Climate action: place-based leadership and communication

How can we champion climate change work from the top and direct action? How can we adopt a clear and detailed strategic plan?

Climate change hub

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Sustainability in Council Services

The LGA commissioned the CAT to deliver the Sustainability in Council Services project through a Zero Carbon Britain innovation lab. This hub has been designed to share the outputs of the lab, including the routemaps and more information on the innovation lab process.

Sustainability in Council Services

LGA Climate Change Action Plan Roundtables

The LGA supported councils in their creation and development of climate action plans by organising a set of roundtables to bring councils together to discuss and share learning through facilitated peer support. These roundtables were open to all councils at any stage in their development or implementation of their climate action plans. The sessions were guided by councils, with facilitation and guest speakers contributing.

Webinar: Pass the Planet - Showcasing local climate action on the COP26 goals

In the run up to the United Nations Climate Change summit (COP26), the LGA ran its Pass the Planet campaign to share and spotlight councils’ best practice for addressing climate change and raise the profile of local government in this area. Over four months, all regions of England and Wales were spotlighted, highlighting some fantastic approaches to a variety of challenges across the countries.

This webinar was organised as part of the LGA’s green webinar series and shared best practice themed around the COP26 goals of mitigation, adaptation, collaboration and finance. Four councils from across England and Wales shared their examples of local climate action which included a climate implications toolkit, net zero toolkit, community investment grant, and school collaboration project.

Below you can view the slides which accompanied each speaker’s presentation and a blog post providing a summary of the event.

LGA Annual Conference 2021: Green light services to address our planetary emergency

LGA Annual Conference 2021: Green light services to address our planetary emergency

The climate change plenary session on green light services to address our planetary emergency took place on Wednesday 7 July 2021. The session featured speakers from local, national and international organisations discussing the importance of local government in the fight against climate change and their role at COP26. It was considered the start of a longer conversation about the role of local government in tackling climate change.

Read about the climate change plenary session

A councillor’s workbook on the local pathway to net zero

Local authorities have a crucial role to play in achieving the UK’s 2050 Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions target, this workbook can help councillors achieve this.

Ten questions to scrutinise climate action

In collaboration with the Centre for Public Scrutiny, the LGA has launched a publication which covers ten questions, and several supplementary follow ups, to ask if you are scrutinising climate action in your council. It lays out key issues on which local scrutineers (councillors sitting on scrutiny committees and the officers who support them) can pose to those with decision-making responsibility.

Webinar: Scrutinising climate action

Climate change is a critical global problem that will impact environments everywhere and individuals across all levels of society. The challenge has been thrown into sharper focus by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating the need for places and communities to become more resilient.

Within the local government sector, councils have been leading the response to climate change, but with many having declared a ‘climate emergency’ there is a need to show how they will prioritise and embed climate action in all policy areas. Scrutiny has a critical role to play in these cross-cutting issues, testing the assumptions in the development of climate action plans and securing political buy-in for sustained action. Scrutiny can also support the council to engage with partners and channel local views, as well as playing a formal accountability role as councils make public commitments to climate action. 

Drawing on the LGA’s publication ‘10 questions to ask if you are scrutinising climate change’, the event outlined a practical approach for scrutineers to understand and seek oversight on climate action in their localities. It was designed to explore questioning, identify key stakeholders, plan effective scrutiny work and consider the impacts that scrutiny can expect to deliver on this issue.  

We have produced a blog which provides a summary of the key themes that emerged during the morning and afternoon session on 18 September 2020, as well as some practical advice identified by participants.

LGA and UKSSD - Sustainable development guide for councils

The Local Government Association and the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development launched a guide to help councils engage with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a time when many are starting to re-think the role of local government in leading places and empowering people. 

The UN’s 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, adopted by all UN member states, are an urgent call for action by all countries to end poverty and other deprivations to improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change.

The joint guide with UKSSD reinforces the need for coherent decision-making between all levels of government at a time of growing consensus regarding the importance of an economically and environmentally sustainable recovery.  

