Climate emergency

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There is clear evidence that climate change is already happening, and that greenhouse gasses produced by human activity are altering the natural climate cycle. If we take action to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, there’s a good chance that we can limit average global temperature rises to 2˚C above pre-industrial levels. This doesn’t mean that there will be no more changes in the climate – warming is already happening – but we could limit, adapt to and manage these changes. For this reason, Bolton Council declared a climate emergency in 2019. Bolton's climate strategy and delivery plan can be found on Bolton Council sustainability pages. This section contains some information about what this means for Bolton and what we can do to address it.

The climate emergency has a number of potential impacts for population health. This includes direct health impacts (e.g. from heat, flooding, or air pollution) and from the impact of responses to mitigate the climate emergency. These indirect impacts could have positive health impacts e.g. if a reduction in use of private motor vehicles is replaced by an increase in walking, cycling, and other types of active travel; or if a reduction in consumption of meat and other carbon intensive foods is replaced by people eating more fruit and vegetables. However indirect impacts could also be negative such as if regressive forms of carbon taxation increase social inequalities.

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CO2 emissions

The main greenhouse gases (other than water vapour) are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and the halocarbons or CFCs (gases containing fluorine, chlorine and bromine). Methane and nitrous oxide can be converted to carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to give an combined figure for these three major gasses. Carbon dioxide is, in general terms, the largest contributor to global heating which makes it the focus of many climate change initiatives. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions (IPCC 5th report). Once in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide can continue to affect climate for thousands of years.

In 2021, the borough of Bolton produced 1.2 million tonnes of CO2e (Carbon dioxide equivalent). The largest source of emissions was transport (35%), followed by domestic usage (34%). Industry (13%), commercial (4%), and public sector (4%) also contributed.

Emissions on minor roads are responsible for the largest part (35%) of overall transport emissions, closely followed by motorways (34%) and A roads (30%). The Covid-19 pandemic led to large falls in transport emissions between 2019 and 2020, which also impacted other sectors. Emissions on minor roads saw particular reductions; 2021 saw slight increases in emissions from A roads and motorways - 2021 was still partly affected by Covid restrictions so 2022 data will give a clearer picture as to how much these reductions will be sustained longer term.

Domestic emissions have shown strong reductions over the last ten years, driven by reductions in domestic electricity usage, but domestic gas usage is the biggest contributor to domestic emissions as a whole (77%).

Source of data: UK local authority and regional carbon dioxide emissions (National Statistics): Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Further useful links

  • Climate emergency slide pack - a summary of local authority level data related to the climate emergency, prepared by Trafford Data Lab.
  • Climate Emergency UK bringing together resources local authorities can use to deliver on their climate commitments, including a check list of what makes a good action plan.
  • Discourses of climate delay - a proposed framework to describe narratives behind the gap between policy aspirations and implementation.
  • Climate adaptation toolkit - a 5-step process to help local authorities prepare for the impacts the current and future climate could have on the authority, its residents, and the services it provides
  • GM Green city


Also see Bolton JSNA - physical activity (active travel) and Bolton JSNA - built & natural environment (transport)

The Department for Transport's 2021 Decarbonising Transport plan sets out a series of committments which Bolton can play its part in achieving.

Decarbonising all forms of transport:

  • Increasing cycling and walking
  • Zero emission busses and coaches
  • Decarbonising our railways
  • A zero emission fleet of cars, vans, motorcycles, and scooters
  • Accelerating maritime decarbonisation
  • Accelerating aviation decarbonisation

Multi-modal decarbonisation and key enablers

  • Delivering a zero emission freight and logistics sector
  • Delivering decarbonisation through places
  • Maximising the benefits of sustainable low carbon fuels
  • Hydrogen’s role in a decarbonised transport system
  • Future transport – more choice, better efficiency
  • Supporting UK research and development as a decarbonisation enabler

The Bolton picture

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The GM 5 year environment plan prioritises reducing the energy used for buildings, primarily for heating

  • Priority 1: Reducing the heat demand from existing homes focussing on initiating a fundamental shift in whole house retrofit by retrofitting homes by 2024.
  • Priority 2: Reducing the heat demand from existing commercial and public buildings
  • Priority 3: Reducing the heat demand in new buildings

The Bolton picture

Natural environment

Also see Bolton JSNA - built & natural environment (natural environment)

Spending time in the natural environment – as a resident or a visitor – improves our mental health and feelings of wellbeing. It can reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. It can help boost immune systems, encourage physical activity and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as asthma. It can combat loneliness and bind communities together. DEFRA/ University of Exeter evidence statement on the links between natural environments and human health

The climate emergency is already having an impact on natural systems in the UK. It will impact the UK’s natural landscapes and wildlife habitats, on land, around the coast, and at sea. The biggest risks are from higher temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, sea level rise and ocean acidification. The risks are heightened because the natural environment is already stressed. The continued provision of key goods and services provided by the natural environment, including clean water, food, timber, pollination, carbon storage and natural flood alleviation are at risk. UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 Evidence Report

