Climate Emergency declarations held back by Central Government

"Our house is still on fire." Reflecting on Bristol’s pioneering move to declare a climate emergency in 2018, Green Party Councillor Carla Denyer, condemns the lack of action that has followed due to lack of control and funding being given to local governments.

Bristol Council Building
Bristol Council Building
Green World

Observing the two year anniversary of the UK’s first climate emergency declaration this Friday, its author, Green Party Councillor Carla Denyer, has criticised the lack of action that followed saying that the clock is ticking and “our house is still on fire”.

Cllr Denyer submitted the first climate emergency motion to Bristol City Council in November 2018, which committed the city to becoming carbon neutral by 2030.  

Since then 74 per cent of all councils across the country, all devolved assemblies and the UK Parliament have followed suit in making declarations. 

Councillor Denyer said: “An emergency demands immediate action. Instead, two years later, our house is still on fire and our government seems unable or unwilling to respond appropriately.  

“As the UK prepares to host the next round of global climate talks at COP26, this country should be leading the world in our climate response. Instead, we are seeing local government decimated and struggling to maintain mandatory front line services, while central government is more concerned with political posturing than practical action.

She explained, “In Bristol, the Mayor agreed to the climate emergency declaration and has taken first steps towards meeting our climate goals. There is still more that Bristol could do, but with such little support from central government, the Council’s hands are often tied. You cannot put out a fire when your hands are tied.

“Bristol has the ideas, expertise and ambition, and Greens have the drive to push for political consensus. But we don’t have the political or financial support from central government. Instead our government seems to do nothing but put obstacles in the way of meaningful change.”

Professor Richard Pancost, head of the school of Earth Sciences at Bristol University and former Director of the Cabot Institute for the Environment said:  “The climate emergency is real. It is urgent. Carbon dioxide levels currently surpass any the Earth has experienced for the past three million years; and we have reached that at rates nearly unprecedented in Earth history. 

“2014 to 2019 were the six hottest years in recorded history, and 2020 will almost certainly join them. The impacts of this warming on climate and ecosystems are now impossible to ignore in their devastation and frequency.  Moreover, the last year has taught us that our capacity as a society to adapt to any catastrophic change is far more limited than we had hoped. 

“And yet we have only barely shifted the needle on our carbon dependency, an addiction that will be incredibly difficult to kick given its influence in every aspect of our lives. Every day, month and year that we delay makes it harder – not impossible but so much harder – to avoid the most catastrophic aspects of climate change.

Councillor Denyer continued: “Becoming a carbon-neutral city is not only about tackling the global threat of climate change. It’s also about making our city a better place to live – for all of us. A city thriving with green jobs, where every house is properly insulated, every family has access to green and affordable energy and everyone has safe, healthy and sustainable ways to get from A to B. We can get there, but we need to up the pace of change.  

“If this government wants to tackle the climate crisis it needs to give local government more powers and funding to get the work done. Councils around the country are ready and waiting to help them do this.”