Examples of councils that have been working towards the SDGs include:  

  • Newcastle City Council made a political commitment to mainstream the SDGs in its policies, activity and programmes in 2019. Working closely with SDG experts at University of Newcastle, it is now embedding the SDGs in the work of the City Futures Board, formed to shape the city’s renewal following the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Bristol City Council, in partnership with the University of Bristol, launched the UK’s first Voluntary Local Review on the SDGs in 2019 and has embedded the Goals in its One City Plan to work with stakeholders across the city towards a more coherent plan for the future. A follow-up handbook for use by other cities wanting to undertake similar local voluntary reviews has also been produced.

Despite facing enormous pressures and sustained funding cuts, councils have maintained the provision of essential services for their communities and continue to look ahead at how they can work closely with the Government to achieve its targets, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

As councils across the country continue to lead their communities through the coronavirus pandemic, it is vitally important that they have the resources and support to lead them through the recovery and continue to fight against climate change.

Liverpool City Council’s forthcoming City Plan contains a clear commitment to the SDGs from all partner organisations. The council has worked with the 2030 hub in Liverpool to inform the selection of aims, priorities and metrics for the City Plan.

New Conversations 2.0 - LGA guide to engagement

The resources in this report support the basic, statutory aspects of engagement, with a particular focus on pure consultation. It explores best practice, legal requirements, and the pre-emptive steps you can take to get engagement around decision-making right. This includes assets to help you choose your channels and messengers, and decide whether you need to formally consult. There are also resources supporting the evaluation of consultation, and the use of insight.

Webinar: Creating meaningful engagement with communities on climate change

Organised by the LGA in partnership with Design Council, the “Creating meaningful engagement with communities on climate change” webinar scaled design approaches across the public sector and stimulated new thinking on collective climate change matters. The various initiatives and approaches presented demonstrated the importance of engaging with residents, communities, organisations and wider stakeholders to build momentum and raise awareness of collective efforts. They also showed the strength of collaboration across partners to achieve a shared mission. Design plays a key role in facilitating these connections, building relationships, and bringing together diverse perspectives around complex challenges. The transferrable nature of design approaches makes them powerful tools that councils can apply to their most diverse challenges. 

Blog: Creating meaningful engagement with communities on climate change

New Citizenship Project (NCP) and Kirklees Council

New Citizenship Project (NCP) has been working with Kirklees Council  to radically redefine the relationship between council and citizen: from service provider, to enabler. Throughout this project, there has been great opportunity to learn and reflect. In this blog you can read those reflections, to see what other local authorities might learn and take away from the experience.

Blog: New Citizenship Project (NCP) and Kirklees Council

Webinar: Locking in positive behaviours and the co-benefits of green recovery

The LGA webinar, Locking in positive behaviours and co-benefits of green recovery, was organised as part of the LGA’s green webinar series. It covered how local government can continue to embed the behaviours we have seen as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to climate action.

Blog: Locking in positive behaviours and the co-benefits of green recovery

Webinar: Greener living - what impact has the pandemic had on local climate action? March 16 2021
  • Solace and the LGA partnered to deliver an exploratory webinar which discussed the impact that Covid-19 has had on local climate change reduction action plans.
  • The webinar focused on three themes to assess Covid-19’s impact. The first, “transport and travel”, looked at travel patterns have we seen over the pandemic, and how they differ compared to pre-2020. The second, “valuing local”, examined how a people-centred approach to local economic development can support a green recovery, and the final case study, “valuing green spaces” looked at how residents have valued their local green spaces and biodiversity during lockdowns. Case studies were presented by officers from Lewes District Council, Surrey County Council, and RLB Kingston.
  • The session featured a keynote speech and insights from Farhana Yamin, the leading international environmental lawyer and climate change and development policy expert. She outlined the key factors of successful climate action at both the grassroots community level, and in formal policy spaces.

