Resources for Councils

Tracking progress:  SECA Climate Action Survey

Where have councils in the South East got to in coming up with climate action plans?  We’ve 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:

Climate Emergency UK Climate Action Scorecard

Climate Emergency UK has done the most detailed analysis of what plans local authority have made to tackle the climate emergency.  Their Council Climate Action Plan Scorecard was published in 2021, and provides a rating of the published plans of every local authority in the country.  You can search to find details for your local authority, and link through to key documents.  Councils were scored on 28 criteria to create a league table of which are being most and least ambitious.  This blog discusses the results for councils in the South East.

Climate Emergency UK Scorecard

Climate Emergency UK are now working on a more ambitious project to assess how well councils are following through on these plans and turning them into concrete actions.  A country-wide team of volunteer assessors is being created to look at each council in detail using a standard methodology to ensure consistency.  Councils will be rated on 89 different criteria covering 7 broad areas from transport and biodiversity to governance and finance.  They plan to publish the results in Autumn 2023.

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 targets – most councils that have declared a climate emergency have set themselves targets to meet zero emissions.  Most have started by setting targets for the council and its own operations;  more ambitious councils have set targets for the whole area the cover.  This broader approach is where all councils need to be aiming for, since councils’ own emissions are rarely more than a few percent of the area as a whole. 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.  A useful backgrounder on different target setting approaches can be found in this report from Anthesis, commissioned by Horsham District Council (2020). 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.

Key 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 Plan for Councils

The Climate Action Plan for Councils produced by Friends of the Earth contains 50 actions that councils can take to make their area more climate and nature friendly, and is split into key areas like:

  • Protecting our most vulnerable from the effects of climate change.
  • Ensuring new builds are well insulated and have eco-aware fittings.
  • Increasing and improving public transportation provisions.
  • Enabling and supporting the use of renewable energy.
  • Promoting sustainable consumption in order to to become a zero-waste area
  • Ensuring everyone has access to green spaces.

The goal of the plan is to ensure that climate and nature restoration goals are front and centre in all decision-making and investments.

Case Studies

Friends of the Earth and Ashden have produced an excellent series of case studies providing concrete examples of how local councils are acting on climate.  These studies from all over the country explore the impacts, benefits and resources needed to tackle climate change locally.  Examples from the South East include case studies on:

Climate action planning toolkits

  • Local Authority Climate Action Checklist – has been developed by Climate Emergency UK, with support from Friends of the Earth, Centre for Alternative Technology, Ashden and APSE Energy. Local authorities can use this Checklist to draw up ambitious, comprehensive and robust Climate & Ecological Emergency Action Plans, while community groups can assess the ambition of their local authorities’ plan (Mar 2021).
  • Adept, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Transport and Planning, has teamed up with Ashden, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and a number of other partners, to come up with a practical and wide-ranging  blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level.  It covers low carbon growth, retrofitting, transport, planning, waste management, biodiversity, and funding (Jan 2021).
  • Ashden, working with the Grantham Institute, has produced a comprehensive Climate Action Co-Benefits Toolkit which looks at concrete actions councils can take but highlighting the spin-off benefits they will bring in terms of better health, improved economy, increased equity and resilience. It draws on successful examples from projects that won Ashden Awards and makes the point that the climate narrative needs to be stressing these positives, not just the risks and dangers of climate change (June 2019).
  • Ashden has also teamed up with Friend of the Earth to put together an evidence-based list of the 31 most effective actions councils can take on climate, highlighting the co-benefits and costs associated with each. It’s summarised in a handy spreadsheet (Oct 2019).
  • 5 Year Environment Plan for Surrey – a broad ranging call for action at multiple levels (council, business, public, etc.) produced by Dorking Climate Emergency and Dorking Solar Group. (Sept 2019)
  • A research paper from the Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) on ‘Local authority climate emergency declarations which provides an understanding of what declaring a climate emergency can do, when to use it and how it can be used in the context of local councils. (Note the summary report is free, but the full report is available on subscription)
  • Climate emergency resources for citizens and councils – from Zero Carbon Britain (2019)
  • Bioregional’s One Planet Cities project is working with cities and city-regions across the world to create sustainability action plans, using the One Planet Framework.  It has recently teamed up with Oxfordshire on a One Planet Oxfordshire project.
  • Can do Cities website
  • The C40 Knowledge Hub has a wide array of policy briefings, implementation guides and other resources tailored to climate action planning in major cities around the world.



  • Interactive policy map  – The UK Green Building Council provides an increasing range of resources, and membership is free for local authorities. They have 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.
  • New homes policy playbook – A resource pack from the UK Green Building Council designed to help cities and local authorities drive up the sustainability of new homes


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)
  • Examples of innovative planning solutions – a series of case studies on the Climate Emergency UK website.

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.  Some provide clever interactive graphic display.  Others come as 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.

  • IMPACT Community Carbon Calculator is a powerful and user-friendly tool that allows you to estimate carbon emissions at the parish level.  Drawing on data from a wide array of sources, it gives you a visual representation of your community’s carbon footprint.  It distinguishes between ‘territorial’ and ‘consumption’ estimates – two very different ways of measuring carbon footprints – and can provide figures on a per capita or total basis.  This blog article by Danny Lee at PeCAN explains how it works.
  • Place-Based Carbon Calculator, is a free tool which estimates the per-person carbon footprint at the Parish or Local Authority level.  Produced by the University of Leeds, it draws on a wide range of data and research to give a representative view of how carbon footprints vary across the country. The tool takes a consumption based approach to carbon footprints, this means that the emissions are counted by the consumer of a good or service not the producer.
  • 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.

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