Reading football club climate stripe shirts

Beyond the Climate Emergency action bubble

Local councils who have declared a Climate Emergency are generally good at ‘walking the talk’. Some have already achieved carbon neutrality for their own operations, and others are well on the way. They’re also pretty good at focusing on climate justice and ‘leaving nobody behind’. Larger UK councils have responsibility for social housing and are ensuring new builds are energy efficient and are prioritising efficiency upgrades for older social housing. For example, Leicester City Council is spending £8m on an insulation scheme for low-income homes.

But what about everyone else? How are local councils reaching mid- and high-income households and engaging them in Climate Emergency action? Maybe they have more carbon-intensive lifestyles than their low-income neighbours, and more capacity to reduce their own emissions if only it were the social norm to spend on climate beneficial behaviour rather than over-consumption. How can councils cut through information overload and grab the attention of everyone, particularly busy people?

Reading Council’s climate stripe initiatives

Reading's biomethane powered bus with climate stripes
Reading’s climate stripes bus powered by bio-methane

Collaboration across organisations might be one key to reaching beyond ‘the usual suspects’. Reading Council arranged to use Ed Hawkins’ (Reading University) climate stripes on a bus powered by bio-methane which is used on a variety of routes to give maximum exposure. Reading Football club has also jumped in by featuring the stripes on the sleeves of their new shirts.

Reading Council then used a football club photo shoot featuring the shirts and the bus to kick off their 4-week community engagement campaign Stay Onside with Climate Change during November 2022.

Reading Borough Council declared a Climate Emergency back in February 2019 but they are very conscious that “The Climate Emergency is everybody’s responsibility, and no one organisation can deliver a net-zero carbon Reading in isolation.”

Imagining a zero-carbon future

Net Zero future image being painted on a wall
Net Zero mural at University of Plymouth

Net Zero Visions, an initiative of Climate Emergency Devon, builds on the idea that you can’t achieve a net-zero future until you can imagine it. They invite everyone to imagine what a net zero future will look like and submit their vision to be published on their website. They offer prizes for the best visions each month, with some being turned into public murals to help the public imagine a better future. There is now a mural in Tiverton, for example, and the above mural at the University of Plymouth.

Other ways to reach the broad public

Wrexham Council in Wales is currently conducting a climate action survey in which they hope a broad range of the community will participate, and they are offering free entry into a draw for some climate-positive prizes as an incentive. Alongside that they provide a link to a carbon footprint calculator and ask householders to use it to check (and reduce) their carbon emissions. Council’s aim is to:

“…work with people who live and work in Wrexham to increase the awareness and understanding of the changes we will all need to make to tackle the climate emergency.

“We’re hoping our survey can raise awareness of these issues, but it also allows us to learn a bit more about people in Wrexham, which will then help us to support them in making changes that can have a big impact.

The survey is well-designed and looks like it would be quite effective provided that it manages to grab the attention of people outside the climate bubble, but I suspect it might not reach most of the community. That would require some sort of mechanism for alerting all residents to the survey, such as inclusion with rates notices or other communications that everyone receives.

New climate-focused regulations

Back in January 2020, after declaring a Climate Emergency, Rennes Council in France banned outdoor heating at bars and cafes. Outdoor heating is enormously inefficient and they regarded the ban as an obvious way of cutting easily avoidable carbon emissions. I wonder if they also realised the controversy it generated would prove to be a very effective way of making sure all their residents were aware of their Climate Emergency declaration? It also signalled that they were serious about expecting everyone to make climate-focused changes.

Later Lyon Council also banned outdoor heating, and as of March this year a ban on outdoor heating has taken effect in all of France. This was one of the measures recommended by the French Citizens’ Assembly. It was originally due to start earlier but was pushed back in response to COVID measures.

Other councils too have introduced climate-focused bans, such as the bans on gas connections to new buildings that some local councils in the US have adopted. This would affect a narrower range of residents than the French ban on outdoor heating and so the incidental benefit of bringing notice to council’s focus on climate action might be weaker.

Local councils might prefer to avoid controversy but, in addition to the tangible climate benefits, a new regulation that has some sort of impact on a wide range of local residents is clearly useful for building awareness.

What to do next?

Make sure there is follow-up information clearly visible on the homepage of council’s website. Recent posts in the ‘good things CED councils are doing‘ series include examples of what some councils are doing to engage and empower the local community in Climate Emergency action – but the first challenge is catching everyone’s attention!


If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

Chart showing emissions reductions from switching to all-electric homes

Engaging Australia in Climate Emergency action

Average annual per capita carbon emissions in Australia are 15.37 tons CO2-e according to the interactive map in the 3 October 2022 Guardian article on tracking Australia’s progress. And according to recent detailed analysis from the Climate Council, entitled Switch and Save, the national average for the emissions reduction achieved simply by stopping use of fossil gas and switching to an all-electric home is around 2 tons CO2-e per year. That’s per household, not per capita, but it still represents a significant contribution to tackling the Climate Emergency.

The above chart shows the carbon savings over 10 years in each capital city.

Map showing per capita carbon emissions by country

The above map (scroll down the article at that link to see the interactive map) shows Australia really is not doing our ‘fair share’. Only three countries have higher per capita emissions: Mongolia (26.98), Kazakhstan (15.52), and Saudi Arabia (17.97). Even Canada (14.2) and the US (14.24) are slightly lower, and New Zealand (6.94) and the UK (4.85) have much lower per capita figures.

Resource for Climate Emergency councils in areas with reticulated fossil gas

Fossil gas might still be needed for some industrial uses and as backup electricity generation, for now at least, but it really is not necessary for households and most businesses. Vast regions of Australia have never had mains gas available and they get along fine. Increasingly other people too are choosing to live in all-electric homes.

With its Switch and Save publication, the Climate Council has provided a valuable resource that local councils can use to encourage behaviour change in their local community. Even as recently as 10 years ago, gas appliances were a sensible choice. Gas was cheap and electric appliances were much less efficient than they are now. A much higher proportion of grid electricity was from coal-fired power stations than it is today, so fossil gas seemed like a lower-carbon option at the time. But all that has changed.

How many Australian households continue to use gas appliances just because that is what they have become used to using? They are familiar, or that’s what their house already had when they bought it, and unless they are energy nerds they might still think ‘gas is better’.

The Climate Council analysis debunks that myth. Click here to go directly to the pdf download. It contains details of the potential financial savings from going all-electric, and for those not yet familiar with new and efficient electric options it explains how heat pumps and induction cooktops work. It also has clear explanations of the climate benefits of switching away from fossil gas. Not only do all-electric homes have lower carbon footprints right now…much lower if they also have rooftop solar…but the grid is rapidly becoming ‘greener’.

Behaviour change for tackling the Climate Emergency

A recent publication by the UK House of Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee – In our hands: behaviour change for climate and environmental goals – states that:

without changes to people’s behaviours now, the target of net zero by 2050 is not achievable…32 per cent of emissions reductions up to 2035 require decisions by individuals and households to adopt low carbon technologies and choose low-carbon products and services, as well as reduce carbon-intensive consumption.