Solace and LGA Webinar Greener Living - presentation

Leading & Learning – creating green jobs: Managing Change and Influencing webinar

As part of the Leading and Learning – creating green jobs programme it became apparent early on in the programme that if both officers and members were to achieve the deliverables from the challenges that they had set, then they would need to effect change within their authority and indeed within the larger system. One of the key elements of managing change is identifying, communicating with, engaging, and influencing a myriad of stakeholders.

Blog: Managing change and influencing webinar

Councillor workbook: acting on climate change

This workbook is a learning aid for councillors on the roles, opportunities and drivers for council-led action on the changing climate, both to reduce local carbon emissions and to build resilience to extreme weather.

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Cheltenham Borough Council: Climate Impact Assessment Tool

Cheltenham Borough Council has deployed its Climate Impact Assessment Tool within internal decision making processes to ensure new projects and policies are aligned with the Council's commitment to climate action. The tool is designed to enable officers and decision-makers to easily evaluate the environmental and social impacts of projects and policies from the very start of decision-making and project development processes. 

Cheltenham Borough Council: Climate Impact Assessment Tool

Net Zero Now: a programme to enable community action on climate change

Net Zero Now is a one-year project from Cambridge Carbon Footprint which was awarded £15,000 by South Cambridgeshire District Council’s Zero Carbon Communities (ZCC) grant scheme. The Net Zero Now project designed and delivered free training for community action on climate change. It trained 12 individuals to become local ambassadors for climate change. These individuals are now working on initiatives ranging from village hall sustainability, toy and book swaps, bike repair schemes and eco-festivals. The resources developed through the project have been transformed into a free online training course and will help to deliver future in-person and online courses.

Net Zero Now: a programme to enable community action on climate change

South Cambridgeshire District Council Zero Carbon Strategy

South Cambridgeshire District Council set out a wide-ranging zero carbon strategy, outlining the many ways in which it is encouraging, supporting and influencing action on climate change in the district.

South Cambridgeshire District Council Zero Carbon Strategy

Cumbria County Council agrees ambitious Carbon Management Strategy

In November 2020, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet unanimously agreed the council’s first Carbon Management Strategy which sets out how they will respond to the international, national and regional aspiration to achieve a low/net zero carbon economy by 2050.

Cumbria County Council agrees ambitious Carbon Management Strategy

Lancaster City Council: A Local Plan for delivering climate adaptation and mitigation

Lancaster City Council declared a Climate Emergency in January 2019, at which point the Local Plan had been submitted and it was not possible to be significantly amended. The Local Plan was adopted in July 2020, and the Council immediately entered a Climate Emergency partial review to ensure that climate change mitigation and adaptation become fundamental to placemaking in the District. Following a scoping consultation, 32 policies were highlighted for review, improvement, and strengthening.

A Local Plan for delivering climate adaptation and mitigation

Nottingham City Council: Carbon Neutral Agenda

Nottingham City Council has set an ambitious target to become the first carbon neutral city in the UK by 2028. In keeping with Nottingham’s proud tradition of climate leadership, the carbon neutral charter sets out a vision for sustainable carbon neutrality on behalf of the Council and the city’s Green Partnership.

Carbon Neutral Nottingham 2028

Leicester City Council: Carbon Awareness in Leicester City Schools

In order to raise awareness through the community of Leicester, the city council intend to use the Carbon Literacy Project as a way of accrediting university students and school staff to become carbon literate trainers who will deliver training to school students within the city. The project aims to reach 2000 students, primarily Year 5 and Year 8.

Carbon Awareness in Leicester City Schools

West Sussex County Council: Climate Change Strategy

In recognition of the climate emergency, West Sussex County Council launched its Climate Change Strategy during 2020. This underpins their corporate plan, making climate change a fundamental consideration of all actions going forward and elevating progress on a wide variety of supporting projects.

West Sussex County Council: Climate Change Strategy

The Royal Borough of Greenwich: Carbon Neutral Plan

To meet it’s target to be carbon neutral by 2030, the Council have developed a Carbon Neutral Plan.

