Climate change

So you’ve declared a climate emergency: what next?


  • Published 13th May 2020
  • Authors: Josh Holden, , Peter Kenway, , Bridget Mooney,
  • Category: Climate change

This report is accompanied by a blog by Alan Sitkin, now of Regent’s University and previously Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration and Business at the London Borough of Enfield, on our website. The report is also discussed in a joint piece from NPI Director Peter Kenway and APSE CEO Paul O'Brien in the Municipal Journal and by Maxine Frerk, an Associate of Sustainability First.

This report for APSE is intended to help councils across the UK decide what actions to take in the wake of making a climate declaration. By March 2020, 282 authorities had made such a declaration. The report is not aimed at those who are way ahead and sure what they are doing but at those who are just starting out and not sure at all.

The research behind the report, carried out in late 2019 and early 2020, has three parts to it. Web-based research is used to paint a headline picture of the declarations of 268 councils who had declared by the end of November 2019. Interviews with officers and members from 10 councils across the UK provide both detail behind these numbers and a sense of the stories that councils are telling themselves about what they are doing and why. A review of the leading literature on the science of climate change and on the policy recommendations for the UK create the context.

Our main findings from this report are:

  • Informed by scientific evidence, the contribution of local reductions in emissions can be significant, and should be actioned as soon as possible.
  • A cut today is better than the same cut tomorrow and is worth as much as a large cut later. The priority should be to begin cutting emissions as soon as possible, rather than worrying about how to eliminate them altogether.
  • Councils ‘own operations’ are a good starting point. Progress is being made in reducing the emissions from buildings and assets, preparing residents for a move away from fossil fuel heating systems; in environmental matters from waste and resources to public realm services; in planting trees and land management strategies; and in EV infrastructure and fleet, including hydrogen developments.
  • By adopting a local leadership role, and taking urgent action on climate change councils are able to demonstrate to residents some more immediate local benefits, including fuel poverty through greener, cheaper energy, improvements to air quality and public realm.

It is no part of this report to judge what individual councils are doing, either those we have spoken to or those we have not.

About this report
This report was funded by APSE and written by Peter Kenway, Josh Holden and Bridget Mooney of the New Policy Institute. The facts presented and views expressed in this report are those of the authors and not necessarily those of APSE.