Geography 50 - Ian Bailey

A University of Plymouth academic has contributed to a new book highlighting the challenges faced in implementing effective climate policies.

Negotiating Climate Change in Crisis, published by OpenBook Publishers, takes a critical look at what has gone wrong during three decades of international climate debates and what need to be done to create more decisive action.

Released ahead of the COP26 conference, it features 28 essays written by leading and emerging scholars and climate activists from around the world.

Among the invited authors is Ian Bailey, Professor of Environmental Politics at the University and an expert in national and local climate politics and policy.

In his essay – Local Net Zero Emissions Plans: How Can National Governments Help? – he highlights the scale of support that currently exists for the climate emergency movement.

Since 2016, more than 2,000 local authorities across the world have declared a climate emergency, meaning more than 1.2 billion globally are living in regions where the urgency of taking action to address climate change has been appreciated.

In the UK, that includes more than 500 councils, covering more than 61 million people – the vast majority of the country’s population.

However, such commitments are not always receiving sufficient support from central governments, meaning many initiatives are not achieving their full potential.

Professor Bailey said:

“The climate emergency movement has become a real phenomenon. It has shown that local governments have the potential to make a major contribution to achieving global climate mitigation goals. However, we now need to look at what help they need from central governments to press this forward without them being seen a substitute for national action. It is very apparent that local action and partnerships can achieve an awful lot, but there are very distinct buffers as well. Assistance is particularly needed through the provision of supportive national climate policy environments, greater empowerment of local governments, and enhanced finance for local net zero transitions.”

The front cover of Negotiating Climate Change in Crisis, published by OpenBook Publishers

Professor Bailey’s work in the field led to him being appointed an advisory member of Devon County Council’s Net-Zero Task Force.

Established in August 2019, it is one of a number of initiatives designed to help manage the Devon-wide response to the declaration of climate emergencies by various local authorities and organisations.

In his essay, Professor Bailey says such initiatives need to be both celebrated and supported, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. He writes:

“Alongside practical considerations, how national governments approach climate politics in the future is likely to have a direct bearing on the fortunes of local net zero initiatives. A common conclusion is that the pandemic has redrawn the boundaries of central government interventions to address pressing global challenges. Responses to the climate crisis will need to be sustained over a protracted period and require long-term social mandates that are only likely to be achieved through dialogue and partnership.
“The need for zero-carbon strategies to reflect the emissions profiles and needs of individual regions adds further weight to arguments for dialogue within regions and between central and local actors, rather than overreliance on top-down approaches.”

To read more of Professor Bailey’s thoughts, his chapter from the book can be downloaded free at

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We are ranked 9th in the world out of all the institutions featured in the tables for our efforts in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 17: partnerships for the goals.

The University has established its position as an international pioneer in sustainability practices, research, education and engagement.

THE Impact Rankings SDG17 Partnerships for the Goals 2021 Top 10

University of Plymouth declares a climate emergency

The move, supporting a call by EAUC – The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, reaffirms the University’s position as a global leader in sustainability

Read more about our support for the initiative
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