A recent article published by two Winchester authors should help local authorities tackle climate change by helping them to set carbon budgets and keep to them. 
The UK needs to cut its carbon emissions by 6.7% per year for the next 40 years to avoid dangerous global warming. This is the conclusion of an article, which appeared in the refereed journal Urban Research & Practice, and addresses how to set carbon reduction budgets for local areas such as Winchester District. It draws on research published mostly in 2008 and 2009 and has three key recommendations. First, global, national and local targets should be expressed absolutely (as tonnes of greenhouse gas) in preference to percentage cuts. Second, national emissions estimates have to be more ‘honest’ by including the contributions from international shipping and aviation and from imported goods. Third, budgets should take account of the greenhouse gases already emitted since the baseline year of 1990. The article was published by Professor’s Bob Whitmarsh and David Knight of Winchester Action on Climate Change’s (WinACC’s) Science and Technology Advisory Panel. 
The timing of the article is a happy coincidence because John Denham, Secretary of State for Local Government, announced in January this year a pilot scheme, called Local Carbon Frameworks, to reduce carbon emissions at the local level. The scheme named nine pilot councils which have adopted emissions reduction targets of at least 40 per cent by 2020. This does not include Winchester City Council which has currently signed up to the equally challenging targets of 10 per cent by the end of 2010 and 20 per cent by 2012 (relative to 2007). The pilot councils will be helped to develop climate change strategies and delivery plans and to work in partnership with government to make the needed emissions cuts in areas such as housing, planning, waste and transport. 
 Following the pilot scheme, WinACC suggests that logically all UK local authorities should be required to calculate carbon budgets for their area, and to monitor and publish emissions made against these budgets, as follows:
- Central government to make it mandatory for each council to set five yearly carbon budgets in line with the latest climate science and local circumstances. The method worked out by Whitmarsh and Knight provides an easy-to-follow framework for doing this.
- Central government to provide support, including more and better-coordinated financial support and technical advice, to set up measures to stay within these budgets.
- Central government to require local authorities to estimate local emissions and to publish on a yearly basis how much of their carbon budgets have been ‘spent’. Whitmarsh and Knight provide an accurate and valid method for doing this based on detailed emissions estimates gathered annually by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). These show emissions under a large number of headings including housing, transport, food and consumables.
- Central government to require local authorities to draw up detailed plans using the SEI’s categories to show how they would keep within these budgets.
 
Notes for editors.
1.            The Local Carbon Framework programme was announced on 28 January 2010. More information at www.lgcplus.com/news/local-carbon-framework-pilots-named/5010925.article.
 2.            The full reference of the article is Whitmarsh, R. B. and D. P. Knight (2010). “Setting limits and targets for greenhouse gas emissions at local level: A case study based on the District of Winchester, UK.” Urban Research and Practice3(1): 85-100.