On Wednesday 5th December Frome Town Council declared a Climate Emergency. Reacting to the latest findings from the International Committee on Climate Change. Councillors met to discuss and vote on the issue and the motion was carried unanimously.
It is easy to be cynical about moves from individual small local councils in the face of a problem that is not so much even national as global. We were perhaps a little bit guilty of this when Langport declared itself a Frack-Free zone last month. Which it is going to because the town is not in a block that has been licensed for exploring the possibility of fracking.
But do these declarations mean anything?
Over the past few weeks we have seen politicians in Parliament fail miserably to deal with a complex deal, but hardly the most difficult negotiation this country has ever had to deliver. The process is stalled amidst partisan point scoring not just between parties but within parties.
We have seen a lot of self righteousness on display, but an abject abrogation of responsibility.
Faced with a failure of top-down government, perhaps there is something to be said for bottom-up political movement. Both towns that have made on the face of it, declarations of little meaning can point to two things in their favour.
Firstly that there is also a practical aspect to the declaration. Langport Town Council will now only source the energy it uses from sustainable energy companies.
Frome Town Council has pledged to ensure the town becomes carbon neutral by 2030. It has outlined a number of practical measures that can be put in place, locally, to achieve this.
But perhaps more importantly, if government declines to govern on a national scale, individual communities can by their actions, take something local and make it national, by building a patchwork of like-minded communities into a national community.
Frome Town Council has signed up to the “Covenant of Mayors”. This is a free network of towns and cities around the globe who have committed to reducing carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. The more individual communities that take action, the harder it will be for central government to ignore.
And right now the paralysis at the heart of our own central government makes these local initiatives a lot more important than they might have seemed only a few months ago.