There is growing acceptance that the global response to the threat of climate change requires urgent, systematic and wholesale action. Local authorities have a vital role in leading and mobilising local communities to respond to this threat. As a symbol of their commitment to act, over 100 local authorities have now declared a Climate Emergency.
But what does this mean in practical terms? Local authorities are increasingly looking for support in understanding how they should act on their declaration of a Climate Emergency. Resources are stretched and many authorities lack any dedicated officer resource or expertise on climate change. What does exist, however, is a legacy of previous action we can learn from and build on.
The urgency may be new but widespread commitment to action is not. A series of previous initiatives saw local authorities commit to taking action on the environment and climate including:
- Local Agenda 21 – the local expression of the UN’s global action programme for sustainable development, announced at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, which saw partnership-based strategies being developed to promote economic, social and environmental well-being.
- The Nottingham Declaration – a declaration to act on climate change which was signed by more than 330 councils across the UK and led to the development of comprehensive climate action plans.
- Climate Local – the successor to the Nottingham Declaration, an LGA-led initiative which saw almost 100 councils commit to taking action to address climate change.
- Covenant of Mayors – an EU initiative which now has almost 10,000 signatories across 59 countries.
These initiatives, and no doubt a number of others, delivered practical successes through the delivery of measures and activity that resulted in meaningful greenhouse gas reductions. Importantly, they now also provide a vital resource for present-day action, in terms of learning, good practice, frameworks and tools.
CAG is able to draw on decades of experience in advising local authorities who have declared a climate emergency. CAG supported numerous councils on Local Agenda 21, and developed much of the guidance, training and tools which underpinned the Nottingham Declaration and Climate Local initiatives. We have continued to be involved in advising councils on their response to climate change ever since.
Drawing on these experiences, we can help local authorities to develop a framework for action, taking account of their roles as estate managers, partners in service delivery and community leaders.
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