Resources for Councils

Which Councils have declared

Which councils have declared so far?

According to the Climate Emergency UK website, over 260 councils in the UK have so far taken the step to declare a climate emergency. This is happening quickly; all have declared since November 2018.  Councils of all political persuasions have got on board with this idea, and in many cases the motion to declare an emergency has been passed unanimously, demonstrating the degree of cross-party agreement on the issue.  Click on the map to find out more.

Here in the South East, councils are also responding.  More and more councils are debating climate motions and pledging to step up climate action.  At the last count, 93% of primary and secondary councils have now either declared a climate emergency, or passed a motion in direct response to the climate emergency. Some parish councils are also following suit.

Progress checklist

Here’s a progress checklist showing which councils in the South East have declared a climate emergency (in green), or passed a climate motion (in yellow).  Those where campaigns are underway are coloured blue.  Significantly, there are no longer any councils marked red where there is no action we know of.

Climate actions plans – where to start?

Declaring an emergency is an important first step.  But how does a council turn that declaration into meaningful action at a scale that makes a difference? What will they do differently?  Without specific follow-up steps, a declaration risks being little more than window dressing.  Most have approached this through a combination of setting targets and agreeing concrete actions:

Setting targetsmost councils that have declared a climate emergency have set themselves targets to meet zero emissions at an earlier date than is required under national legislation – for example, zero emissions by 2030, rather than the 2050 target set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act (this was amended in June 2019 from a 80% to a 100% reduction by 2050). Definitions of what is meant by ‘net zero emissions’ or being ‘carbon neutral’ also vary somewhat between councils – precision is important here in making targets meaningful.

Investigative period – to provide time to think through the options and their implications, some councils are setting in motion an investigative period, with council officers being instructed to report back in 6 months with an action plan on how this could be achieved

Specific actions – many council motions cite specific actions for the council to take. These steps are cited in Lancaster’s motion, for example:

  • increasing the energy efficiency of council owned buildings
  • prioritising these measures for council housing and private sector housing to address fuel poverty
  • building solar and other renewable energy generating and storage plant
  • requiring all new housing and commercial developments to be low carbon
  • replacing the vehicle fleet with electric and/or hydrogen powered vehicles
  • switching to 100% renewable energy
  • setting up a council run energy company (eg. Robin Hood Energy)
  • adapting the Council’s purchasing policy to put positive pressure on suppliers to cut their emissions and adopt green practices, for example by using electric powered delivery vans.

Stakeholder engagement to bolster their efforts some councils are setting up advisory groups or boards to draw in outside expertise and ideas, build links with other stakeholders.  West Sussex County Council, for example, has set up a Climate Change Advisory Group involving representatives from SECA, the Wildlife Trust and the Youth Parliament.  Others are holding Citizens Assemblies (eg Totnes), or appointing a Sustainability Officer (eg Scarborough), to help inform and support their choices.

Appealing to central government – most council motions call on the government and other relevant councils above them to provide the powers and resources to make the earlier target possible.

Useful resources:

We’ll be doing our best to keep you up to date with the most interesting reports and initiatives we hear of, including good practice examples from councils around the country. Let us know an any other useful resources you come across. Just email us at:

Climate action planning



Green economy


Stakeholder engagement

  • A useful introduction on how Citizens Assemblies can be used to get debate going on climate actions, from the Shared Futures website (Mar 2019).
  • Recommendations from the Leeds Climate Change Citizens’ Jury. They include public ownership of the buses in Leeds, new green funding sources, a city-wide retrofitting programmes for houses, and a stop to the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport (Nov 2019).

Climate resilience

Parish and Town Councils

Central Government action

National scenario planning

  • In December 2019, the Centre for Appropriate Technology in Wales published the latest version of their Zero Carbon Britain model, ‘Rising to the Climate Emergency’.  It shows how a zero carbon Britain is entirely possible, using technology that is available today.  The analysis divides into two streams:
    • Powering down – showing how the country could cut it’s energy demand by 60% if we took a radical approach on retrofitting existing buildings, ensuring new ones were built to Passivhaus standards, revolutionising transport, and adapting farming and industrial practices.
    • Powering up – demonstrating that this reduced demand could be entirely met through renewable sources, in particular offshore wind. Their solution for the intermittency problem with solar and wind is to grow biofuels on some of the land freed up by cutting back on livestock grazing into synthetic gas, which can be stored and transported using our existing gas network.
  • The ZCB Executive Summary gives a good synopsis of the report. There’s also some great videos and infographics in their social media resources pack.  You can even download and play with the assumptions in the actual model.
  • Absolute Zero is a scenario planning study from the UK-FIRES consortium led by Cambridge University.  It looks at the challenges of reaching zero emissions in the UK by 2050, using current technology.  It takes more of a global perspective than ZCB and has more detail on the challenges facing industry and those relating to aviation and international shipping.

Useful data

There are a number of open access online data sources that can be tapped to learn more about emissions, energy use, renewables roll out, and other things.  Most of them are big Excel spreadsheets you can download and then search.  Here’s links to some of those we’ve heard about.  There’s more on the Friends of the Earth Take Climate Action website.  Let us know if you come across any other good sources.

  • Energy performance of buildings, based on Government EPC data, is available in summary form for council areas, and can be interrogated down to the level of individual properties by signing in to the Open Data Communities portal.
  • Energy generation from renewables, broken down by council areas. Figures from BEIS.
  • Vehicle ownership and commuting patterns are covered in the national census.  The latest figures for 2011 are available from the National Office of Statistics NOMIS database.
  • CO2 emissions data broken down by council area and source, from BEIS.

Conferences and training events


29-30 April 2020 – Zero Carbon Britain training course  hosted by the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales.  Details and booking link here.

Previous events

Local authority climate emergency: what’s next?  – a Carbon Trust conference held in London on 25 November 2019, looking at challenges local authorities are facing. Here’s a report on the event.

Carbon Neutral Cambridge – an expert symposium held in May 2019 to inform the new joint Greater Cambridge Local Plan. Asks what a zero carbon target means in practice for councils, what powers are available to councils, and what examples are available to support their use. Presentations can be downloaded. Here’s the final report.

A special Climate & Environmental Emergency Conference was held in Lancaster on March 29th 2019, bringing together local council members, council officials and campaigners.  It includes workshops on a range of topics including local planning, engaging business, and the ‘New Green Deal’. Click here for a report on the conference by Geoff Barnard, who attended on behalf of SECA.

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