Resources for Councils

SECA Climate Action Survey

Where have councils in the South East got to in coming up with climate action plans?  We been speaking to SECA members, working with council officers, and trawling the internet to learn what’s been happening, and have begun work to collate this information on an online spreadsheet.  Here’s the link:  There’s an introductory tab explaining how it works, and separate tabs for each county.

SECA Survey of climate action by councils

It’s work in progress.  The plan is to keep this updated as further news comes in.  If you hear of developments not yet featured, or spot any corrections needed, do let us know by emailing: 

Which councils have declared an emergency so far?

According to the Climate Emergency UK website, over 300 councils in the UK have so far taken the step to declare a climate emergency.  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.

Here in the South East, councils have also responded.  Every one of the primary and secondary councils in the region have now either declared a climate emergency, or passed a motion in direct response to the climate emergency. An increasing number of parish councils are also following suit.

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

Progress Summary Nov 2020

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. The need for a more joined up framework connecting national and local initiatives is pointed out by the Committee on Climate Change, in a report on how Local Authorities can support delivery of the 6th Carbon Budget.

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 Plans

The first crop of Council Climate Action Plans are starting to come through. Here’s a blog article summarising highlights from some of the pioneering councils in the South East.

South East region: 

Elsewhere in the UK:

Climate action planning toolkits


  • Interactive policy map  – The UK Green Building Council has produced a map showing what all the county councils and unitary authorities in the UK are doing on policies around home retrofit and new build standards.
  • Energy South to East: towards a low carbon economy.  An Energy Strategy for the South East produced by a consortium of three Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs)  Includes associated Action Plan and Project Models. (Mar 2019)
  • Community Energy England have produced some excellent resources on how community energy schemes can be part of council responses to the climate emergency, and how councils can partner with community energy groups to get buy-in from the public in driving change.


Green economy

Sustainable Development

  • UN Sustainable Development Goals:  A guide for councils – a report from the Local Government Association introducing the 17 UN SDGs and providing advice on how councils can usefully incorporate them into their strategies (July 2020).


  • Future Homes Standard  the Government has published a response to its consultation on future building standards for new homes. It will mean new homes will have carbon dioxide emissions 75-80% lower than those built into current Building Regulations, though this will not come into force until 2025.  It also confirms that councils can still set higher energy performance standards for new homes than those mandated by Building Regulations, at least for the time being (Jan 2021).
  • Addressing Climate Change through the Surrey Heath Local Plan – a detailed report conducted by consultants AECOM looking at how Local Plans can be used to progress climate action.  Commissioned by Surrey Heath Borough Council it provides valuable insights for any council asking this question, offering a range of suggestions of how Local Plans can be used creatively to progress the climate agenda.
  • Sustainable Construction Supplementary Planning Document from the South Downs National Park Authority setting out additional measures to adapt well to and mitigate against the impacts of climate change and other pressures. (Draft May 2020)
  • Supplementary Planning Document on Sustainable Energy – new guidelines from Adur District Council pressing for tougher building standards and the production of an energy plan for all major developments (Aug 2019)
  • ‘Planning for Climate Change: a guide for local authorities’ – produced by The Town and Country Planning Association and the Royal Town Planning Institute (May 2018)
  • Examples of innovative planning solutions – a series of case studies on the Climate Emergency UK website.
  • Meet the Councils quietly building a housing revolution – Guardian article on innovative low carbon social housing (Oct 2019).

Stakeholder engagement

  • Adur & Worthing Climate Assembly has completed its work and come up with 18 recommendations for the council, community organisations and wider stakeholders to consider and take forward (Jan 2021).
  • Brighton & Hove Climate Assembly published their 10 recommendations in December 2020, which focus particularly on sustainable transport and active travel.
  • The Centre for Climate Assemblies has produced a guide for civil servants on how to start a climate assembly in your city
  • 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).
  • Community Engagement and Climate Action – a set of useful tips  for Parish Councils, put together by David Urry and published by Herefordshire Green Network as part of their useful online resource collection, The Great Collaboration.

Behaviour change

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. It comes as a big spreadsheet, with separate tabs for number of installations, installed capacity and annual power generation, broken down by year.  It can be easily filtered by council area.
  • Data on individual FIT registrations, from OFGEM, which publishes quarterly installation reports listing every installation by postcode & district. It’s a massive spreadsheet broken into several parts. But you can filter records for your area and assemble the data from the different sheets into a master list.
  • 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.

Several organisations have created clever website apps that assemble data from multiple sources for any given council area:

  • Friends of the Earth have an app where you can type in your postcode and it will create a special page on How Climate Friendly is your Area? This covers housing, transport, energy, green spaces, waste, and divestment and suggests some 2030 targets to aim for.
  • Trafford Data Lab, set up by Trafford Council, will generate a Climate Emergency Slide Pack for your council area.  You just select your local authority area from the dropdown box and press the ‘Build Slides’ button.  In a few seconds it creates a series of PowerPoint slides you can download. This could be particularly useful if you need to give a presentation and are looking for locally-relevant raw material.


The Climate Emergency UK initiative led by Kevin Frea has moved its online discussion group from Basecamp to a new platform called Discourse.  Joining this is a great way of connecting with councillors, council officers, and climate activists around the country.  The platform looks very user friendly, with threaded discussions around different topics. It’s free to join and you can choose how often you receive updates.  Details here.

Conferences and training events


Most events have been put on hold or moved online because of the Covid emergency. We’ll update this section when we learn more.

Previous events

Community Energy: Traversing Turbulent Times – this detailed write-up of this online conference held on 30 April 2020 provides an excellent and inspiring summary of the state of the community energy sector.  The presentations can be found here.

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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