councils do in particular?
- Resources – what about community engagement and funding, and what statutory powers do we have to act?
SLCC are working to gather answers to these questions and more. If you have any specific questions to ask or indeed any successful projects to share, please contact Andrew Maliphant, Environmental & Sustainability Advisor, [email protected].
There is also further information on the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) website, and for regular online discussions with other councils you can join NALC’s Climate Emergency Network.
What can we all do?
Regardless of size, all local councils can make a start by:
- Connecting with any initiatives by the local planning authority
- Asking neighbouring parishes what action they are already taking that you might support in some way
- Contacting local climate action groups and voluntary networks for the same reason
While many local councils don’t have land, buildings or vehicles they manage, we all have to respond to planning applications and can ask telling questions about the climate impacts of any proposals.