Why should HTC declare a climate emergency?


Recommendation from the Climate Emergency 2030 Working Group to Henley Town Council 

In the meeting of 4th June 2019, the Planning Committee received a presentation from Henley in Transition on declaring a climate emergency. This was based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report of October 2018 that recommended that significant emission reduction actions be put in place to restrict global warming to 1.5oC to avoid a climate emergency. The Committee resolved to recommend to Henley Town Council that it should acknowledge a climate emergency and that a working group be established. These recommendations were received, approved and adopted in the Full Council meeting on 18th June 2019, and the working group held its first meeting on 8th July.

In May 2019, the UK Parliament declared a climate emergency, the Welsh and Scottish governments having already done so. Similar declarations have been made by Oxford City, Oxford County, South Oxfordshire District Council, and Reading Borough Council and, as of 21st October, 261 (64%) of District, County, Unitary & Metropolitan Councils together with 6 Combined Authorities/City Regions have declared a Climate Emergency.

Progress by the Working Group

The Working Group has had four meetings since July 2019, and in that time, it has:

  • established Henley Town’s carbon footprint (on a pro-rata basis to that of SODC);
  • identified three strategic pillars on which to progress towards a zero-carbon target for Henley Town – moving to clean energy by developing sources of renewable energy; reducing demand by reducing existing demand and emission levels, and absorbing carbon by developing land-use programmes to absorb emissions;
  • identified potential initiatives under each of these three pillars, and established both the likely cost of these initiatives and their impact on the Town’s carbon footprint;
  • developed a timing plan for these initiatives and a source of funds plan to deliver these initiatives – the timing plan has a target of 2030 by when the full project plans would be in place, with the implementation of these projects taking palace before and after 2030, depending on aspects such as planning;
  • identified four initiatives (described as “low hanging fruit”) that could be implemented quickly at no cost to deliver reductions in emissions and to demonstrate to residents and businesses that the Town Council is committed to reducing emissions; and defined the need to establish a Community Energy Society to deliver more large scale emissions reduction initiatives; all five initiatives being ready to proceed in the early months of 2020.

The need for a declaration of a climate emergency by Henley Town Council

To deliver the Working Group’s programmes will require the fullest of support from Henley’s public and private sectors as well as its residents. This support will be best secured if the Town Council is perceived to be 100% committed to achieving a zero-carbon target. This commitment will also be a necessary factor in ensuring that investors in the Community Energy Society, as well as potential commercial partners to the initiatives, have the utmost confidence in Henley’s ability and desire to deliver the required actions. In a nutshell, making a declaration of climate emergency is a fundamental part of being able to deliver the desired objective.

Accordingly, the Climate Emergency 2030 Working Group recommends to the Planning Committee of Henley Town Council that it should recommend to Henley Town Council that it should declare a Climate Emergency.

Tony Hoskins

November 2019

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