I’ve not seen similar analysis for other countries, but given that local council carbon emissions are only a very small percentage of overall community emissions, household-level behaviour change is clearly critical.

And behaviour change relating to how people choose to warm their homes, heat water, and cook dinner is an effective place for councils that have declared a Climate Emergency to start. It is something everyone can do. It has immediate practical climate and health benefits, and as the Climate Council analysis shows, it will ‘pay for itself’ relatively quickly via reduced energy bills.

The last thing we need is households locking in continued high levels of carbon emissions by installing new fossil gas appliances when all-electric households will get closer and closer to generating almost no emissions as the grid approaches 100% renewable electricity.

Applying behaviour change thinking to getting off fossil gas

The Welsh Government as just launched for public consultation its draft Strategy for Public Engagement & Action (2022-2026). Its 4 E’s framework – Exemplify, Engage, Enable, Encourage – seems well suited to achieving a switch away from fossil gas. Even so, the very first challenge is cutting through the information overload and grabbing the attention of householders so that the 4 E’s can be implemented. Partnering with a wide variety of local organisations, like Greater Bendigo Council is doing, can help with that.

Exemplify: Lead by example. Report the motivation for and results of replacing gas use with electric appliances in council’s own operations. Make visible and celebrate getting-off-gas case studies from local climate champions (households and businesses).

Engage: Provide knowledge and involve the local community in decisions. Knowledge is particularly crucial for counteracting the clever and misleading gas industry advertising that claims gas use reduces emissions. Draw on the detailed analysis in Switch and Save to show the climate and cost benefits of all-electric homes.

Enable: While the above two E’s focus on making people want to switch to all-electric homes, the ‘enable’ step focuses on helping local households overcome the barriers that so often prevent putting those good intentions into action. This is an area where local councils can make a huge difference, for example:

  • Heat pump hot water systems are more expensive to buy than gas systems even though they have lower operating costs, so make sure people know about state government schemes that subsidise the upfront cost
  • Offer bulk buy schemes of high quality appliances installed by reliable companies to remove the guesswork for people who are unfamiliar with the various electric alternatives
  • If your council already has a Solar Savers scheme giving interest-free loans for solar installations, or even if it doesn’t, set up a similar scheme to cover the upfront cost of going all-electric
  • The end of life of a gas appliance is a perfect opportunity to replace it with an efficient electric appliance, but the quick and easy default option would be to replace like with like unless the householder had already researched and planned for an electric alternative. Can local councils help with that? Perhaps council could invite householders to pledge in advance to replace gas with electric and give them a number to contact for priority service to install their new electric appliances promptly when their gas appliances fail.

Encourage: Primarily this is an on-going consistent public narrative that normalises the choice to have an all-electric home, but it might also include incentives and reward schemes, regulations such as bans on gas connections for new builds, and emotional appeals and narratives.

A bit more about the Climate Council analysis

For a report entitled ‘Switch and Save’, its not surprising that it devotes more space to financial savings than to carbon emissions reductions. However, any local council initiative to encourage residents to switch to all-electric homes should focus primarily on its effectiveness as a climate mitigation tool. The resultant savings on energy costs can be presented as being a helpful enabler rather than the main motivator. Why?

If tackling the Climate Emergency requires widespread climate-motivated behaviour change, and it does, then it is vital to normalise that sort of behaviour change via showing that ‘everyone is doing it’. We all know we can’t do it alone.

Rooftop solar could have become a very visible indicator that ‘everyone is taking climate action’. This could have encouraged people to join in society-wide climate mitigation efforts, but it hasn’t. There has been so much focus on solar as a cost-saving mechanism that a street full of houses with solar panels simply looks like a street full of households who wanted to save money.

If switching to an all-electric home is promoted primarily as a cost-cutting measure its usefulness as a climate action engagement avenue would vanish. In contrast, information showing that it is an accessible and effective way of reducing household carbon emissions right now is empowering. It gives everyone who currently uses fossil gas a way to ‘do more’.


If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

yard sign promoting Ann Arbor City Council climate action tax

Funding council Climate Emergency action plans

Funding is a key challenge for local governments who have adopted ambitious Climate Emergency Action Plans. That is one of the main topics that will be discussed on 3-7 October at Daring Cities 2022, along with engaging the entire community and ensuring climate actions are equitable. You can register for this free online event here.

Daring Cities 2022 registration invitation

In the meantime, below are a few of the funding strategies local councils are already adopting, and a proven and empowering funding model being used by a grassroots non-profit group.

Ann Arbor City Council, USA: Community to vote on proposed climate action tax

Ann Arbor adopted its A2Zero carbon-neutrality plan in 2020, with a target of achieving community-wide carbon neutrality by 2030 and 100% renewable energy for the entire community. But this ambitious action plan requires funding, so as part of their elections in November they are asking the community to vote on a proposed 20-year tax. This would cost the average householder around $200/year and bring in $6.8 million in the first year, all of which would be spent on actions to help the entire community become carbon neutral.

Importantly, council has published action lists showing how the money would be spent so that residents know what their money will be achieving, and local climate groups have joined in a campaign to help build a ‘yes’ vote for the tax.

Often local councils seem reluctant to ask much of their residents even though the goal of their climate emergency actions is to protect their local community (and the rest of the world). But rises in rates or taxes tend not to be popular, so it is hoped the transparent planning and collaboration with local climate groups will prove to be an effective way of building community support.

Brighton and Hove Council, UK: Reallocation of budget

Reallocating budget is one of the simplest and quickest ways of funding at least some climate emergency action. Brighton and Hove Council was one of the earliest UK councils to declare a Climate Emergency, on 13 December 2018. Just prior to that they had set their new budget, but they quickly decided to revise it via the following budget reallocation decision:

£500,000 which was earmarked for the redevelopment of Brighton Town Hall will now be used for investment in “sustainability and carbon reduction”.
Labour leader Daniel Yates said: “We need to deal with the climate emergency facing the city and create a fund for those who wish to fight climate change.”

West Berkshire Council, UK: Community climate bonds to raise funds for climate emergency action

People in West Berkshire can invest in a ‘community bond’ for as little as £5, which will go towards plans to install solar panels and plant trees across the district and hopefully raise £1 million. The interest rate would be a bit lower than other options for borrowing, so it would save council (and ratepayers) money, but it could also be a very effective means of empowering local residents who want to ‘do more’.

Several other UK councils are also raising funds via climate bonds as promoted by the Green Finance Institute and administered by Abundance Investment.

Leicester Council, UK: Bid for government funding for £8m home insulation scheme

Leicester Council is retrofitting hundreds of older social housing and other affordable homes with wall insulation, enabled by a successful bid to receive £1million from the UK Government’s Green Homes Grant Scheme.

Stage 2 of the insulation scheme will be backed by £7million from the Government’s Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, following a successful joint bid by the city council and local housing associations.

Grants from higher levels of government may require council to match the funding, but even so it’s a good way of stretching a council budget further than otherwise if council can come up with a compelling business case for a grant bid.

