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Environmental law charity calls on councils to match action with rhetoric of climate emergency declarations

The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) has said that local authorities must show greater urgency to deliver the ambitions of their climate emergency declarations.

It said in a report Local Urgency on the Climate Emergency?, produced by its network of university-based policy clinics, that 376 local authorities were reviewed, with around 79% having declared a climate emergency. 

Many aimed to be ‘net zero carbon’ by 2030, but needed much greater focus on this in their decision-making across all policy areas, the ELF said. It also noted a lack of central government funding and guidance.

The report said that while there were many examples of positive action by local authorities, it was “clear that in many instances the action does not match the rhetoric”.

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It added: “In order to meet the urgency of the climate emergency declared by local and national government, there needs to be a step change in the way in which these declarations are treated within their decision-making processes. Without it, there is a risk both that CEDs simply become worthless political statements but, more importantly, that the opportunity for effective action will be missed.”

The research found difficulties in locating, obtaining and assessing information about local authorities’ climate change work.

In particular, many councils lacked clearly defined pathways with milestones and monitoring for emissions reduction targets.

The quality of available information was limited in many cases to the extent that it was counter to the requirements of the Environmental Information Regulations, the ELF said.

Joint executive director Tom Brenan, who co-ordinated the project, said: “The Climate Change Committee has highlighted the importance of public engagement in the climate change conversation and the key role played by local authorities in this.

“Our research found some good evidence of public engagement across the country but there needs to be much more of this.”

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