Every council across the South East, from Hampshire to Kent, has now formally recognised the climate emergency or stated their intention to take action on the climate.  But what has been done to turn these pledges into concrete action?  SECA has been keeping tabs on this, and the news is encouraging.  A lot has been happening, despite Covid, and some of the council targets are surprisingly ambitious.  Alison Marshall, Sally Barnard and Pat Smith have spent the last few weeks trawling council websites to find out the latest. They have uncovered a load of new data on individual councils, and have updated the SECA Survey so it is now a really useful source of info on where councils have got to with their climate action plans. Here they concentrate on two specific aspects:  the number of councils that have published action plans, and what date they have set for reaching net zero. 

It has been a year or more since most councils in the South East declared a climate emergency or pledged action on the climate.  So what’s been happening in terms of turning words into concrete action plans?  Over the last few weeks we have been updating the of Climate Emergency Action in the South East, and focussing in particular on whether councils have produced a climate action plan, and what targets they’ve set. We have also expanded the survey to look at more angles, such as:

  • Is biodiversity included in the plan ?
  • Is there a baseline analysis of emissions?
  • Is the plan easily accessible to the public?
  • How is the council engaging with communities on their plan?
  • Does climate change feature on the council website ?

Action Plans for Council Emissions

The encouraging news is that, looking at emissions for their own council estate and activities, 59% of councils have already produced an action plan, and 29% have a plan in progress, that’s a total of 88% . This is considerable progress given all the extra demands and stresses the Covid pandemic has created for councils.

It is especially notable that 34 councils so far (61% of the total number) have set a target of 2030 or earlier for their council activities to be carbon neutral, and have a plan in place, or in pipeline, to achieve this.  Winchester is setting the pace with a 2024 target, with Swale, Basingstoke & Deane and Eastleigh all similarly ambitious with a target of 2025 for council emissions.

This chart summarises what we found:

Action plans for the whole council area

Councils’ own emissions are typically only a few percent of the total for the area they cover.  So getting your own house in order is just a starting point for councils seeking to lead from the front on climate action. Not every council has addressed this wider challenge head on, as it is a much more demanding task.

We counted 12 councils that have grasped this nettle and set a 2030 net zero target for their entire district, with a further 6 stating this as their intention. This is extremely ambitious, as it will require mobilising climate action across the whole economy, from schools and hospitals, to businesses, homeowners and transport providers.

A further 10 councils have gone with the government’s overall 2050 zero carbon target, with the same number acknowledging their responsibility to play a leadership role in influencing the wider area, but stopping short of setting a target.  That means that from what we have found so far, 70% of councils have recognised their wider role in one way or another.

Here’s a summary of what we found:

Check out the full survey

You can check out the details for your council by looking at the full .  Go to the tabs at the bottom to see the data county by county. This is a living document, with amendments and updates being added every month.  Take a look at your council, and other councils around you, and let us know if you spot errors or have updates for the survey.

Sample screen shot – you’ll need to scroll across on the live survey to see all the data

Information gaps

Tracking council climate action is made a lot more difficult by the tardiness of some councils in publishing this information in a prominent way on their website.  This is the subject of a separate blog article.

In our searches, information on their climate action plans was particularly lacking for the following councils: Arun, Dartford, Elmbridge, Havant, Isle of Wight, Maidstone, Mid Sussex, New Forest, Runnymede, Tandridge and Tunbridge Wells. Please contact SECA if you can update the information on your local council. Email us on southeastclimatealliance@gmail.com

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