Many local councils, everywhere: Schemes facilitating community expenditure on climate solutions

Bulk buy schemes are a classic example. Local householders and businesses might hesitate to install solar or upgrade their space heating to heat pumps, for example, simply because they don’t know which products are best and which tradespeople will do a good job. Councils can leverage climate-beneficial expenditure by the local community simply by organising a quality-controlled bulk buy scheme that the community can trust.

Or it could be a scheme that is partly funded by local government and partly by the local community, such as the scheme adopted by the Government of Jersey for subsidised commercial auditor training. They also subsidise audit costs and energy efficiency upgrade costs for both householders and commercial premises.

CORENA, Australia: Crowd-funding to pay for practical Climate Emergency projects

Not a local council! CORENA is a tiny non-profit community organisation run by volunteers, so the scale of their funding model is small compared with what a local council could manage with its much greater resources. However, their successful donation-sourced revolving fund provides proof of concept and could easily be adapted for local councils.

The funding model is incredibly simple and takes advantage of the fact that many of the practical initiatives that reduce carbon emissions, like energy efficiency and solar installations, also reduce subsequent operating costs. CORENA uses donations from the public to give interest-free loans to cover the upfront cost of practical climate projects. The loans are repaid into a revolving fund via subsequent savings on operating costs, meaning the donated money is used over and over again. Accordingly, the $500,000 donated so far has paid for $1 million worth of climate projects.

revolving fund cartoon showing donations coming in, loans going out, and loan repayments coming back in

Adapting the revolving fund model for local councils

For a local council, the first step is to identify an appealing goal that suits local circumstances. For example, the goal might be for everyone in the community to replace oil or gas space heating with efficient reverse-cycle air conditioners (heat pumps), with the added benefit of keeping vulnerable people cool during heat waves. Or it might be solar installations, or insulation, or whatever else would reduce local community carbon emissions most cost-effectively.

For householders who cannot afford the upfront cost themselves, council would use the donated funds to give interest-free loans to cover the cost, with the repayments set to fall within expected savings on operating costs. (For everyone else, they could organise a quality-controlled bulk buy scheme to make it easy for those who are time-poor rather than cash-poor.) If loan repayments are attached to the property rather than an individual, then loan repayments could be a simple extra payment added to rates payments, and even people who are unsure how long they will continue to live at their current premises can participate with confidence.

Empowering the local community

Finally council would ask everyone in the community to donate to help achieve the stated community goal. Quite apart from providing necessary funding, this is a great way of engaging the local community in collective action, with good opportunities to give visibility to the number of people ‘doing their bit’ to tackle the climate emergency. We all know we can’t do it alone.

For donors it is very empowering to see tangible climate actions they are helping to achieve, and even more so when they see their money being used over and over again in subsequent climate projects. By setting up the above type of donation-sourced revolving climate fund, council is providing a structure that enables everyone to ‘do more’.


If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

question about the effect of Climate Emergency declarations on the local community

Community impact of Climate Emergency Declarations

Last week Whitehorse City Council in Victoria became the 115th jurisdiction in Australia to declare a Climate Emergency. That prompted the following question from a journalism student living in that area:

What is the effect within the local general community when their local council declares a Climate Emergency?

That raises another question – what percentage of the local population actually hear about the declaration?

I had to confess that I have no data on either point, and I can’t think of an efficient way of trying to collect that data either!

Do any readers have any data on reactions from the general public, or on how many people have heard (or not heard) about their local declaration? If so, please get in touch or leave a comment below this blog post. It will be valuable input even if it is just random anecdotal evidence, or the effect on you personally, rather than hard data.

What we do know

One theory of change driving the early Climate Emergency Declaration campaign was that a declaration by one local council would have influence in multiple directions. Not only would it have an effect on their own local community, it would also act sideways (to and from other local councils), upwards to higher levels of government, and inwards to their own staff.

  • Sideways: this has been working extremely well, as evidenced by the rapid spread of local government declarations. In addition, there are many examples of neighbouring councils sharing expertise and collaborating on initiatives, such as the power purchase agreement organised by the Victorian Energy Collaboration (VECO), resulting in 46 Australian councils now buying renewable energy for their own operations. At Queenscliffe Borough Council, for example, that helped achieve a whopping 73% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from council’s own operations in just one year.
  • Upwards: in some regions there has been a direct regional influence. The Quebec state government declared a Climate Emergency after 403 of their local councils had done so, and the South Australian state government did so after 16 local councils covering 45% of the population in SA had issued declarations. In other cases the influence has been general rather than regional, but it is unlikely any of the 18 national and 41 subnational government declarations would have occurred were it not for the precedents set globally by numerous local councils.
  • Inwards: anecdotal evidence suggests that at some councils, their declaration and subsequent climate action focus has built engagement and enthusiasm for increased climate action amongst council’s own staff and Councillors, but I have not seen any publicly available data. What we do know is that some councils have included an internal climate-related education component in their action plans, and quite a few have hired external consultants to help staff learn more about what they can do.
  • Outwards: as stated above, we have no data on the effect of their Climate Emergency Declaration within a council’s own local community. However, in a more general global sense there clearly has been a broad diffuse outwards effect which goes beyond what was anticipated by the sideways-upwards-inwards-outwards concept. The term ‘climate emergency’ is now used very widely and was heralded as being the word of the year in 2019. By December 2020 it had reached the UN, with Antonio Guterres urging all countries to declare a Climate Emergency. In addition, numerous non-government entities – universities, schools, businesses, churches, and association bodies (eg. Architects Declare) – have declared a Climate Emergency. (You can see some of them in a sadly incomplete list here.)

So, if we did have the data, what might success look like in terms of the effect on the local community when its own council declares a Climate Emergency?

Scenario 1: Sounding the alarm

A key reason for an official trusted body to declare any sort of emergency is so that everyone knows about the danger and knows what to do (and not do) to increase their own safety. Importantly, an emergency declaration also brings out the best in people, leading to abandoning business-as-usual and going ‘above and beyond’ for the sake of the common good.

Similarly, I’d like to think that when their local council declares a Climate Emergency, everyone in the local community firstly knows there has been a declaration, and secondly, those who have been complacent about climate will:

  • pay more attention to climate information
  • change their behaviour
  • start helping others around them to respond to the emergency

But does that actually happen? Have any local residents been jolted out of climate complacency and into taking climate-positive actions in response to their local council declaring a Climate Emergency?

Scenario 2: Giving visibility to collective community effort

We all know we can’t do it alone. Climate-aware people might be discouraged from taking action and prone to pushing climate issues to the back of their minds if they think nobody else is doing anything. Many local councils were already taking at least some climate action, and some were doing a very large amount, but were their local communities aware of that before they declared a Climate Emergency?

I’d like to think that local council declarations and public commitments to climate action make everyone aware that collectively everyone’s actions can make a difference because:

  • their own council is treating climate like an emergency and is taking action accordingly
  • they are actively encouraging everyone in the community to take action, and reporting back on what members of the community are doing
  • and plenty of other local councils and communities globally are also joining in to help

Of course we still need to convince higher levels of government to pull the big climate levers, but a rising tide of engagement and action at the community level should make that easier to achieve.

