This roundtable hosted climate change teams from a range of local authorities, supporting them with the creation and development of climate action plans, by sharing learning through facilitated peer support.
Roundtables provide a critical opportunity for councils to share learning through facilitated peer support. Enabling them to share and expand on the challenges they are currently facing and recognising the best practice that could support them.
This roundtable saw the LGA putting this technique into practice, hosting climate change teams from a range of local authorities. It aimed to support councils with the creation and development of climate action plans, by sharing learning through facilitated peer support. We also heard from two inspiring speakers, whose notes are outlined beneath.
Cara Jenkinson, Cities Manager, Ashden: Top tips for producing an impactful Climate Action Plan
Ashden supports proven climate innovation in the UK and developing countries. Ensuring that on the ground solutions are utilised, driving the systems changes our planet needs. For the roundtable they produced a “Top tips for producing an impactful Climate Action Plan” presentation, to support attending councils thinking when developing an action plan.
Tried and tested solutions
There are currently many examples of best practice in action across the UK and beyond that can support councils to reach their climate goals. Taking time to review these practices and recognising which will best meet your needs is crucial to developing an effective Climate Action Plan. Examples of best practice and supporting tools can be found on Ashden's website and councils can access further support through their three regional support hubs.
Some examples of best practice include:
- London Councils Climate guidance and toolkits
- CSE’s Climate Emergency Action Planning Tool for Local Government
- Climate Emergency UK Action Plan Checklist
- Ashden Co-Benefits Toolkit and 31 Climate Actions tool
- Ashden Learning Out Loud platform
- Road to Zero: Council Action on Green Jobs and Skills report
Create a vision
Ensure that you have a clear timeline that enables you to meet your targets, this should include targets for 2030, 2040, 2050. Include clear governance, outlining who is responsible for each element of the action plan. Put in place clear scrutiny and monitoring to ensure that targets are being met. Work with other departments across the council so that the action plan fits with other strategies and the different tiers of local government.
The scope of Climate Action Plans needs to be wide ranging and utilise all the opportunities that are available to councils, both internally and externally. This should include clear focuses on carbon, ecology, adaptation and resources. Utilising partnerships is vital and these should include with business, the NHS, community groups, the finance sector, schools, Further Education colleges.
Diversity and inclusion
To make sure that Climate Action Plans support everyone, we must recognise who climate action will impact most. There should be a focus on how best to use resources to benefit vulnerable communities. This includes addressing accessibility and connectivity issues that prevent people from accessing key services. We must also reach out and engage with under-represented groups, ensuring that they are included throughout our planning and delivery. All plans must also recognise the intergenerational inequity of climate change impacts and use community engagement to ensure all communities are able to take part in the Climate Action Planning process.
The scope of Climate Action Plans needs to be wide ranging and utilise all the opportunities that are available to councils, both internally and externally.
Questions and Answers
Councils are finding that there is lots of buy in both internally and externally to support and engage with Climate Action Plans. This creates time pressure to effectively engage with all partners. What could be done to reduce this?
Councils should look to embed carbon literacy training, ensuring a wider range of staff within each council can support these pressures. It will also have co benefits, as this brings in cross department buy in, brings the themes together and makes other departments aware of the wider need.
How are other local authorities splitting out their actions, are they doing this by geography?
The most common answer was that they are being split internally and externally.
Are there any examples of good practice around scrutiny that attendees would recommend?
Community is key and action/delivery is important; however, the community needs to see the progress to keep them motivated. If councils are seeking an example of effective community engagement, Enfield is a good example.
Should councils build in time for supporting and engaging with national strategy?
Yes, this is a good idea. It is worth councils capturing what is needed and then considering the best partners to work with.
Governance structure can become very wide and make delivery more convoluted, are there any resources that could support?
Small groups that lead to wider reference groups could support. Creating a layered approach. However, there is a resource gap in this space that needs to be looked at.
If councils look to model the borough/city wide approach who is best to involve and what guidance is out there?
There is a need for a layered approach when involving people, keeping dialogue open and ensuring that the information used does not overwhelm those engaged. In terms of who this should include the focus should be on core groups and then move onto smaller groups.
