Climate Emergency UK has just published the first ever league tables comparing local authorities’ climate action plans. They show a wide variation in scores across the country, and will no doubt spark debate on which councils are leading from the front on climate and which are lagging behind. In this blog, Thalia Griffiths picks out the headline results for councils in the South East. We are interested to hear your reactions on how these rankings tally with your experience of how your local council is performing on climate.

Climate Emergency UK (CE UK) has published league tables of local authorities’ Climate Action Plans in a bid to assess what decarbonisation plans they have in place. While the rankings assess councils’ published plans, not their actions, the tables aim to illustrate best practice and provide a tool for campaigners to hold their local authorities to account.

In a first UK-wide survey (, CE UK has sought to measure the quality of councils’ published climate action plans. The survey used 28 questions to assess the climate action plans published online by UK councils between 2015 and September 2021. The criteria included whether the plans were costed; whether the actions were assigned to specific teams and had a clear goal; whether local people were being engaged with climate action; whether the plan included strategies to decarbonise waste, planning and homes and other topics; and whether the plan covered areas such as re-skilling the workforce, climate education, governance, and funding for climate action.

  • At county level, the climate plans of Kent and Hampshire score highest in the SECA area with 53%, compared to a nationwide average of 40%, while Surrey is on 48%, East Sussex is on 38% and West Sussex is on 35%. West and East Sussex’s averages are pulled down by low score for mitigation and adaptation measures, an area where Hampshire scores well.
  • At district level, within Kent, the plans of Maidstone at 72% and Medway at 71% come out strongly, compared to a nationwide average of 43%. Tonbridge and Swale are on 64%, ahead of Canterbury on 60% and Folkestone on 59%.
  • In Surrey, Waverley’s plans are the top scorer at 76%, ahead of Woking at 70%. Reigate and Mole Valley are on 64%, just ahead of Surrey Heath on 63%. Elmbridge scores 59% while Epsom is on 55%, Tandridge on 45%, and Guildford is on 39%.
  • Hampshire is led by the Isle of Wight on 77%, followed by Fareham on 61%, Basingstoke on 54%. Winchester on 49%, Eastleigh on 47%, followed by Rushmoor on 46%, Havant on 44%, and Gosport on 42%. Southampton on 39% is closely followed by Portsmouth on 38%, then East Hampshire on 24%. Hart at 23%, and Test Valley on 22%.
  • In West Sussex, Worthing and Adur both score 51% for their plans, followed by Chichester on 45%, Horsham on 30% and Mid Sussex on 20%.
  • In East Sussex, Brighton & Hove lead with 63%, followed by Lewes on 57%. Hastings is at 52%, while Tunbridge Wells and Eastbourne both score 50%, Wealden 30% and Rother 22%.
  • Other councils across the SECA area including Arun, Crawley, Dartford, Runnymede, New Forest and Spelthorne scored zero, as CE UK could find no published climate plans by Sept 2021.


CE UK is a not-for-profit cooperative which has been working with councils and residents since 2019 to share best practice about what councils can do to tackle the climate and ecological emergency and to encourage effective action.

Local authorities’ contribution to decarbonisation is potentially significant. They can help to deliver 30% of the cuts in carbon emissions needed to get to net zero, according to the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget published in December 2020.

CE UK stresses that its rankings assess councils’ published action plans, not the actions councils are actually taking to reduce emissions and improve biodiversity. The group plans to follow up in future with an assessment of what actions councils are taking to implement their plans.

How do these findings tally with SECA members’ experience of their councils’ actual performance?  Please comment on our Facebook page or get in touch with us at with your thoughts.

SECA is taking a first step towards finding out what’s actually being done by approaching councils to see how many have published annual reports on their climate action progress. We hope to report back on their responses in next month’s newsletter.

  • CE UK has launched a Crowdfunder seeking to raise £10,000 to continue work on their scorecards next year. If you would like to help, please click here


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