Scenario 3: Sowing the seeds

Even if some of the local community initially fail to hear that their council has declared a Climate Emergency, I’d like to think that it will be brought to their attention later via projects that effectively engage a wide range of residents. I’m thinking, for example, of this charming scheme by Leeds City Council in the UK:

Leeds City Council is once again encouraging residents to get involved in an annual seed collection to help with the ambitious target of planting 5.8m trees over 25 years across the city.

Each Autumn people of all ages collect acorns, beech nuts, sweet chestnuts, and conkers which are then delivered to a specialist nursery to grow into seedlings. They are then planted in local parks and green spaces. What an engaging, enjoyable, visible, and empowering community activity! I can imagine a scenario that goes something like this:

  • Mummy, why are all those people picking up acorns?
  • I don’t know. Let’s ask them.
  • Council’s Climate Emergency declaration…planting millions of trees…everyone helping…
  • Mummy can we help find acorns too?

Please let us all know about any particularly effective schemes your council might have found for engaging their entire community.


If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

Weather map showing record temperatures in the UK and CASBE zero carbon plans

From Climate Emergency to Climate Catastrophe and CED action

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed a change in the language used in media articles. ‘Climate catastrophe’ is nudging out ‘climate emergency’ in reports of climate impacts. But also, and this is not new, there have been numerous articles about actions being taken by climate emergency declaration (CED) councils.

Climate catastrophe

The devastating and continuing flooding in Pakistan is causing death and destruction on an almost unimaginable scale. The UK recently reached record high temperatures not expected till 2050 (top image) and is currently experiencing an early ‘false autumn‘. Many parts of the world are experiencing either massive fires, flooding, heatwaves, and/or water shortages and famine caused by droughts. Many of the great rivers of the world are starting to dry up.

Flood evacuees living in tents in Pakistan
Flooding in Pakistan

Impacts are becoming horrendously obvious. For everyone and all levels of government, doing anything less than ‘as much as possible as soon as possible’ is inexcusable. Even if ‘as much as possible’ is genuinely very little, it is still worth doing.

Meanwhile, back in May, the World Meteorological Organisation predicted there is a 50:50 chance of global temperature temporarily reaching the 1.5°C threshold within the next five years. But 1.5°C is sounding increasingly arbitrary given the catastrophic impacts that are occurring already at about 1.1°C.

Council climate emergency actions

The examples of local government climate actions below are just from very recent news articles, making them a fairly random sample. They’re not necessarily the ‘best’ actions, or ‘enough’, and these are not the first or only local governments already taking these actions. Hopefully any that are not will start to think they can (and should) emulate these examples, or work out the most cost-effective measures for their own local circumstances. It is crucial that local councils leverage the maximum climate benefit from their limited resources as quickly as possible. You can see other examples of climate emergency actions by local councils here.

Knox City Council, Victoria – from ‘acknowledgement’ to ‘climate emergency declaration’

Knox City Council passed a resolution acknowledging the climate emergency back in September 2021. They upgraded this to a ‘declaration’ in late July to indicate a higher level of climate ambition, as discussed in our July blog post, but this week it received media attention again, with a focus on budget implications – $30 million over 10 years – and planned actions.

The actions include advocating for zero carbon developments, replacing street lights with LEDs and powering them via a wind energy power purchase agreement, installing solar panels and EV chargers, hosting educational webinars for local businesses and residents, developing a Biodiversity Resilience Plan, including tree canopy analysis and a habitat corridor plan, and tackling ‘heat islands’. These are all fairly typical climate emergency actions that any council can emulate. No rocket science required – just a heightened resolve to get on with the job.

Wellfleet Town Council, USA – Climate Emergency public workshop series

Screenshot showing Climate Emergency workshop series by Wellfleet Town Council

This small town of 2,750 in Massachusetts declared a Climate Emergency in September 2020. Now it is holding a series of three public workshops entitled It’s a Climate Emergency! What we can do!

The first session was Household Electrification and Energy Conservation, the second next week is Electrifying Transportation, and the final one will be Solar Photovoltaic Arrays.

Queenscliffe Borough Council, Victoria – 73% reduction in emissions in one year

Queenscliffe Council adopted its Climate Emergency Response Plan in May 2021, containing 49 actions designed to reduce the entire Borough’s carbon output to zero by 2031. Since then they have managed to reduce the emissions from council’s own operations by a whopping 73% in just one year.

Again no rocket science. The bulk of that reduction was achieved by deciding to purchase 100% renewable electricity for all of its operations, including council buildings, tourist parks, street lights and public facilities. They also started kerbside food waste collection.

Plans to achieve further reductions include swapping its vehicle fleet for electric vehicles, disconnecting remaining gas services, and investing in more sustainable building and construction methods. Mayor Ebbel hopes council’s achievements will inspire residents to “take the next step on our journey to becoming a more climate-friendly community.”

Derwent Valley Council, Tasmania – engaging entire community in climate action and advocacy

Derwent Valley Council declared a Climate Emergency just recently, in July 2022, and they have now added a new Get Active On Climate page to their website.

Screenshot of Get Active on Climate webpage by Derwent Valley Council

They clearly recognise that engagement of the entire community is key, and are refreshingly up-front about expecting everyone to do their part.

Jersey, UK – subsidised commercial energy auditor training and audits

Jersey has a population of just over 100,000 so is similar in size to a large local council despite being a subnational government. Their subsidised auditor training is an intriguing precedent for tackling community-wide emissions and one which local councils might consider modifying to suit their own communities.

Jersey already had a Home Energy Audit scheme whereby home owners can apply for very generous subsidies to cover most of the cost of the audit. They are now starting to offer subsidised training for commercial energy auditors. Soon they will also be offering subsidies to help cover the cost of commercial audits.

For home owners and businesses, key barriers to energy efficiency upgrades are the unknowns. They probably realise an audit and energy efficiency measures will ‘pay for themselves’ and would happily pay for the up-front costs themselves, but who can they trust to perform a reliable audit? Do they need and can they afford efficiency improvements, and if so who can they hire to do a reliable job on the improvement work?

A carefully implemented scheme that overcomes those barriers with some sort of reliability and quality guarantee may well be sufficient with only small, if any, financial incentives from local government. But it seems prudent to make sure any recipients of audit subsidies follow through by taking at least some of the recommended actions. Possibly a council could offer reimbursement of the cost of the audit after a specified amount of efficiency upgrade work has been completed?

Leicester City Council, UK – mapping and costing of 2030 carbon neutral pathway

Leicester City Council hired experts to map out a 2030 carbon neutral pathway for the entire community and analyse the up-front implementation costs – from £900milllion to £5billion over the next eight years. This could create an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 local jobs.

The pathway focuses on three main areas: buildings (35%), active transport and electric vehicles (14%), and energy. The buildings component includes retrofitting energy efficiency measures to around 65,000 properties and around 100,000 homes swapping their gas boilers for heat pumps.

Council already had a Climate Emergency Action Plan and has already achieved significant reductions in community-wide emissions, but this new report makes it clear that even more ambitious action is necessary and will inform development of their second action plan to cover 2023 to 2030.

