How to Get Councils to Implement a Climate Emergency Through Policy?

My local town council has agreed a Climate Emergency and is going to have a special meeting to decide what action to take.

I would be very grateful to hear from anyone whose council or other organisations at a local level have done something similar. I’m particularly keen to hear of any successes which encourage communifty engagement across age ranges.



Thanks for the question. Will keep my ear out and see if there is anyone who can help…

Are you looking for policies the council could implement or how to get your council to declare an emergency?

It will be quite a struggle converting this declaration of a climate emergency into good policy. There is a member @chriswilliams who might be able to help in this area.

The actions the councils have the power to take are:

  • Setting high standards for all housing built in the area (could be to a Pavishaus standard - perhaps @Locky could advise on that).
  • Implement electric charging points across the area so to ensure that electric vehicles can support the change @Alex_Beckett could probably help with that.
  • Set zero emission zones in the town. They’ve done this in Oxford and it’s pushed new standards for buses in the city.
  • Put obligations to ensure all green space is retained and enhanced for nature, and pay land-owners outside the town/city to plant trees to mitigate for carbon emissions in the town.

I think also they should help establish a community groups to establish community energy projects - there is funding for this available for feasibility etc - see news post here.

Heather. Is it alright if I change the title to ‘How to get councils to implement a climate emergency through policy’ and also add a photo to your initial post?

It helps in promotion.


Thank you. That’s the kind of information I need. This is a small town and our council doesn’t have a lot of influence at County level, but every little helps

Thankyou, yes

I’d suggest starting with an audit to get an idea of where you are in relation to carbon impact, then look at each of those impacts and work up a plan to reduce them. It could be split into direct and indirect.

Direct impacts would be the Councils own operations, procurement and those directly funded by the Council, and what it can do to directly support change. Indirect would be influencing/nudging others - like ending with schools, community groups etc.

I’d imagine it will be pretty daunting unless it’s broken down into manageable chunks.

That’s a very logical way of approaching it and gives a clear separation between the actions they can take and helping others along in s leadership role. Thankyou

At a low level this is what I’m just starting to do with my Parish council. I used to Chair it but no longer am a member, so I have an understanding of the mechanics and personalities. The key thing is to get the members to see the ideas as theirs - even if you’ve done most of the work for them!

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Hi Heather,

You might want to check out this list of resources on the Campaign Against Climate Change’s website. One interesting option to explore might be trying to get the town to adopt a low-carbon “Neighbourhood Development Plan” - you can learn more about this here.

Hope this helps!


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Tommo, thanks for intro. Dear Heather, firstly there is no blanket answer to how to get councils to connect and then implement a climate action plan. However, there are some basics things we found made a difference to the campaign.

The first is position yourself (as you are doing) at a local4local level to get acceptance by council and the other community members. We formed a Social Responsibility Committee that has a sub committee of community cohesion - as some changes can alienate as well as bring people together for the greater good.

Step 2 find out what matters locally and what can be done. - councils like to have early and easy wins and after 20 years I am still amazed at how the little things are still not being done that could be.

So in summary get a local action plan sketch together, get some other people on board, but my advice would be to pick a positive name -‘bright future’ Our space Our Environment etcetc that stops the "oh another green bashing group’ - this is still a hearts and minds campaign. Then the hard bit - do the councils job for them find some problems or changes and work out how they can be implemented.

As far as engaging with council, local councillor is worth the courtesy of contacting, but usually there will be a cabinet member for carbon /environment and a team to approach but at the same time get the inward investment officer and get him to understand clean air and good management of resources is attractive to business and families and a good examples of eco homes, waste recycling, or even just information sharing can lead to new jobs.

Pollution is simply poor efficiency - reduce pollution increase efficiency and even to skeptics they all know higher efficiency is more $$$ - I always like to show them that done at a scale that makes a difference, they can save or make money too - it is still sadly the biggest motivator for the decision team in a council, and without it they can do nothing. - hope it helps

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Thanks Chris - great first post! Thanks for helping us out here!

Thankyou all for such proactive suggestions. The council is planning a community working group which I will try to join, and there is an active group in our town that is also involved. Fingers crossed

I’m a little sceptical of councils declaring a climate emergency. My feeling is that this can be a good PR exercise for them but doesn’t necessarily affect policy. Our district council has declared a “climate emergency” (see . However, I don’t know what concrete effects this has had.

I would recommend getting involved with your parish or town council if you want to improve your local environment. I joined my local parish council about 6 months ago and they have been quite receptive to ideas like installing solar panels. Wildlife conservation / biodiversity ideas are also usually popular with everyone.

Parish councils sometimes have money to spend on infrastructure, especially those who are undergoing housing development as developers have to pay CIL.

Getting involved at the parish level is pretty easy. Personally I didn’t even have to stand for election. I simply asked to join and was “co-opted” on to the council.

I think if you tread carefully and treat others with respect, it is totally possible to influence policy at the local level.

Ok so as an update on this: A member of the public actually proposed that the Parish Council declare a “joint climate and wildlife emergency” at the last meeting :grinning:.

I think that there may be a couple of other councillors who would support this if we put it in the right way so I’m going to try to get something on the agenda.

For the “climate” bit I was going to propose something like the district council has done but I’m a little stumped about what actual actions we could put into the “wildlife” bit. So if anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them.

Exciting times on the Parish Council :grin:

Free trees for planting in a government funded initiative

Just to update you on my progress with my local Parish Council. Last night the council voted unanimously to create a working group composed of counsellors and local residents to formulate the content of a “Climate and Ecological Emergency Declaration”. After this is done the group will continue to meet to generate ideas for ways in which the parish can improve the local ecology and reduce its carbon footprint. :grinning:

I was really expecting a battle to get this idea through the council but the level of support shown was genuinely encouraging. I’m so proud of the parish and the council :grinning::grinning::grinning:


Nice one Russ!

Linking these two topics:

Great news. Keep on keeping on. My town council has done the same and so has county council