Attention focussed on net zero as climate emergency declared

the earth with a red haze over it
Councillors have declared a climate emergency.

Councillors in Runnymede have voted to declare a climate emergency in the borough.

Formally declaring an emergency allows the Council to officially recognise the state of the climate worldwide and that urgent action is needed to reduce humanity’s impact on it. Doing so also brings greater public recognition locally of the importance of everyone acting now. The declaration will also support building a consensus across organisations and build broader partnerships to address the issues that multiple agencies face.

The decision to declare an emergency in Runnymede follows on from several years of work already carried out to reduce the carbon emissions of the Council’s operations.

Several important steps have already been taken in response to climate change, including:

  • The development of an ambitious Climate Change strategy which forms a central component of the Council’s Corporate Business Plan.
  • Changing our Meals at Home delivery vans from diesel to electric power.
  • Working with partners including Action Surrey, to provide grant funding to local people to make their homes more energy efficient.
  • Investment in our Council housing to make properties more energy efficient, reducing bills for tenants.
  • Our Local Plan, which sets out rules which developers must follow when building in the borough, also contains a number of policies to support the climate and environment.

A detailed Climate Change Action Plan had also been produced to support the delivery of this strategy. A consultation on the action plan is currently open for public comments.

Extra staff have been committed to the Council’s climate change work to drive forward decarbonisation in the Council’s own operations by its target date of 2030, the committee heard.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Tom Gracey, Leader of the Council, said:

Climate change is among the most pressing global issues society faces. Concerted action at a regional, national and international level is vital to keep the Earth’s temperature rise to under 1.5 degrees.

We have increased resources to tackle climate change and have put the structures in place to support moving the Council to operational net zero by 2030. This has been a priority for some time, but with residents also facing cost pressures it was right to fully research and prepare for the actions we can take locally to combat climate change, to make sure we are setting the agenda that addresses the big challenges in a way that is effective, proportionate and sustainable.

As well as the steps we will take, I would encourage everyone across the borough to do their best to reduce their carbon footprint so the next generation, our children, are protected from the worst effects of global warming.”

The original motion on a climate emergency, which was approved by Full Council in October 2019, was proposed by Cllr Robert King, seconded by former councillor, Marisa Heath, and was approved with cross-party support from across the Council.

The Council will be launching campaigns and activities during 2024 to support local people and businesses in reducing their impacts on the environment.

The Council’s climate emergency declaration, approved at the Full Council meeting on 7 December is as follows:

  • The consequences of global temperatures rising above 1.5 degree Celsius are so severe that preventing this from happening must be humanity’s priority;
  • All governments (national, regional and local) have an obligation to limit the negative impacts of increasing global temperatures and biodiversity loss;
  • It is important that all organisations commit to becoming operationally net zero, as soon as reasonably possible, subject to their resources and financial constraints which may apply to them;
  • Bold action to mitigate against climate change can deliver improved personal, social and environmental well-being for people locally and world-wide.

Runnymede Borough Council therefore resolves to declare a climate emergency, which means it will use its reasonable endeavours to continue its work to meet the Council’s target of net zero operational emissions by 2030, and to use its sphere of influence to support the borough and its communities to achieve the 2050 national net zero target for the UK.

Visit our climate change web hub

Sign up to our climate change enewsletter

Published: 18 December 2023