The Royal Borough of Greenwich: Carbon Neutral Plan

Langport Town Council: Levels Climate Forum

Langport Town Council, in partnership with neighbouring Huish Episcopi Parish Council, set up an online climate forum in the autumn of 2020 in the autumn of 2020, to engage and swap climate adaptation ideas with more than 20 other parish councils that share the fragile ecology of the Somerset Levels.

Langport Town Council: Levels Climate Forum

Denbighshire County Council: Tackling climate and ecological change in decision making

Denbighshire County Council has changed its Constitution to ensure all decisions made have regard for tackling climate and ecological change. Supporting templates and processes have also been updated including the committee report template, terms of reference, wellbeing impact assessment process and project business case template for capital and business development schemes.

Denbighshire County Council: Tackling climate and ecological change in decision making

Gloucestershire County Council: Youth Climate Panel

In May 2019 Gloucestershire County Council joined many other local authorities in declaring a climate emergency. They committed to setting up a Youth Climate Panel so young people could play a key role in informing future plans to bring about a low carbon, resilient and attractive Gloucestershire.

Gloucestershire County Council: Youth Climate Panel

Stroud District Council: 2030 Strategy - limiting, adapting, recovering and responding in a changing climate

Stroud District Council's comprehensive strategy and plan, unanimously adopted in March 2021 drives progress on their commitment to a carbon neutral and ecologically resilient 2030.

Stroud District Council: 2030 Strategy

Torbay Council, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council: Joint Carbon Literacy Training

In an effort to embed the Climate Emergency across our organisations, Torbay, South Hams and West Devon joined forces to arrange Carbon Literacy Training for 48 key officers, senior leaders and key councillors across Torbay Council, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council.

Joint Carbon Literacy Training

City of York Council: York’s Clean Air Zone

City of York Council took action to improve air quality across the city through a Clean Air Zone, aiming to significantly reduce emissions from buses and ensure all those operating frequently in the city centre were low emission.

York’s Clean Air Zone

Cornwall Council: Doughnut economics in council decision making

Cornwall Council have deployed the use of a decision wheel, based on the Doughnut Economics model pioneered by Kate Raworth, so cabinet decisions take full consideration of their environmental, social, economic and cultural impact.

Doughnut economics in council decision making

Vale of White Horse District Council: Maintaining high level recycling during the COVID-19 pandemic

The council used innovative digital education to communicate and engage with residents in lockdown.

Maintaining high level recycling during the COVID-19 pandemic

Developing a community forum to help tackle climate change and increase biodiversity

South Hams District and West Devon Borough Councils share their experience of developing a community forum.

Developing a community forum to help tackle climate change and increase biodiversity

Kendal Town Council: Ensuring a guaranteed commitment

After hosting the first ever citizens’ jury at town council level, Kendal Town Council focused on understanding what residents thought it should do and ensuring commitments from local partners.

Ensuring a guaranteed commitment

Oxford City Council: Mobilise residents in climate emergency

Oxford City Council unanimously declared a Climate Emergency in January 2019 alongside a motion opposing the now-paused, Oxford to Cambridge Expressway proposals.

Oxford City Council: Mobilise residents in climate emergency

Surrey County Council: Crowdsourcing ideas to get started

Surrey County Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019 and has taken the huge step in publishing a comprehensive strategy.

Surrey County Council: Crowdsourcing ideas to get started

Hertfordshire County Council: Sustainable Hertfordshire Strategy and Action Plan

Hertfordshire County Council developed the Sustainable Hertfordshire Strategy and Action Plan, which set out the policies, strategies and implementation plans needed to embed sustainability across all their operations and services.

Sustainable Hertfordshire Strategy and Action Plan

Kent County Council: Severe Weather Impacts Monitoring System (SWIMS)

SWIMS is a decision-support and data collection tool for Kent’s public-sector services to record and monitor the impacts from, responses to, and resulting financial cost of severe weather events.

Severe Weather Impacts Monitoring System (SWIMS)

Kent and Medway: Climate Change Risk and Impact Assessment

In 2019, Kent County Council commissioned JBA Consultants to undertake an assessment of the priority risks and impacts climate change will have on six key sectors in Kent and Medway, resulting in the Climate Change Risk and Impact Assessment.