Yarra City Council, Victoria – zero carbon developments

Yarra City Council is a member council of the Climate Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment (CASBE) involving 31 Victorian councils. They are pursuing a planning scheme amendment that builds on existing local Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD) Policies. The project aims to deliver revised and elevated ESD targets, including targets for zero carbon developments.

Sefton Council, UK – drop-in sessions to inform community engagement strategy

Sefton Council already has a Climate Emergency Action Plan and a 2030 target to make its own operations carbon neutral, but now it has launched a public consultation to collect views on how the entire community can tackle climate change together.

Feedback from the consultation will be used to produce a Climate Change Community Engagement Plan for the next phase of their climate action plan.

Sydney City Council, NSW – net-zero policy for new developments beginning 2023

The City of Sydney has just unanimously endorsed energy controls that require applications for new office buildings, hotels and shopping centres, and major redevelopments to comply with minimum energy ratings from January 2023. This is part of council’s plan to achieve city-wide net-zero emissions by 2035, recognising that 68% of the city’s total emissions is from hotels, apartment complexes, and commercial office space.

The new controls focus on increased energy efficiency, on-site renewable energy production and offsite renewable energy procurement.

Shipley Town Council, UK – Citizens’ Jury

Town councils in the UK are the lowest tier of local government and don’t have a lot of resources, but Shipley Town Council (population 15,483) is using some grant money from the National Lottery to cover the costs of holding a citizens’ jury.

Every household in Shipley has been sent a letter inviting them to become a member of the 25-person jury to ensure a cross-section of residents can have their say on the question: How can we work together in Shipley to limit climate change and its impacts while protecting our environment and health?

Quite apart from whatever solutions the jury might come up with, even just the invitation letter sent to all households will ensure everyone knows about council’s climate emergency declaration and could inspire new enthusiasm to take action.

3 UK councils – grants to low-income households for efficiency upgrades

Three UK councils, Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, and North Somerset, jointly secured £2.7m in government funding to enable them to give energy efficiency grants to low-income households. Householders can apply for Home Upgrade Grants of up to £25,000 to install efficiency measures such as loft, underfloor, and wall insulation, air source heat pump central heating systems, and solar panels.

To be eligible a house must currently have a low energy performance rating and use oil or coal for heating. This reflects a point made in this article by Alan Pears, namely that the best bang for buck in terms of climate action comes from improving the energy efficiency of buildings with very low star ratings rather than from making further efficiency improvements to buildings that are already relatively efficient.

Only one of these examples is unique!

Over the last couple of years I’ve seen many media articles reporting similar actions by other local councils that have declared a Climate Emergency.

The one action that I’d not seen before was the Jersey scheme offering subsidised training for performing energy efficiency audits. A carefully planned scheme combining auditor training with something that removes the barriers for the entire community to improve the efficiency of their buildings could be ground-breaking. It might provide an inspiring example of how a council could leverage relatively small financial contributions from their limited budgets in order to achieve widespread investment by the entire community in tackling the Climate Emergency.

Please leave a comment if you know of other ways local councils can leverage their limited resources to achieve big community-wide achievements!


If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

Chart showing the difference in cumulative emissions from Indigo Shire

Climate Emergency actions and target dates

Journalists and others who blithely repeat the myth that Climate Emergency Declarations (CEDs) are ‘just symbolic’ or ‘just words’ would do well to set up Google Alerts on ‘climate emergency’. I routinely see news about post-CED actions taken by local councils. These include bans on fossil fuel use in new buildings, insulation schemes for low-income homes, adoption of Climate Emergency Action Plans and carbon neutrality targets, allocation of budget for climate strategies, rewilding and tree planting, tackling waste, renewable electricity projects, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, climate events and drop-in centres, and so on. You can see plenty of examples on cedamia’s Council post-CED actions page.

Some examples receiving media coverage in just the last two days include a new repair cafe supported by Godalming Town Council in the UK and, from the Abingdon Town Council website, a Climate Conversations event. Incidentally, Item 1 of council’s ‘Key Objectives’ listed on the Abingdon website homepage is:

1. To respond effectively and speedily to the climate emergency.

Town and Parish councils are the lowest tier of local government in the UK and have very limited powers and responsibilities compared with Australian councils and mid-tier UK councils. My impression though is what they lack in scope they make up for with effective community engagement – possibly the main game given the need for everyone to tackle the Climate Emergency.

Emissions reductions achieved by Indigo Shire Council

Also just yesterday, and on a different scale and the other side of the globe (Australia), this Council Magazine article reported the outcomes at Indigo Shire Council resulting from the first year of their participation in the Victorian Electricity Collaboration (VECO) scheme. Under that scheme, 46 local councils collaborated to secure a power purchase agreement to buy all their electricity from two Victorian wind farms. 26 of those councils, including Indigo Shire, have declared a Climate Emergency and Indigo Shire has set a target of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035.

Participation in the VECO scheme has reduced Indigo Shire Council’s emissions from their own operations by 1,100 t CO2-e over the last year.

EMissions reductions achieved by Indigo Shire Council

The biggest reduction has been in their Scope 2 emissions, which includes the indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity.

To put that 2021/22 total emissions figure of 19 t CO2-e in perspective, the average per capita emissions per year in Australia in 2020 was 19.9 t CO2-e. Simply by buying 100% renewable electricity, Indigo Council’s own operations now have slightly less negative climate impact than the everyday living of one ‘average’ Australian. (The per capita figure for the UK is 7.3, and much of Europe has similar relatively low figures.)

What difference will achieving local emissions reduction target dates make?

It’s not completely clear from the Indigo Shire website whether its 2035 net-zero target applies to the entire community rather than just to council operations. Assuming it does, and if the target is achieved, this will result in the 16,490 people living in the Shire producing a total of 2,625,208 t CO2-e between 2020 and 2035 and net-zero after that. If instead the community only reaches net-zero by 2050 in line with the national Australian target, they would produce 5,086,341 t CO2-e by 2050.

Chart showing the difference in cumulative emissions from Indigo Shire

Of the 112 CED councils in Australia, 50 have announced clear community-wide carbon neutral or net-zero target dates ranging from 2025 to 2050.

Chart showing the GHG emissions to 2050 from council areas with earlier target dates
The emissions column shows t CO2-e between 2020 and 2050 assuming net-zero is reached by the targeted year

If all 39 of the councils with target dates earlier than 2050 achieve those goals, they will emit 702,033,215 t CO2-e before reaching net-zero. If instead those communities only reach net-zero by 2050 in line with the national Australian target, they would produce almost twice as much: 1,348,951,171 t CO2-e by 2050.

Chart showing cumulative emissions from CED council areas in Australia with earlier targets

Setting ‘as soon as possible’ as a carbon neutral or net-zero target date

Some local councils in the UK and USA have simply set ‘asap’ as their community-wide target. Is this a cop-out, or is it the only serious target to set?

The above charts show the significant benefit from setting target dates earlier than 2050, but climate impacts are already dangerous. Every tonne of emissions between now and reaching net-zero will only make things worse. Even achieving a 2025 or 2030 community-wide target will do that.

