Understanding climate change

Printer-friendly page

Our world is changing. There is overwhelming consensus within the scientific community that human activity is causing our climate to change at a rapid and unnatural rate. 

Climate change is impacting life across the globe and we don't have to look far to see its effects. In the UK we have witnessed extremes in weather over recent years. Worldwide numerous weather events have been linked to climate change. This infographic shows visually some of the effects.  

What is the greenhouse effect?

Our earth 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 are now essential for everything we need including light, heat, transport and most of the products we use daily. The problem is that when we burn these fuels, we release greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (NO) into the atmosphere. We currently emit around 30 billion tonnes of GHGs each year from human activities. The result of adding such a large volume of GHGs is that more and more heat is trapped in the atmosphere. 

Global Warming Diagram

What are the Council doing?

Climate Declaration: 

The Council have been taking action to reduce emissions for many years. This year, on 10th July, politicians voted unanimously to declare a Climate Emergency and do everything we can to achieve net zero emissions by 2030. The minutes of the meeting and the wording of the declaration that we made, can be found here. 

Developing our Strategy:

Since that meeting we have been working hard to put together a plan of action to reduce our emissions and tackle other environmental impacts for example, water, waste and the natural environment. Our plans are still being drafted, but if you would like to see them you can email us at sustainability@stalbans.gov.uk.  

Climate Crisis Working Group:

We have set up a cross-party Climate Crisis Working Group to provide input to, and scrutiny of our developing Net Zero Action Plan. The notes and actions from the meetings can be downloaded below. 

This webpage will be updated over the next few weeks with more detail about our plans. In the meantime, you can find out more by following the links below.

  • Energy - Our approach to reducing domestic energy consumption across the District is set out in our 2017-2019 Home Energy Conservation Plan. You can also find our most recent Progress Report here

  • Transport - We work with Hertfordshire County Council and local transport providers to improve local public transport services and infrastructure. Over previous years a number of projects have been completed including the provision of real-time bus information at bus stops, updated bus route maps, purchase of two hybrid buses and the introduction of multi-operator bus tickets. Find out more at our transport pages here. 

  • Internal - We are working to reduce emissions from our own energy and transport use, as well as from our largest contractors. Our latest Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report shows that we have reduced our overall emissions by 19% between 2008 and 2018, having made significant improvements to our buildings, including the redevelopment of three of our leisure centres to high environmental standards. Find out more about what the Council is doing to reduce it's own impacts here. 

What can you do?

Ultimately we can't achieve this target on our own. We need residents and businesses to play their part in reducing their own emissions. There are many ways that you can help, from simple lifestyle changes, to home improvements, which could save you money.

Date of last review: 09 October 2018