Kent and Medway: Climate Change Risk and Impact Assessment

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The Carbon Literacy Project

The Carbon Literacy Project offers everyone a day of Carbon Literacy learning and action planning: climate change, carbon footprints, how you can do your bit, and why it is relevant to you and your audience.

The Carbon Literacy Project have developed two new toolkits which are now available. One for elected members and the other for council leaders and managers.

Funded by the UK Government Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the free toolkits* will enable anyone with training experience and knowledge of climate change to train elected members, council leaders and managers.

A panel of local authorities have co-created, reviewed and piloted the toolkit materials, ensuring the latest and best sectoral materials are used. The new Elected Members Toolkit empowers councillors to talk to their constituents about climate change and mobilise change within their sphere of influence. The Leadership and Management Toolkit enables all local authority leaders and managers to explore how they can provide leadership in the climate emergency and incorporate climate change into their decision-making.

If you are looking for an introduction to Carbon Literacy, we would recommend watching the Generic Staff Toolkit launch webinar and/or visiting the Carbon Literacy website.

* Learner certification fees, generally @ £10 per learner still apply. The training materials are free to use by local authorities and their approved training providers for the purposes of certified Carbon Literacy training.

The Carbon Literacy Project is not for profit, owned by The Carbon Literacy Trust and delivered by Cooler Projects CIC.


Email: [email protected]

The COVID-19 pandemic's lessons for local climate leadership

A report from Boston University, writes about the opportunities and challenges presented for climate change, following the COVID-19 peak.  

Four lessons shine through:  

1. Focus beyond the COVID-19 crisis and maintain and boost climate-action momentum because the risks and costs will only grow if action is delayed.  

2. Act to prepare your communities for climate change and GHG reduction; walking away from or delaying crucial climate actions risks disastrous and inequitable local consequences.  

3. Enhance local climate action by building on your residents’ and businesses’ behaviour changes during the pandemic response that reduce emissions and enhance resiliency.  

4. Maximize the local economic and community benefits of an economic recovery that simultaneously drives business and job expansion, improves personal and public health, reduces GHG emissions, strengthens climate resilience, and improves social equity. 

C40 Knowledge: Inclusive community engagement playbook

Community engagement is the process of involving the people that live and interact with your city in its development, including anyone with an interest or influence in, or who is impacted by, a local plan, policy or action. Engagement strategies help cities to develop a better working relationship with the community to ensure that the needs and issues of all parties are understood, and can be addressed to achieve positive change.

This playbook is a detailed practitioners’ guide on everything cities need to know about how to deliver inclusive community engagement. It includes an innovative and diverse selection of tools of varying complexity to cater to cities with different needs and capacity, and case studies from cities around the world.

Citizen and community engagement (Ashden)

This toolkit offers important insight into the co-benefits of climate action, which are often ignored in public messaging. But it is precisely through focusing on these co-benefits that we will encourage a wider cross-section of the population to engage with, participate in, and indeed lead the ever-growing range of opportunities to take climate action at a local level. This chapter explores different options for how councils can:

  • Use deliberative processes to give them a mandate for climate action.
  • Work with their communities to deliver co-benefits through climate action.
  • Overcome concerns or objections to particular changes, using a co-benefits approach.

Climate Action Co-Benefits Toolkit – Chapter 6 (PDF)

Searchable database of council climate action plans

Climate Emergency UK and mySociety have created an open, searchable database of council climate action plans which supports browsing and comparison of different councils’ plans, and search over the text of all the plans in one place.

Access the database here.

ADEPT, Defra and LAAP Good Practice Guidance for Local Government (2019) 

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Local Adaptation Advisory Panel (LAAP) have developed a guide focusing on climate change adaption. This guide demonstrates the role local government plays in preparing for impacts of climate change and the reasons for adapting to it. They provide a guide to adaptation activity for various areas, including infrastructure, business, public health and corporate plans, policies and performance. 

