Switching to renewable energy tariffs, removing single use plastics from their buildings and re-writing planning policies will be just some of the changes councils could be making where a climate emergency has been declared. 

Five of Surrey’s boroughs and districts plus the county council have now declared a climate emergency. 

Guildford, Woking, Elmbridge and Mole Valley councils have set a target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. 

Epsom and Ewell does not have a target date and Surrey County Council rejected calls for a 2030 date and voted for a 2050 target. 

Waverley and Reigate and Banstead councils are also expected to vote on a motion soon. 

Once a climate emergency is declared campaigners say policy now needs to change so residents can benefit from the commitment. 

In order for a council to reach net zero emissions it could make the following changes:

  • Refit council buildings to run-off renewable energy sources
  • Remove cash investments of pension funds in fossil fuel companies (county council only)
  • Remove single use plastic from council buildings. 
  • Introduce zero carbon targets into planning policies
  • Reduce fuel poverty
  • Improve energy efficiency of council houses
  • Replace council owned public transport with electric vehicles
  • Introduce licensing to make all taxis electric
  • Object to road expansions 
  • Use LED bulbs in street lights
  • Reduce waste
  • Encourage more recycling
  • Oppose expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick 
  • Refuse more oil drilling applications (county council only)
  • Introduce more cycling lanes and more bus shuttles

The UN Paris Agreement has set a target for countries to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

The UK Government has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. 

Stephanie Orlitzky, a Guildford resident who attended the emergency declaration meeting last month, said: “Many of these solutions take a significant step toward addressing not just climate breakdown but also social problems, and although yes many of these require investment, other councils that have adopted these measures such as Stroud and Enfield have actually saved significant amounts of money in the long term.

“Whilst some solutions can be costly, it is vital residents understand the true financial and human costs of the risks we face if we don’t make these changes.”

Tim Paige, a member of environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion, said: “Most importantly, from a democratic point of view, all councils should be setting up legally binding citizen’s assemblies to take the political bias out of the policy decisions that are needed to fight this challenge.”