Climate change is the large-scale, long-term shift that we are seeing in the planet's weather patterns and average temperatures, and it has been driven by human activity that has released carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published their report on reaching the 1.5°C aspiration set out in the Paris Agreement; that report highlighted for the first time the significant increase in damage to health, the environment and the economy of holding global temperatures below 2°C, instead of below 1.5°C.
In the UK, this was followed by the publication of the Committee on Climate Change’s report on, ‘Net Zero – the UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’, and in June 2019 the Government legislated to increase the national target for emissions reductions from 80% to net zero emissions by 2050. At the same time, we have seen significant levels of public concern and activism around this issue, including by groups such as Extinction Rebellion.
An August 2019 poll shows that concern about climate change has reached record levels, with half now 'very concerned' and the majority thinking that the UK should bring all emsisions to net zero more quickly than by 2050.
London borough action on climate change
During 2019, 26 boroughs and the Mayor of London passed 'climate emergency declarations'; across the country, around 230 councils have declared a climate emergency, including the Local Government Association. In London, those boroughs that have not passed declarations are also considering a greater focus on climate change.
London boroughs have adopted a variety of targets in respect of reducing council-generated emissions, though the majority have adopted a target of net zero emissions by 2030. Some boroughs have also adopted emissions reduction targets for their borough as a whole; the Mayor of London has a net zero by 2050 target for London.
Many of London's officer groups are actively looking at how they can support councils' emissions reduction targets, including the London Environment Directors' Network (LEDNet), who have established a climate 'cluster' to provide leadership on this issue.
London Councils' action on climate change
In November 2019, LEDNet and the Transport and Environment Committee (TEC) came together to discuss key climate change issues facing boroughs, and how they could work together to address them. The result was an ambitious Joint Statement on Climate Change, that sets out the boroughs approach to governance, citizen engagement and resourcing for climate change, as well as seven major programmes for cross-borough working:
#1 Retrofit London: Retrofit all domestic and non-domestic buildings to an average level of EPC B. Programme timescale: 2020 – 2030.
#2 Low-carbon development: Secure low carbon buildings and infrastructure via borough planning. Programme timescale: 2020 – 2022.
#3 Halve petrol and diesel road journeys: Halve road journeys made by petrol and diesel via combined measures that can restrict polluting journeys and incentivise sustainable and active travel options. Programme timescale: 2020 – 2030.
#4 Renewable power for London: Secure 100% renewable energy for London’s public sector now and in the future. Programme timescale: 2020 – 2030.
#5 Reduce consumption emissions: Reduce consumption emissions by two thirds, focusing on food, clothing, electronics and aviation. Programme timescale: 2020 – 2030.
#6 Build the green economy: Develop London's low carbon sector and green our broader economy. Programme timescale: 2020 - 2030.
#7 Creating a resilient and green London
Alongside these programmes, London Councils will be supporting the boroughs as they develop their climate action plans, including on projects around data, procurement and senior leadership training on climate change.
Finally, London Councils will be advocating on behalf of its members for the powers and resources that they need to deliver their climate ambitions.