In May, Scotland will once again go to the polls – this time to elect our local councillors. Despite not holding all the powers needed to tackle the climate crisis, local authorities can play a crucial role and so these elections are going to be significant.

The significance of this election

The councillors elected will be in their position for five of the remaining eight years of this vital decade for urgent and transformative action needed to avert climate breakdown. Since the last local authority elections in 2017, we have seen the effects of climate change already ravaging the world. 

We have also seen the world come together in Glasgow to attempt to address this emergency. Unfortunately the outcomes of COP26 were nowhere near enough to address the reality of the crisis, but that can’t stop change from happening. Many of the actions needed to respond to the climate emergency are in the hands of national and local governments.

Friends of the Earth Scotland does not endorse any political party. It is incumbent on all of us, and all politicians, to do everything in our power to address this urgent and drastic crisis, so we want to see all parties improve their positions across a range of environmental issues. 

The change we need

Whether it’s through how we travel in our communities, the way our waste is managed, how we heat our homes, planning and energy policy, or supporting a wellbeing economy, there are significant opportunities for local authorities to demonstrate the ambition and urgency necessary.

Those elected will have the ability to influence our planning system, ensuring we have low carbon, affordable and warm homes. They will be able to provide an integrated public transport system; one that brings buses back into public ownership and provides a network of segregated cycle lanes, allowing people to lead safe, active lives that boosts their own health and that of the planet. They will be able to oppose new incinerators and work to decommission those that already exist, removing this polluting practice that encourages waste and damages our health.

Come May, a new raft of Scottish councillors who have signed up to the Divest UK pledge should get to work divesting the hundreds of millions of pounds that local authority pension funds currently have wrapped up in oil and gas companies. 

By withdrawing this money, we can ensure that our representatives are not funding the climate crisis and are taking necessary steps towards a fossil free future.

Friends of the Earth Scotland has produced a manifesto for local elections which spells out some of the things local authorities can do to tackle the climate emergency. We would strongly encourage you to consider the positive impact councillors can have in addressing the climate crisis and think of the future of our planet when casting your vote.