Parish and Town Councils – resources for responding to the
Climate Change Emergency
What does it mean to declare a climate emergency?
By declaring a Climate Emergency you’ve acknowledged that your Council needs to act on the causes and impacts of climate change
Telford & Wrekin Council declared a Climate Emergency on 25th July 2019, committing to carbon neutrality from the Council’s controlled operations and activities by 2030. A further commitment was made to engage with residents, businesses, public sector organisations and partners to work together with the aspiration for the Borough to also be carbon neutral by 2030. The Council is also committed to remove single-use plastics from the Council’s operations and activities by 2023, replacing them with sustainable alternatives and to support the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Communities Campaign.
The Council’s Action Plan, describes the initial actions we will take to achieve this goal and how we will measure our progress. It will continue to be updated as data, funding, best practice and national policy develops. For further information see the Council’s Becoming Carbon Neutral Action Plan here
Growing numbers of parish, town and county councils are also declaring a climate emergency and as you operate at the closest level to communities you are uniquely placed to inspire grassroots actions, set a leadership example and provide a focal point for practical, local action. We have compiled a list of useful resources to support parish and town councils across Telford & Wrekin to provide information to enable you to take action where and when you can. Individual parish and town councils can determine which initiatives could be explored, depending on your resources and capacity.
If you have any comments or questions please email: Sustainability@telford.gov.uk
Key first steps
A key first step for a parish council seeking to take action would be to declare a climate emergency, to enable the development of local actions, to make climate change a parish council priority and set up a working group to discuss ideas and initiatives. We would suggest you:
- Use the words ‘climate emergency’
- Set a target date to reduce local climate impacts
- Provide a working group to report within a short timescale on immediate and longer term actions to be taken
- Plan to engage with a cross section of the community.
There are a number of actions outlined below that can be taken to reduce the carbon footprints of activities and infrastructure directly controlled by parish councils, relating to parks and recreation areas, public buildings and facilities and services. These actions can be aligned with the neighbourhood planning process. Making this happen will require innovation and coordination across a number of themes. ‘Business as usual’ will not deliver the urgent and decisive action needed to tackle the climate emergency.
Actions to Consider
- Save Energy – energy efficiency is the critical starting point and is commonly the most cost-effective way of reducing costs and carbon emissions. Consider a review of community buildings energy use; explore a green energy tariff and lowest carbon where not possible. Upgrade lighting to LED.
- Renewable Energy – propose sites for renewable energy generation including PV solar or wind turbines (through the Neighbourhood Development Plan).
- Street lighting - changing any street lights that you are responsible for to LED.
- Manage land to enhance nature – designate sites for tree planting, nature conservation such as community tree planting scheme to lock up carbon, encourage biodiversity and grow food.
- Raise awareness about sustainable travel choices, actively encourage safe walking, sign-post cycling routes and support electric car charging facilities and promote car share schemes.
- Minimise waste – encourage the setting up of a Share & Repair Café scheme – finding someone and somewhere that will repair a broken item is a core to a sustainable lifestyle. The Repair Cafe Foundation aims to help local repair volunteers’ use and share their skills for the benefit of their local community.
- Encourage the buying of local and seasonal food in the high street. Carry out promotional activities to advertise greener shopping.
- Carry out promotional activities and events to raise environmental awareness and encourage participation through greener personal choices and organised action.
- Promote less single use plastics, for example through the national campaign Refill. Telford & Wrekin Council has established a community group to help the borough became a certified Plastic Free Community and we encourage town and parish councils to get involved (please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details).
- Ensure the Parish Council’s activities and procurement minimises the carbon footprint of the PC and the community.
Local examples for guidance
Newport Town Council – declared a Climate Emergency in March 2019
Hadley and Leegomery Parish Council - at its Annual meeting on 14 May 2019 the Council adopted the motion on Climate Change from the Wrekin Area committee of the Shropshire Association of Local Councils which was adopted by the SALC Executive on 10 April 2019. The Council did not declare a ‘climate emergency’ but is fully committed to achieving sustainability itself and supporting others to do so also.
Little Wenlock Parish Council – passed a motion declaring a climate emergency on 9th November 2020. Initiatives completed to date include: upgraded street lights to LED, donated £2,000 to the village hall towards energy storage batteries, encouraged tree planting and previously supported the Active Carbon Reduction Group (15 years ago) to carry out household energy surveys.
