United Kingdom: Bristol City Council declares a climate emergency

Another council has been added to the growing list of ‘climate emergency councils’ around the world, this time in Britain: On 13 November 2018, Bristol City Council became the first UK council to declare a climate emergency for the city. The motion was passed unanimously. Consequently, the city council set an ambitious goal of making Bristol carbon neutral by 2030. 

The video recording of the debate about the motion was produced by Extinction Rebellion and published on Youtube on 14 November 2018.

Motion: Declare a Climate Emergency

Moved by Councillor Denyer, seconded by Councillor Clarke.

Following debate, upon being put to the vote, the motion was CARRIED with 56 members voting in favour, none against and no abstentions.


Full Council notes:
1. Humans have already caused irreversible climate change, the impacts of which are being felt around the world. Global temperatures have already increased by 1 degree Celsius from preindustrial levels. Atmospheric CO2 levels are above 400 parts per million (ppm). This far exceeds the 350 ppm deemed to be a safe level for humanity;

In order to reduce the chance of runaway Global Warming and limit the effects of Climate Breakdown, it is imperative that we as a species reduce our CO2eq (carbon equivalent) emissions from their current 6.5 tonnes per person per year to less than 2 tonnes as soon as possible; [1]

3. Individuals cannot be expected to make this reduction on their own. Society needs to change its laws, taxation, infrastructure, etc., to make low carbon living easier and the new norm;

4. Carbon emissions result from both production and consumption;

5. Bristol City Council has already shown foresight and leadership when it comes to addressing the issue of Climate Breakdown, having met its corporate carbon reduction target three years early, published the City Leap prospectus and committed to making the city carbon neutral by 2050;

6. Unfortunately, our current plans and actions are not enough. The world is on track to overshoot the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit before 2050; [2], [3]

7. The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, published last month, describes the enormous harm that a 2°C rise is likely to cause compared to a 1.5°C rise, and told us that limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities[3];

8. City Councils around the world are responding by declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and committing resources to address this emergency.[4]

Full Council believes that:
1. All governments (national, regional and local) have a duty to limit the negative impacts of Climate Breakdown, and local governments that recognise this should not wait for their national governments to change their policies. It is important for the residents of Bristol and the UK that cities commit to carbon neutrality as quickly as possible;

2. Cities are uniquely placed to lead the world in reducing carbon emissions, as they are in many ways easier to decarbonise than rural areas – for example because of their capacity for heat networks and mass transit;

3. As Bristol is the only UK city that has been a European Green Capital, we have a particular duty to be a leader on environmental issues in the UK;

4. The consequences of global temperature rising above 1.5°C are so severe that preventing this from happening must be humanity’s number one priority; and,

5. Bold climate action can deliver economic benefits in terms of new jobs, economic savings and market opportunities (as well as improved well-being for people worldwide).

Full Council calls on the Mayor to
1. Declare a ‘Climate Emergency’;

2. Pledge to make the city of Bristol carbon neutral by 2030, taking into account both production
and consumption emissions (scope 1, 2 and 3)[5];

3. Call on Westminster to provide the powers and resources to make the 2030 target possible;

4. Work with other governments (both within the UK and internationally) to determine and implement best practice methods to limit Global Warming to less than 1.5°C;

5. Continue to work with partners across the city and region to deliver this new goal through all relevant strategies and plans;

6. Report to Full Council within six months with the actions the Mayor/Council will take to address this emergency.

1. Fossil CO2 & GHG emissions of all world countries, 2017:

2. World Resources Institute:

3. The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C:

4. Including US cities Berkeley:
and Hoboken:
and the C40 cities: https://www.c40.org/other/deadline-2020

5. Scope 1, 2 and 3 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol explained:

– – –

→ Bristol City Council:
Minutes of the Full Council on 13 November 2018 at 6.00 pm (PDF)

“Gold standard on climate action”

Radical policy implications in the coming years

Green party councillor Carla Denyer told The Guardian: “This is a fantastic day for Bristol and I’m delighted the council will be bringing forward its target for making the city carbon neutral by 2030.”

She said the UN report made it clear that “time to preserve Earth as we know it is running out”.

“We can’t wait for the UN or national governments to negotiate when we have just 12 years to act – we have to show how it’s done and commit to ambitious action at the level of cities, which we did this evening.”

Denyer, who is a renewables engineer and science communicator, said that the Bristol declaration could see a focus on renewable electricity, carbon neutral buildings, congestion charges and investment in clean transport infrastructure. It could also have far-reaching implications for big-ticket projects like a proposed expansion of Bristol airport.

“To meet this target an awareness of carbon emissions will have to factor into every decision the Council takes. We look forward to the Mayor reporting back to us in six months on what action he will take,” Denyer said.

Bristol’s target is much more radical than the UK government’s national target of an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 and comes amid growing concern about interlinked ecological crisis, from climate breakdown to extinction.

Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Green party, said Bristol’s decision – which won cross-party support on the council – had set “a gold standard on climate action”.

» Bristol Post – 15 November 2018:
Bristol declares climate emergency and pledges to become carbon neutral by 2030
“A demonstration took place outside city hall protesting climate change

» The Guardian – 15 November 2018:
Bristol plans to become carbon neutral by 2030
“Decision gives city the most ambitious emissions targets of UK’s core cities group.”

» Bristol Green Capital – 15 November 2018:
Bristol’s new carbon neutral 2030 ambition is a game-changer

» Green Party Bristol – 13 November 2018:
Greens declare a Climate Emergency and bring Bristol’s CO2 emissions target forwards 20 years

» The C.H.E.E.S.E Project – November 2018:
Bristol City Council’s unanimous vote declaring a Climate Emergency