LSE - Transition Pathway Initiative Tool (2017)

The London School of Economics’ (LSE) Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment have created a tool, which enables the assessment of how companies are managing climate change and the risk it poses to their business. 

Leeds University - A Civic Plan for a Climate Emergency (2019)

Paul Chatterton from Leeds University has produced a discussion document suggesting ways to meet the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target. Paul discusses the issues around climate emergency and four main action areas: creating a zero-emission civic energy for cities by shifting city energy onto a green energy supply; creating a socially just mobility plan, where half of all journeys will need to be taken via bus or active travel by 2030 and all other vehicles will be electric; ensuring nature is considered and factored in as the core of future city developments; and significant changes to the role of city economies to ensure that it supports the community more. 

LCCP - Basic Aadaption Resources (2020)

The London Climate Change Partnership (LCCP) have released a webpage highlighting basic adaptation resources available for climate change. With particular focus on their “quick actions” section, the webpage suggests simple measures organisations could consider for their adaptation plans. To name a few, it includes signing up to the environmental agency’s flood warning service, mapping longer term decisions and investments and appointing a leader with responsibility for adaptation. 

Imperial College London - Co-benefits of Climate Change Mitigation in the UK (2019)

Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute have released a briefing on the co-benefits of climate change mitigation, where other sectors such as public health and the economy benefit from the positive effects of climate change mitigation. 

Friends of the Earth: '33 Actions Local Authorities can take on Climate Change' (2019)

Friends of the Earth’s report identifies 33 actions that local authorities can take to reduce carbon emissions, under the following groups: transport, buildings, waste, energy, procurement, green spaces and influence.

Ashden and Friends of the Earth - 31 Climate Actions for Councils (2019)

Ashden and Friends of the Earth (FoE) have put together an evidence-based list of the most effective actions councils can take on climate change. They have produced 31 climate actions and have collated it in an excel spreadsheet.

C40 Cities - Climate Action Planning (2019)

C40 Cities explain the reasoning for why climate action planning is important and provide a video, where cities explain the actions they are taking on climate change. This varies from reducing vehicular emissions, improving building energy efficiency to strengthening their ability to dealing with inevitable impacts of climate change. 

C40 Cities - Climate Action Planning Framework (2019)

The Climate Action Planning framework has been developed to support cities develop climate action plans aligned with the objectives of the Paris agreement. The framework was developed by cities participating in C40’s Climate Action Planning pilot programme and covers four key components of climate action planning: emissions neutrality, resilience, inclusivity and governance and collaboration.

C40 Cities - Focused Acceleration - A strategic approach to climate action in cities by 2030

C40 Cities have produced a report, analysing the biggest opportunities for cities to accelerate the reduction of their carbon emissions. It recommends cities focus on twelve opportunities across four action areas: decarbonising the electricity grid, optimising energy efficiency in buildings, enabling next generation mobility and improving waste management. 

C40 Cities - Adapting to Climate Change (2019)

C40 Cities have stated why mitigation and adaptation actions should be prioritised based on impact, benefits and ability to fulfil objectives and developed with the community and partners. There is a video where city practitioners explain why mitigation and adaptation should be combined in action plans.

The Exponential Roadmap

Highlighting the 36 solutions that can scale exponentially to halve Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2030 worldwide. Scaling of solutions comes from sharp policy, from climate leadership by companies and cities and from a finance and technology shift towards green solutions with exponential potential.

UK Fires

Communicating a road map to absolute zero from now until beyond 2050.

Hampshire County Council - Climate Change Behavioural Insights

Hampshire County Council, along with many other local authorities has declared a climate emergency and is working with partners to develop a strategy and action plan to achieve carbon reduction targets. This research was designed to support local authorities to work with their partners to reduce carbon consumption through changed behaviours.

Committee on Climate Change: 2020 Progess Report to Parliament

This is the Committee’s 2020 report to Parliament, assessing progress in reducing UK emissions over the past year. The report includes new advice to the UK Government on securing a green and resilient recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. It recommends that Ministers seize the opportunity to turn the COVID-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against climate change. For the first time, the Committee sets out its recommendations government department by government department