The Little Wenlock Village Hall Solar System – PV solar panels installed June 2012. Sundial Energy Storage Batteries installed June 2019. The system allows surplus power generated during the day to be stored and used to power the hall during the evening when events take place and the sun is not shining.
Wellington Town Council - declared a Climate Change Emergency in August 2020
Parish Council Buildings
Parish councils can use their own buildings and land to develop local, clean energy projects. Although parish councils are unlikely to have direct funds to cover renewable energy projects, other sources of funding can be accessed such as Salix loans, grants or a community share offer, details are listed under Funding Opportunities.
Climate Stewards have developed a web-based tool called 360 degree carbon to enable churches to measure their carbon footprint from different activities, including energy, travel, food, waste and water. See details here
Training and Resources
Parish and Town Councils can be a force for change in addressing the climate and nature emergency. To help support local councils who want to ‘do their bit’ Friends of the Earth have created a guide to Friends of The Earth - 20 actions for parish and town councils which complements Friends of the Earth’s template Local Climate Action Plan (see additional resources below for details).
Surfers Against Sewage are fighting the plastic pollution and creating a Plastic Free Community network to free where we live from single-use. It’s about kicking our addiction to avoidable single-use plastic and changing the system that produces it.
Many parish councils don’t have the expertise or capacity to develop renewable energy projects on their own, however there are numerous sources of funding available to help. This includes support with the crucial project development process prior to submitting a bid for project funding, as well as grants for projects that have already been defined.
Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) Sustainable Neighbourhood Planning Support
CSE is offering free, hands-on, tailored support and advice and assistance for neighbourhood planning groups, as follows:
- Initial advice on the relevant sustainability and climate issues and opportunities in your area
- Advice on gaining support for sustainability measure
- Support with policy drafting and wording for your neighbourhood plan
- Delivering public engagement events and workshops
- Research for developing an evidence base.
Parish Carbon Footprinting Tool is now live!
The updated Parish Council Carbon Calculator has now been launched. You can view this at https://impact-tool.org.uk/ . The updates include greater functionality, ability to cover “non-parished” areas, such as Wards, a postcode search and the ability to print out parish specific carbon footprints directly from the website. Additional funding is being sort to cover the licence for the underlying data can be maintained. Ongoing support for community groups will also be provided.
Salix Finance provide funding for parish, town and community councils looking to undertake energy efficiency projects. Salix can support over 100 different energy efficiency technology types, including boilers, LED and lighting upgrades. Projects commonly involve upgrading street lighting and footpath lights and public buildings such as village halls.
Severn Trent Community Fund – aiming to improve community wellbeing by giving away £10 million over the next five years to support local projects which benefit Severn Trent customers and help to make a real and tangible difference in the community. Please see the guidance document (PDF) for a full details and the application process.
Further funding opportunities will be also be highlighted on the Did You Know page of the website.
Climate Change Resources
National Association of Local Councils (NALC): www.nalc.gov.uk
Friends of The Earth, September 2019 Take Action: a guide for you and your council
IPPC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways.
UK Met Office Climate Projections the most up to date national climate projections for the UK.
The Local Government Association (LGA) have some useful resources focused on climate change at www.local.gov.uk. Including A Councillor Workbook: Acting on Climate Change - a learning aid for councillors on the roles, opportunities and drivers for council-led action on the changing climate
Climate Emergency UK lists all the Council’s across the UK who have declared a climate emergency, including Town and Parish Councils. It provides case studies of how other councils have approached the issue and other resources and guides.
Centre for Alternative Technology CAT’s mission is to inspire, inform and enable people to achieve practical solutions for sustainability.
The Society of Local Council Clerks – now delivering a useful series of webinars to learn what makes a good climate emergency declaration.
Surfers Against Sewage - not just surfers and not just sewage.
Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs Adapting to Climate Change: A guide to local councils provides guidance and some practical examples of action that can make a real difference, including a number of case studies.
Shropshire and Telford Community Energy - STCE has been set up as a Community Benefit Society to develop and own community energy projects in Shropshire and Telford
Climate Change Champions - Telford & Wrekin Council are looking for volunteers willing to help the Council in a variety of ways to help engage Borough residents on Climate Change and Sustainability within their own communities, schools and groups. Further details can be found on the website.