DEFRA's 25 year environment plan sets out 6 key areas of action, of which 4 are particularly relevant to us locally:

  • Using and managing land sustainably - Improve soil health, and restore and protect peatlands; Expand woodland cover and better manage existing woodlands; reduce the risk of harm from flooding including greater use of natural flood management solutions.
  • Recovering nature and enhancing the beauty of landscapes - protect and restore wildlife, and provide opportunities to re-introduce species that we have lost; use water more sustainably
  • Connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing - more people, from all backgrounds, to engage with and spend time in green and blue spaces in their everyday lives; to incorportat this into health services so activities such as gardening, outdoor exercise are offered in natural settings to people with mild to moderate mental health conditions and who may be struggling to overcome loneliness and isolation; encourage children to be close to nature, in and out of school, with particular focus on disadvantaged areas; 'green’ our towns and cities by creating green infrastructure and planting one million urban trees.
  • Increasing resource efficiency, and reducing pollution and waste - minimise waste and reduce its environmental impacts by promoting reuse, remanufacturing and recycling; tackle air pollution iand reduce the impact of chemicals.

The Bolton picture

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Air quality

Poor air quality is associated with a number of adverse health impacts. It is recognised as a contributing factor in the onset of heart disease and cancer. Additionally, air pollution particularly affects the most vulnerable in society: children and older people, and those with heart and lung conditions. There is also often a strong correlation with equalities issues, because areas with poor air quality are also often the less affluent areas.

Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) are areas that are likely to exceed the national air quality objective for a specific pollutant. Bolton has an AQMA which is now part of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority AQMA. Bolton Council works with Clean Air GM on improving local air quality. Long term trends show that there has been an improvement in air quality but areas still remain above the annual mean air quality objective for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)

Greater Manchester’s Air Quality Action Plan identifies the following broad actions to improve air quality:

  • Development management and planning regulation: including standardisation of regulation and policy across the Greater Manchester region.
  • Freight and HGVs: there are several opportunities to reduce emissions associated with the movement of freight and goods by road.
  • Buses: Buses have a vital role to play in transporting the public and give opportunities to improve air quality. New legislative developments, the creation of the future Greater Manchester bus strategy and improvements to vehicle standards will all assist in ensuring that bus continues to play a vital role into the future, carrying the majority of public transport journeys made within the conurbation.
  • Cycling: Existing strategies and initiatives encourage cycling.
  • Travel Choices: Encouraging the public and businesses to make sustainable travel choices.
  • Cars: Measures to reduce emissions from cars and reduce the number of vehicle trips.
  • Information and resources: Education and the provision of information to the public, businesses and policy makers.

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Skills, employment, and innovation

The ONS defines green jobs as: 'Employment in an activity that contributes to protecting or restoring the environment, including those that mitigate or adapt to climate change'. ONS will use 3 appraoches in relation to green jobs. Estimates produced as a result of this work are expected July-Sept 2023.

  • Industry-based approach, including all jobs in a green industry or sector, with industries classified according to activities undertaken in them
  • Occupation-based approach, including all jobs that are green regardless of the industry they are in, based on the activities undertaken by workers or the objectives of their work
  • Firm-based approach, including all jobs in a "green" firm, potentially classifying such firms based on, for example, their level of emissions.

Work by LSE's Grantham Institue identifies 3 types of green job. The sectors with the highest shares of green jobs are utilities, construction, manufacturing, the primary sector and transport. At a broad level, sectors with a high share of ‘green’ employment also tend to be higher emissions sectors, including occupations such as large good vehicle drivers, and production managers and directors in construction and manufacturing. However, some sectors stand out – finance and insurance activities; professional, scientific and technical; and information and communication have relatively high shares of green employment and low emissions. These include financial accounts managers, IT business analysts, architects and system designers. The ‘green’ workforce tends to be more male than female across sectors and professions (even after controlling for detailed sector of work). Directly ‘green’ jobs in particular tend to be held by older workers who are on permanent contracts – and, in the case of new and emerging jobs, more educated workers who are more likely to have received training on the job.

  • Green new and emerging: 5% of jobs in 2019. New occupations with unique tasks and worker requirements. This is the narrowest definition of a green job. E.g. wind energy engineers or solar photovoltaic installers, for whom all tasks are ‘green’.
  • Green enhanced skills: 7% of jobs in 2019. Significantly altered tasks, skills and knowledge requirements for existing occupations. E.g. a general and operations manager whose new green tasks relate to managing the sustainability of operations; a marketing manager developing business cases for environmental marketing strategies; a construction labourer who would need to apply weather stripping to reduce energy loss.
  • Green increased demand: 5% of jobs in 2019. The transition to a sustainable economy creates higher demand for these occupations but there are no significant changes in tasks or worker requirements due to greening. Such jobs are considered indirectly green because they support green economic activity but do not involve any green tasks. E.g. chemists, materials scientists, industrial production managers.

Further useful links