Break Out Session 1: Progress so far
Councils’ top climate change action plan achievements to date
- Several councils spoke about having effectively developed and delivered a partnership approach, working with institutions and stakeholders to accelerate Climate Action Plans and wider community buy in.
- Some councils highlighted the work they had undertaken with their local Combined Authority (CA) to develop integrated Action plans, enabling the CA to focus on national policy and councils to focus on district level delivery.
- Some councils have altered the time frames in which they monitor actions and develop reports, as annual is time consuming and can affect staff’s ability to focus on delivery. The change has given teams more time to focus on bid writing and local delivery.
- Most councils in attendance are developing a two-tiered approach between councils and districts and internal and external stakeholders. Spreading out the actions required and embedding partnership working.
What has one key challenge been in developing/implementing your climate action plan? How have you started to overcome or mitigate it?
- Due to the size of council’s climate change teams, it can be difficult to create resources, collect data and report on emissions. Some councils have used external providers to develop Action Plans, reducing the resource burden.
- Most councils have found the first-year, resource intensive, with this dropping off slightly in the second year. It is hoped that by the third year there will be enough processes in place to make the roles less resource intensive.
- Getting department buy in across the council for shared responsibility, shared delivery and collaborative working across departments has been challenging. This is compounded by key departments struggling with long-term thinking and investment due to short term needs.
- All attendees agreed that the current resources are below what is required to ensure that councils can meet their targets. This is exacerbated by funding windows tending to be very short, making bidding difficult, especially as teams have little time to develop oven ready projects.
- Scope 3 emissions create a challenge, as addressing them will require buy in from big local providers. Who will need to understand how they will pay for measurement of their scope three emissions and how this will work in practice?
- There is a need for more effective partnership working and better community engagement, ensuring that the voices heard are from a wider cross-section. An example of this is ensuring that when working with communities you develop the right conversation, as if you do not make the relevant adjustments, it is easy to switch off a community’s interest in the topic.
- There is a need for better use of cost benefit analysis to show the value of climate work beyond meeting net zero and climate action targets. One issue is that financial benefits usually accrue to other partners such as the NHS. Not translating into additional finance for councils, which is something that needs to be explored with such partners.
Climate Manager, Wiltshire Council
Wiltshire Climate Strategy 2022-2027 has recently been signed off by members and focuses on 7 Delivery Themes – Transport, Homes & the Built Environment, Natural Environment, Food & Farming, Energy, Green Economy, Resources & Waste and their Carbon Neutral Council.
Their community engagement plans entailed:
- delivering webinars to key stakeholder organisations
- delivering a formal public consultation, that reached over 1,000 responses
- a carefully planned social media campaign that reached 750,000 individuals
- a dedicated series of webinars for schools
- a survey aimed at understanding the work that is already happening outside of the council, leading to a comprehensive FAQs document available to all.
This approach has been recognised with a Climate Emergency UK scorecard star and is being further developed through council newsletters, a Climate & Environment Forum and a further communications campaign.
From Strategy to Action
Wiltshire have used a variety of methods to develop their strategy including Anthesis studies “Pathways to carbon neutral”, feedback from their Council Climate Plan Scorecard, the Climate Strategy Consultation responses they received, Councillor recommendations from their Climate Emergency Task Group and discussions with colleagues.
In terms of actions, they have started by building on existing relationships, continuing to create buy in. All their delivery plans are signed off through delegated decisions, going through internal consultation and published as part of 6 monthly updates to Cabinet. The factors that have influenced their prioritisation have been impact (Carbon savings or ‘Transformation potential’), the co-benefits, levers of influence, potential barriers and opportunities and the effort, cost and urgency.
They have created a delivery plan format, using existing technology. This has allowed them to update and showcase work already in progress and any future provision. The plan now has specific actions and targets, reflecting climate strategy ‘principles and levers of influence’. Which they are monitoring and measuring using a no-frills delivery plan table made up of actions, status, measures of success, which doubles as their reporting framework. The table includes all the co-benefits, KPIs agreed with colleagues, what is delivered and by when, ongoing reviews, the finer definition of actions over time and ongoing delivery while they work to understand the data and evidence better.
The climate change team have found developing plans to have unexpected challenges:
- It has taken longer than anticipated to get political sign off on, due in part to having to show the wider value of our planning beyond just climate impact.