From that grim perspective, a seriously implemented ‘as soon as possible’ target, based on thinking that every tonne of avoided emissions will make future climate impacts a little less bad, seems like a logical choice.

It’s tricky! Setting ‘asap’ might leave a lot of wiggle room. Some people might think it means tomorrow and some might think anything earlier than 2050 is not possible. Setting a specific date makes a council’s ambition less ambiguous, but the down side is that it suggests the adopted date is sufficient to achieve a safe climate…and that we don’t necessarily need to act just yet.


If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

map showing the 114 Climate Emergency Declarations in Australia before August 2022

Climate Emergency: declarations and/or actions?

Last week saw two new Climate Emergency Declarations (CEDs) in Australia, taking the total to 114, along with some interesting twists and turns. Liverpool City Council in NSW and Derwent Valley Council in Tasmania both passed CED motions, and Eurobodalla Shire Council adopted a new 10-year Climate Action Plan but postponed a decision on declaring a Climate Emergency.

The Liverpool CED is the first example I’ve seen of a council developing their climate action plan as a precursor to passing a Climate Emergency motion. However, in April this year Nillumbik Shire Council also took an atypical step by declaring a Climate Emergency and simultaneously adopting their Climate Action Plan 2022-2032.

Item 2 of the Liverpool motion explicitly “Acknowledges the progress made in developing and adopting a Climate Change Policy and Action Plan”. The preamble to their motion provides a clear hint of a reason for doing so:

Some have called declarations of climate emergencies as largely symbolic or tokenistic, that don’t entail substantial or systematic changes.

Claims that CEDs are ‘just words’ are so ubiquitous that it is easy to imagine a council wanting to avoid such criticism. But is it a valid criticism? Where is the evidence? Have CED critics bothered to look at the track records of CED councils to see what they have done, or do they just assume that claim is true because such a large number of media articles say so?

Which should come first – climate emergency declarations or action plans?

The vast majority of CED councils globally have declared a Climate Emergency first. Many (but not all) of the CED motions have included a commitment to develop and implement a Climate Emergency Action Plan.

The Derwent Valley CED motion follows that typical pattern. Part of Item C commits to:

Engage with our community, staff, climate experts, and other stakeholders to develop a Climate Emergency Action Plan in line with the review of the Council’s Strategic Plan

The discussion points included in the minutes identify many advantages of declaring a Climate Emergency, but one that relates specifically to the timing of a declaration states:

Declaring a climate emergency would provide a clear mandate for the council to embed climate emergency response in our operations and put climate emergency response as the top priority for all strategy and policy reviews.

In contrast, Eurobodalla Shire’s approach appears to be to wait on a mandate from their community, firstly to develop the action plan they’ve just adopted, then to potentially declare a Climate Emergency sometime in the future.

The declaration first scenario reflects the notion that a local council has a responsibility to take a leadership role in an emergency: firstly to announce that there is an emergency, and then to say what they are doing and what the local community can do to tackle the emergency. That makes sense to me, but on the other hand, a key challenge for society-wide change is for local councils to ‘take the community along’ with their climate emergency action. From that perspective, it will be interesting to see if the Eurobodalla approach ultimately proves to be more effective.

Fact check: Are Climate Emergency Declarations ‘just words’?

The Australia section of cedamia’s global CED data sheet shows links to 89 climate action plans (81% of CED councils). They have a wide variety of plan names, not necessarily Climate Emergency Action Plan or even Climate Action Plan and some are still at the draft stage, but almost all are climate focused action plans developed in response to passing a CED. A few plans, such as the 2025 Carbon Neutral Adelaide Plan, were adopted prior to council declaring a Climate Emergency. Even so the Adelaide plan has one of the most ambitious community-wide carbon neutral target dates.

Pie chart showing the community-wide carbon neutral target dates of CED councils in Australia

14.3% of Australian CED local councils have set a 2030 carbon neutral target date for their entire community, 11.6% have set 2040, and 9.8% have set 2050. These dates reflect the relative difficulty for a council to affect the carbon emissions of local residents, business, and industry. However, council’s own operations generally only account for 1-2% of all the climate-damaging emissions from their local area. That makes it critical that councils find innovative ways of inspiring action within their communities and making it easier for everyone to ‘do the right thing’.

Pie chart showing the carbon neutral target dates of CED councils in Australia for their own operations

Local councils have close to complete control over their own carbon emissions and there are some notable success stories. 9.8% of Australian CED councils have already achieved carbon neutrality for their own operations. 11.6% have set a 2025 target, and 20.5% have a 2030 target.

I suppose one might argue that even action plans and targets are ‘just words’ and it is actual outcomes that count. More on specific actions taken by CED councils in future blog posts, but in the meantime you can see some of them on cedamia’s post-CED action page. Please leave a comment below if you have something to add to this story. (If reading this article via email, go to https://www.cedamia.org/news/ to comment.)


If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

Knox City Council meeting which passed a motion to declare (not just recognise) the Climate Emergency

From recognition to declaration: Knox City Council

This is a first! Or, at least, to the best of my knowledge Knox City Council is the first jurisdiction anywhere to upgrade an earlier motion recognising the Climate Emergency in order to explicitly join the ranks of local councils that have declared a Climate Emergency.

On 27 September 2021 Knox City Council adopted a new climate response plan, and in association with that they also recognised the Climate Emergency. Then, this week at their 25 July meeting, Cr Jude Dwight successfully proposed a new motion to explicitly declare a Climate Emergency.

Mayor Susan Laukens supported the motion to reaffirm the council’s commitment to act. “It is real, it is happening and climate scientists have been warning us of extreme weather events,” she said. “We need to be advocating and show leadership in this space”.

The new motion begins:

That Council

  1. Officially and publicly declare a Climate Emergency;
  2. Reaffirms strong commitment to the Climate Emergency and climate change mitigation and adaptation, as evidenced through…

To declare or to recognise – what is the issue?

A note on cedamia’s global list of Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) jurisdictions states that:

We include a jurisdiction if their resolution text includes ‘climate emergency’ or the equivalent in the local language. The resolution can declare, note, acknowledge, recognise (or similar) a climate emergency, or it can place climate emergency in quotation marks.

Accordingly, the earlier Knox City Council was recorded in the global list at the time it occurred (but it has now been updated to reflect the change from ‘recognise’ to ‘declare’).

But what prompted this note and this policy?

Warming banner - declare a Climate Emergency

As the above banner says, the grassroots Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) campaign which began in 2016 clearly asked all levels of government to declare a Climate Emergency. That’s what you do when you become aware of an emergency situation. You declare there is one so that everyone knows to take action if they want to remain safe.

In practice, particularly at first, many jurisdictions used words other than ‘declare’. Apparently they were concerned about unintended legal implications of declaring an emergency. (Even so, in general usage, all Climate Emergency resolutions tend to be reported as being ‘declarations’ regardless of the word actually used.)

Climate Emergency declarations in Australia

The first five CED councils in Australia either recognised, endorsed, or acknowledged the Climate Emergency. From 2020 onwards the vast majority used ‘declare’ in their CED motions but overall only half have done so. Incidentally, in Europe Climate and Ecological Emergency or Climate and Biodiversity Emergency declarations are quite common, but in Australia there have only been two of each, and one more that ‘recognised’ the Climate and Biodiversity Emergency.

