For immediate release: Wednesday 18th October 2023
Updated 6th November 2023: amended the Scottish average score and some other English regions by 1 or 2% due to a former technical error
- Council Climate Action Scorecards published today by Climate Emergency UK
- The first ever assessment of climate action across all UK councils and all council functions
- Just 41 councils score 50% or more
- Average score is 32%
Climate Emergency UK, working with a team of trained volunteers, have assessed all UK councils on their progress toward net zero. The results are published today in their Council Climate Action Scorecards and can be explored in full at https://councilclimatescorecards.uk/.
This nationwide data exercise, the first of its kind, makes it possible to see which councils are making good progress to net zero and where others are not. According to Climate Emergency UK’s detailed criteria of the Action Scorecards, only 41 councils in the UK scored 50% or more for their climate action, the average score being 32%.
The Scorecards questions were created after 9 months of research and consultation with over 80 organisations and experts individuals within the climate sector such as Friends of the Earth, Ashden, councilors and council staff and mySociety (Scorecard partners). Councils are assessed according to a 3 stage marking process using primarily publicly available data from council websites, as well as national data and FOI responses from councils.
The average score for Scottish councils was 35%, closely followed by Welsh and English councils on 32% and Northern Ireland councils on 21%. Within that, there is a wide variety of scores across all council types. For example, no council in Scotland scored below 17% whereas there are over 30 councils in England that scored 17% or lower.
Four years after councils started declaring climate emergencies, CE UK found that the majority of UK councils are underperforming with national barriers a key reason for councils underperformance. But a number of councils score well in specific sections. 36 councils, including Leeds, Cornwall, and the Vale of Glamorgan score over 80% in different sections, such as Planning & Land Use, Waste Reduction and Food and Collaboration and Engagement respectively. Greater Manchester Combined Authority is the only authority who scored full marks in any one section, in Buildings and Heating.
Annie Pickering, Co-Director at Climate Emergency UK said: ‘The low scores across the board shows that there are national barriers for local authorities that make it harder for most councils to deliver the necessary climate action. A lack of funding and government policy U-turns are some of the barriers to effective local climate action. Yet national barriers alone cannot explain every low score”.
“For example, the scores in the section Planning and Land Use range from minus 1% to a positive 92%, which shows that other local factors, such as political will and community support, are at play in determining the action councils are taking to combat climate change.”
Of the councils that score 50% or more, 26 are currently Labour run councils, 6 are in no overall control, 5 are Conservative, 2 are Lib Dem and 2 councils are run by Independents.
For the 60 councils that score below 20% in the Scorecards, 16 are currently Conservative run councils, 31 are in no overall control, 8 are Labour, 1 is Lib Dem, 3 are run by Independents and the final one is the North East Combined Authority, a non-mayoral authority.
Some of the councils that scored less than 20% overall scored 0% or less in one or more sections. In total, 127 councils scored less than zero because the Scorecards include four penalty marked questions where councils lose marks for actions that increase emissions, such as investing in airports or approving planning permission for oil or gas fields. For example, Blackpool and East Cambridgeshire scored less than 0% in Transport.
The criteria used to assess councils was published in November 2022 and assesses councils according to 91 that questions cover actions that councils have control or influence over, which have a big impact on carbon emissions and biodiversity loss (with some council types having fewer questions due to their differing powers). The 7 sections that the Scorecards cover seven areas of activity are: Buildings & Heatings, Transport, Governance & Finance, Planning, Biodiversity, Collaboration & Engagement and Waste Reduction & Food.
The Action Scorecards were created using a three stage marking process which involved over 200 volunteers completing the first mark and then all councils being able to comment on their first mark in the Right of Reply. The final stage of the marking was carried out by a small team of auditors, who awarded the final score.
Ms Pickering continued: “These Scorecards are an essential tool for councils and campaigners alike to show them what is possible for local climate action and encourage councils to go further, to mitigate and adapt to the climate and ecological emergencies we are facing.
“Scottish and Welsh councils on average score higher, with no Scottish or Welsh councils in the bottom performing councils. This demonstrates that when a national government provides greater support, funding and power to local authorities the climate action of every local authority in that nation increases”.
The Scorecard website – https://councilclimatescorecards.uk – enables you to filter the scores by various factors to see which council scored best. Filters include current political control of a council, how urban or rural the council is, the council type (district, county or unitary etc.), and each question and section.
Notes for Editors
- The full results and methodology can be found at: https://councilclimatescorecards.uk
- Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or Annie, Co-Director at Climate Emergency UK on 07934486877 for more information.
- The Scorecards is a project of Climate Emergency UK, in partnership with mySociety
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Climate Emergency UK is a not-for-profit community interest company 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.
Last year, Climate Emergency UK published the Council Climate Plan Scorecards in January 2022 which was an assessment of councils’ written climate action plans only. This is the first time an assessment of all UK council climate action across all sectors has been completed.
The highest scoring different council types
- Combined Authority: Greater London Authority (LAB) and West Midlands Combined Authority (CON), 65% (while the Greater London Authority is not a combined authority we have included them within our combined authorities list due to their similarity in powers)
- Single-Tier: Westminster City Council, 62% – LAB – single tier (includes unitary, metropolitan districts, scottish and welsh councils)
- District Council: Lancaster City Council, 61% – NOC (No Overall Control)
- County Council: Oxfordshire County Council, 53% – NOC
- Northern Ireland: Belfast City Council, 43% – NOC
The highest scoring councils in Scotland and Wales are:
- City of Edinburgh Council, 58% – Scotland – NOC
- Swansea, 39% – Wales – LAB
Average Scores – By Council Type
- County councils – 35%
- District councils – 29%
- Single Tier (unitaries, metropolitan districts, london boroughs, scottish and welsh) councils – 35%
- Combined Authorities – 46%
Average Scores – By Nation
- Scotland – 35%
- England – 32%
- Wales – 30%
- Northern Ireland – 21%
Two weeks ago Climate Emergency UK also published over 4,000 Freedom of Information request responses from UK councils covering a range of environmental actions of local authorities that they received as part of the Council Climate Action Scorecards marking process. You can read the press and release and see the headline figures from these FOI requests here.