- Common understanding between service areas not being as developed as expected and an expectation that everything required can all be done at once.
- From an implementation perspective, there are issues around capacity, leaving the team unable to deliver all elements of the action plan at the same time. Currently there is not the skills and supply available locally to deliver on all the climate actions. There is a need to develop more knowledge and evidence to support the climate change teams’ actions and gain further political support.
- The largest challenge the team faces is funding and costs. They currently have a team of six people, and this will need to grow substantially if they are to deliver on the climate action plans. Currently the funding and cost of projects defines the role of their climate team and reduces the overall impact that can be achieved.
Through carefully planned cross department engagement the team have managed to agree and develop ownership of climate actions across service areas. This is in part down to the Carbon Management Plan work undertaken by the council pre-climate emergency.
The team have further embedded climate considerations by working with the wider council to embed climate in the council’s business plan and service planning. The long-term ambition is to take this a step further by embedding the Doughnut Economics ‘Decision Wheel’ as the council’s key impact assessment tool.
In terms of what the council has delivered practically, they have delivered a solar (Solar Together) bulk buy scheme, aimed at supporting the sector to develop. They created a Public Sector Decarbonising Scheme and the council’s own a council carbon budget, developed to support its delivery. Developed and delivered council homes retrofit programmes and developed several retrofit programmes on Council owned properties. Created a Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy and a Socially Responsible Procurement Policy.
Breakout Session 2 - What does the future have in store?
How can we ensure that collaboration with local partners is integral to the climate action plan in order to reach net zero and adaptation goals, together?
- Action plans are crucial, as they can widen the responsibility across the council and with local partners. This can reduce silos and maximise the impact the council can have, through recognising funding and provision that can support climate change actions and taking advantage of other departments’ contacts and partnerships.
- Councils should look to invest in informal environment champions, creating pledge declarations that partners can sign up to. This will enable them to delegate responsibility out, creating external partners’ responsibility.
- Councils need to consider the way that they speak about the topic. There is a need for varying language depending upon who we are looking to work with. If the wrong language is used, this can stop people/partners engaging. An example of best practice is East Devon, who have not mentioned climate in their communications, even though large amounts of their work is climate focused. This allows them to talk to partners and the community about the impact without having to address climate.
- There needs to be a focus on developing wider partnership pools, as it will be difficult to utilise existing partnership models to meet targets. This is possible by developing a partner list, then engage and maintain strong relationships with those that show most interest.
- Having said the above it is also crucial that councils reach out to different community groups that would not ordinarily be engaged with the council or with climate issues.
- We should work with local schools to establish a schools’ climate change network, to better understand the work they are undertaking on climate, both with students and as an organisation, leading to the development of a schools’ network, aimed at further supporting their work.
- Develop partnership groups that can work effectively together on key parts of the action plan, such as linking up universities and other research and development groups to ensure that research is leading decision making, and the development of robust evidence. An example is working with creative communities to develop links between culture and climate action. Such an approach will then allow you to split actions as best fits partners’ skills and knowledge, spreading carbon emission targets out among the community.
- Climate action officers who hold overarching actions, should look to break these down, so that relevant sections can be delivered by relevant officers in other departments. Such an approach would enable delivery to be built into monthly meetings and enable councils to use power bi analysis creating tangible data.
How are you monitoring delivery against the objectives in your climate action plan?
Some councils have focused on setting quick, easy targets and producing annual plans. They are creating reports that focus on objectives rather than targets, which does make it difficult to create a balance between accountability and reporting. However, it does mean that they have been able to secure short term wins to strengthen the department’s position in the council.
Some have focused on case studies to help illustrate how it looks on the ground rather than just numbers. Others have created a more visual report, which has helped with better engagement across the council and with wider partners and stakeholders.
Best practice shared between attendees:
- Climate Outreach
- Home (netzerogo.org.uk)
- Senior officer leadership training: carbon literacy | Local Government Association
- Net Zero Innovation Programme | Local Government Association
- Greenhouse Gas Accounting Tool - Local Partnerships
- Building Housing Retrofit Skills Webinar -Local Government Association
- Local Government Association - climate change bulletin
- Collective for Climate Action