Chart showing words used in Climate Emergency Declarations in Australia

Declarations in other countries

The first CED in the UK by Bristol City Council in November 2018 adopted a different solution. They declared a ‘climate emergency’, using quotation marks to signal that this was a new concept rather than necessarily having any sort of legal implications. During 2019 many other UK local councils copied that precedent, but these days new UK declarations usually don’t.

A few of the declarations in Canada and USA have used ‘recognise’ or similar, but the majority have simply used ‘declare’, as do all the CEDs in New Zealand and Japan.

Over the last couple of years there have been occasional cases of declarations in Australia and elsewhere that explicitly state that they should not be interpreted as having any particular legal implications. This seems like a practical way of circumventing debate on whether or not there are any legal issues to complicate declaring a Climate Emergency. For example, the Greater Wellington Council CED motion includes a clause saying, “Notes that the Climate Emergency declaration is made without explicit statutory authority or support.”

So…do CEDs have legal implications?

To be honest, I don’t think they do, but I’m not a lawyer. The campaign to declare a Climate Emergency is a bottom-up grassroots campaign. If CEDs were a top-down initiative there would be legislation saying what a CED is and setting regulations about them, but it isn’t. It came as a complete surprise to CED campaigners that the word ‘declare’ was considered a stumbling block considering that the entire CED concept was new and had no official standing.

However, some countries have legislation concerning other types of emergency declarations and the sorts of temporary powers and obligations that apply during those emergencies. It is understandable therefore that council legal teams wanted to take a cautious approach, at least at first.

All except two of the 20 most recent CEDs in Australia have used ‘declare’, and UK councils no longer bother using quotation marks. Has it now been established that such caution regarding potential legal implications is unnecessary? If you can answer this, please let us know!

In the meantime, I’m not sure if Knox City Council was concerned about legal implications when they used ‘recognise’ in their first CED, or perhaps they were influenced by the precedents set by some other Australian CEDs. Either way, it’s great to see them explicitly declare a Climate Emergency now. It really does sound much stronger.

Climate Emergency banner on the Wandsworth Council homepage

UK council Climate Emergency banners

Following on from my recent hunt for Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) banners on the websites of Australian local councils who have declared a Climate Emergency, I knuckled down to search the homepage of all 543 CED local councils in the UK. Maybe there are better ways to spend a wet and wintry week, but once I reached the ‘W’ part of the alphabetical list here, I found the wonderful CED banner above just under the main header on the Wandsworth Borough Council homepage.

The Wandsworth banner takes the prize for excellent CED visibility. Any local residents visiting the website to check their bin collection dates cannot fail to see this banner stating that the council has declared a Climate Emergency. Not only that, the ‘Wandsworth together’ slogan gives a clear message that everyone can (and is expected to) help tackle the emergency, and there is a link to find out how to do that.

Local government in the UK consists of a single tier in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but in England there are three tiers: regional authorities (11), local authorities (333), and the lowest tier consisting of town and parish councils (10,475).

Middle-tier local authorities – borough, county, district, and city councils

The other standout amongst middle-tier websites is the following Climate Emergency call to action in a rotating banner near the top of the Lancaster City Council homepage.

Climate Emergency banner on Lancaster City Council homepage

In general, councils seem to include items that are currently important to them in rotating banners, but the downside of that is that a rotating Climate Emergency item might not be displayed at the time anyone who is just looking for bin collection days scrolls down the page. However, the Lancaster banner rotates fairly quickly and only has two items rotating, so it is unlikely to be missed. It might even be more eye-catching than a static image as the movement tends to attract the eye.

Such excellent CED visibility on the Lancaster website was not a surprise to me. The Deputy Leader of Lancaster City Council, Cllr Kevin Frea, is the brains behind the excellent Climate Emergency UK website, an extremely comprehensive record of UK declarations, Climate Emergency Action Plans by UK local councils, and even a council climate plan scorecard mechanism.

Middle-tier councils in the UK have quite a wide range of functions, so their websites tend to show their numerous main menu items as blocks of icons or images. It is rare for their CED to rate inclusion in these main menu blocks. In too many cases the CED information can only be found by clicking on something more generic, like ‘Environment’, but there are some good examples of giving their CED equal prominence with other main menu items. For example, in the following main menu icons on the South Cambridgeshire District Council homepage:

Menu icons on South Cambridgeshire District Council home page

Or this section of the Somerset County Council main menu:

Screenshot of Somerset County Council main menu

Or the following image panel for featured menu items on the Eastleigh Borough Council homepage:

Climate Emergency as a featured item on Eastleigh Borough Council home page

Or the following Rother District Council main menu using panels of images rather than icons:

Image panel of main menu items on Rother District Council home page

Hopefully the above examples, or these screenshots showing good CED visibility by middle-tier UK councils, will inspire local councils globally to make their CEDs equally visible.

Small town and parish councils

Town and parish councils have a quite limited range of responsibility and power, and therefore less contention for space on a council’s homepage. This might explain why this is the only tier of local government where I found examples of the Climate Emergency being included in the top main menu. For example, on the Bishopsteignton Parish Council website:

Climate Emergency in Bishpsteignton top main menu

And the Chagford Parish Council website:

Climate Emergency in Chagford Parish Council top main menu

Or this link to their CED right at the top of the Dawlish Town Council homepage:

Climate Emergency Declaration link at top of Dawlish Town Council home page

And some parish and town councils give visibility to their CEDs in the body of their homepage, for example this Climate Emergency panel on the homepage of the Glastonbury Town Council website:

Climate Emergency panel on Glastonbury TOwn Council home page

More examples of good CED visibility on homepages can be seen at UK parish council homepages and at UK town council homepages.

The numbers

Of the 544 local councils in the UK with known Climate Emergency Declarations (CEDs), 65 (11.9%) have made their declaration clearly visible on the homepage of their website. While this figure is disappointingly low, it is significantly better than what was found for CED councils in Australia.

Chart showing the number of UK councils with Climate Emergency on their Home page
* The devolved governments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have all also made country-level CEDs
** Almost definitely there are more town/parish councils that have passed CEDs but these are less well reported in media

The small town and parish councils have the highest percentage of CED visibility, with 38 (18.7%) featuring their CED on their homepage. None of the huge regional combined authorities do so even though 9 of the 11 regional authorities have declared a Climate Emergency.

The near misses

In addition to the above, 20 UK councils have either an eye-catching homepage rotating banner, static image panel, or popup that links to comprehensive information about their declarations, action plans, and information for engaging the local community. The only downside is the lack of the ’emergency’ word. For example, the popup announcing climate action investment (more on that in a future blog post!) below on the Telford and Wrekin Council website homepage:

Climate action investment popup on the Telford Wrekin home page

Or the following rotating climate action banner near the top of the homepage of the West Sussex County Council website:

Rotating climate action banner near top of West Sussex County Council home page

Or the following zero carbon banner on the homepage of the Gateshead Council website:

Zero carbon banner on the Gateshead Council home page

Despite not using the term ‘climate emergency’, the above are highly visible to anyone visiting those websites, and they do indicate that the councils are placing a high priority on climate action.

