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Climate change

Climate change is one of the most significant challenges facing us today. Extensive scientific information confirms that human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels for transport and energy, are causing the earth to warm at a rapid and unnatural rate. Gases from industrial processes and landfill sites also play a significant role.  

Global temperature increases are causing impacts to life across the planet and we don't need to look too far to see them. 

Along with many Councils in the UK, St Albans City and District Council have declared a Climate Emergency and announced our commitment to do what we can to decarbonise our buildings and services and support the community to move to cleaner and more sustainable methods of heat, power and transport.  

Understanding the greenhouse effect Toggle accordion

Our planet is surrounded by a natural mixture of gases that shape our climate and weather patterns. These gases trap the right amount of heat inside the atmosphere to shape the environmental conditions necessary to sustain life on the planet.

Around 100 years ago, humans began burning large quantities of fossil fuels such as petrol, oil and coal, to produce energy. These fuels have become essential for everything we need including light, heat, transport and most of the products we use daily. The problem is that when these fuels are burned they release greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (NO) into the atmosphere. 30 billion tonnes of GHGs are emitted each year from human activities, adding such a large volume of GHGs that more and more heat is trapped in the atmosphere.

Anticipated Impacts Toggle accordion

Even if we make the necessary changes to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions there will still be changes to our climate due to the impact of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. We must therefore be prepared to reduce the risks and manage the impacts. 

These are the key climate change risks expected for the UK and St Albans District:

Higher Temperatures - The frequency and severity of heatwaves will increase. We will experience warmer winters and hotter summers, with greater potential for heatwaves and increased humidity. Overheating may increase the UK’s mortality rate, as well as having detrimental impacts on physical
and mental health. Buildings and infrastructure may deteriorate faster and there will be an increased risk of fire during summer heatwaves. 

Flood Risk - The country will experience wetter winters and drier summers, with greater potential
for extreme rainfall events and flooding. Heavier rainfall, in a shorter time frame and over a smaller area can cause flash flooding leading to property damage. Flooding also poses significant risks to infrastructure services, potentially causing damage to property, power systems and transport
services. In addition, there are health impacts from damp and mould.

Drought - Hotter summers and less predictable rainfall patterns will lead to water shortages and drought.

Winds and Storms - More frequent and intense winds and storms are predicted as a result of higher temperatures. This poses risks to infrastructure, telecommunications, property, transport and power systems. It could increase tree-fall and other accidents.

Pests and diseases - Change in temperature and weather patterns may lead to the introduction of new pests and diseases. Mosquitos have been reported to be moving further north. Blue-green algae in water bodies may become more frequent. 

Air Quality - Changes in temperature and weather patterns can negatively impact air quality which can be detrimental to our health.

Sources of reputable information about climate change Toggle accordion

If you would like to learn more about climate change we recommend taking part in a free Carbon Literacy Training or reading more from these reputable sources. 

Met Office
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Committee on Climate Change

What is the Council doing to tackle Climate Change? Toggle accordion

The Council has been taking action on climate change for many years. Back in 2006 we signed up to the Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change and developed our first action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the District and within our own operations. In 2016 this was superseded by a Climate Change Action Plan. 

In July 2019 we formally declared a climate emergency and began working on a comprehensive plan of action to drastically reduce our emissions across not only our own buildings, services and operations, but also across the District. This was a response to the need for more rapid action to bring down emissions and limit average global temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees. Our aim is to do all that we can to reduce emissions across the District to net zero by 2030.

Our Sustainability Strategy and Climate Crisis Action Plan sets out all the actions we are taking over the next 3 years to improve environmental sustainability and begin the process of reducing our emissions as close to zero as possible. 

Sustainability and Climate Advisory Forum (SCARF) Toggle accordion

The Council has set up a cross-party forum to provide guidance to the Planning Policy and Climate Committee (PPCC) in the development of our climate change and sustainability work.  

The Sustainability and Climate Advisory Forum (SCARF) (previously called Climate Advisory Group and Climate Crisis Working Group) includes key experts and representatives from the community to participate by providing expert advice, input and scrutiny. 

Meeting paperwork can be viewed here. 

Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership Toggle accordion

St Albans City and District Council is a partner of Hertfordshire Climate Change and Sustainability Partnership (HCCSP), a strategic group which acts as the lead partnership organisation for local authorities and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to collaborate and identify joint work programmes on environmental, climate change and wider sustainability issues. Working in partnership with other district and borough councils, the county council and the LEP, HCCSP works to coordinate action across the county across six themes: Adaptation, Behaviour Change, Biodiversity, Carbon Reduction, Transport and Water. Coordinated actions include supporting and progressing aligned activity across procurement, planning, comms, licensing, parks and contract management departments. 

To find out more, please visit HCCSP

Climate Change Adaptation Toggle accordion

Adaptation is a general term used to cover the planning and measures needed to cope with the impacts of climate change. 

If every country were to succeed in reducing global emissions to net zero, we could reduce the impacts of climate change well into the future. However, the scientific consensus is that climate changes will still occur in response to the greenhouse gas emissions that are already in the atmosphere. 

Under the Climate Change Act 2008, the UK is legally required to adapt to climate change. The government is required to produce a climate change risk assessment to identify risks and a five-yearly national adaptation programme setting out how it will address these risks. The third National Adaptation Programme (NAP3) was published in July 2023, and sets out actions that the government will take between 2023 and 2028.

As a Council we have assessed the impacts to our operations and services and each year we review the actions we can take to mitigate them. These actions are included to our Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy and associated action plans.

What can you do? Toggle accordion

With the best will in the world we can’t reduce emissions on our own. Everyone needs to take action. We encourage local residents and organisations to play their part. There are numerous ways you can do this, from simple lifestyle changes, to home improvements, which could save you money.