There are another 149 (27.4%) of the UK CED councils that also publish quite comprehensive information on their declarations and action plans, and in most cases also material designed to engage the entire community. However, website visitors will only see that information if they go out of their way to look for it. In about half of those cases website visitors can look for ‘climate’ in a long list of menu items. However, in other cases website visitors need to first click an ‘environment’, ‘sustainability’, or similar menu item, then click down through submenu layers to find links to the Climate Emergency content.

In conclusion

I don’t think my week was wasted. A large part of the point of declaring a Climate Emergency is to make the local community sit up and take notice. For that a council’s declaration needs to be clearly visible…to everyone, not just to those who are already engaged in climate action and actively seeking information on what their own local council is doing.

I’d like to think some other CED councils will be inspired by the good examples above. Please tell us all in the comments below if your council decides to add a Climate Emergency banner or something equally visible on the homepage of their website!


If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.

Yarra City Council Climate Emergency banner at Fitzroy Town Hall

Climate Emergency banners: Where are they?

A stroll through the websites of the 109 Australian local councils that have passed a Climate Emergency Declaration (CED) reveals a number of good things that other councils might emulate, but where are the Climate Emergency banners?

In 2019 Yarra City Council displayed physical Climate Emergency banners on all three of the Town Halls in its jurisdiction. This was a wonderful initiative, but what I hoped to find was a council website with an emergency banner across the top of its Home page, much like the COVID emergency banners that were displayed on many if not all council websites.

Not one of the CED councils in Australia has a Climate Emergency banner on its website.

Of course a CED should result in urgent tangible action, not just words, but a council doesn’t need to declare a Climate Emergency in order to take climate action. Declarations play an important public signal role, and at their best will engage an entire community in taking action.

CED councils are generally pretty good at reducing the carbon footprint of their own operations. 74 (68%) have signed on to Cities Power Partnerships (CPP) with pledges that tend to focus on council’s own operations, and 18 (16.5%) have joined the Cities Race to Zero.

At least 10 Australian CED councils (Adelaide, Bayside, Fremantle, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Moreland, Surf Coast Shire, Sydney, Woollahra, and Yarra) have already achieved carbon neutrality for their own operations, in some cases prior to declaring a Climate Emergency. But a council’s own emissions are generally only about 1-2% of community-wide carbon emissions. Carbon neutrality for the entire jurisdiction is both necessary and significantly harder to achieve.

Making council CEDs visible

A lot of the point of declaring a Climate Emergency is its value as a public signal – a signal that informs the public of the need to act and that says what the entire community can and should do to deal with the emergency. But public messages need to be seen to be effective – ideally on the Home page of a council’s website.

How visible are those 109 CEDs on council websites?

53 council websites (48.6%) have a website page dedicated to Climate Emergency information. However often the page title is something ‘softer’ and more generic, like ‘climate change’ or ‘sustainability’, and the user needs to click through several menu layers to find it. 46 (42%) have environment, sustainability, or similar in their main menu, but none have ‘Climate Emergency’ as a Home page main menu item.

Just one council, Melville City Council, has a link to its CED information visible on its Home page, in this case as a popular search item labelled Climate Change Declaration. This links to a dedicated CED page entitled Climate Change Action. Huge kudos to Melville (but I can’t help wondering where the word ’emergency’ has gone).

Climate Emergency community outreach

Searches within council websites revealed quite a few good things CED councils are doing to inform and engage their communities, and which other councils could beneficially emulate. Search results were quite effective for finding Climate Emergency information at 56 (51%) of council websites, with half of those searches producing a significant number of hits. Searches at another 33 (30%) websites did lead to something relevant, such as the minutes of a meeting, but not much. (Local residents could be forgiven for thinking the emergency is not real if they need to use the search function to find information about it.)

Some councils quite explicitly ask their local communities to be part of Climate Emergency action, for example the action and advocacy page linked to from the Yarra City Council Take Climate Action webpage.

Altogether 56 (51%) of CED council websites contain a reasonably significant amount of information about how local residents and businesses can reduce their carbon emissions, but around half of those present it as climate/environment/sustainability action rather than explicitly framing it as being ways local people can help tackle the Climate Emergency.

Standouts are two councils (maybe more but I wasn’t specifically looking for this) who have set up dedicated Climate Emergency websites: the Zero Carbon Moreland website, and the Surf Coast Shire’s separate Climate Emergency website with its inspired Local Stories page.

Climate Emergency visibilityNumber of councils%
CED banner on Home page00%
CED mention on Home page11%
CED in main menu00%
Environment in main menu4642%
Dedicated CED page5349%
‘Climate Emergency’ search results 8982%
Climate Emergency community outreach3532%
Sustainability community outreach2119%

Strategies for engaging and empowering local communities

Tackling the Climate Emergency requires everyone doing their bit. Ideally the entire community will:

  • SEE that their local council is acting like it is an emergency
  • LEARN what they can do to help tackle the Climate Emergency
  • KNOW that lots of other residents, businesses, etc., are also doing what they can (normalising Climate Emergency behaviour)

The recent PitchFest run by Surf Coast Shire Council invited residents to vote for which local projects should win two Climate Emergency Grants. That gave a clear public signal that Council expected and wanted to facilitate Climate Emergency action within the community, but not only that. Holding a public PitchFest added extra visibility for the grants themselves and, importantly, showed off some of the climate initiatives undertaken within the local community.

Some councils (I didn’t count how many) invite residents to sign up to receive their Climate Emergency e-news featuring actions taken by the council itself and also by the wider community. Another excellent strategy is to include Climate Emergency action stories submitted by residents on the council website.

19 (17%) of CED councils offer some sort of climate grants or awards. 13 (12%) offer some sort of financial help for climate beneficial actions, such as the Solar Savers scheme originally initiated by Darebin City Council and now emulated by other councils, and 7 (6%) offer bulk buy schemes. 23 (21%) provide links to state government schemes giving no- or low-interest loans and/or subsidies for measures that reduce emissions.

Engagement strategyNumber of councils%
Climate Emergency grants / awards1917%
Council loans / subsidies1312%
Bulk Buys76%
State government loans / subsidies2321%

Simply showing links to state government schemes that help finance emissions reduction measures might seem like a rather low bar, but it is something even councils with tight budgets and over-worked staff can do. To be effective it should be on the website Home page, not hidden way down in sub-menus.

To be really effective, links to state government schemes can be framed as ‘help for residents to take Climate Emergency action’. Simply framing it that way flags the expectation that everyone can and should help. The information at the links educates about the types of actions that reduce emissions, and the financial help makes it easier for everyone to do so.

What is the most effective Climate Emergency community engagement strategy by a local council that you have seen? Please tell us all in the comments box below. And do let us know if YOUR council adds a Climate Emergency banner to your website!


If you’d like to receive future cedamia blog articles about new CEDs and council post-CED actions (one or two a month) directly to your inbox, click the Follow button below and set how you prefer to receive them.