Councils up and down the country have declared climate emergencies. But now, they must also respond to the COVID-19 crisis and develop a recovery plan. Is it possible to tackle both crises at the same time?

01 Sep 2021

Climate Action Plan for councils

We need councils to turn their political promises on the climate emergency into concrete action by adopting a climate action plan. Climate change can’t be side-lined because of the COVID-19 crisis. Climate change, nature restoration and the COVID-19 recovery need to be addressed simultaneously. The good news is that action on climate change and nature is good for COVID-19 recovery and our health.

To help get them started, we’ve created a template Climate Action Plan for councils in England and Wales, with 50 concrete steps they should take.

But they need to know local residents want it – that’s where you come in. We need communities to join together to convince their councils that an ambitious climate action plan is necessary in its own right but also will significantly contribute to COVID-19 recovery. The 50-point plan can be adapted to suit your area – after all, you know best what your community needs.

And as more and more communities and councils take climate action across the UK, pressure will mount on the national government to do the same. So let’s get to it.

How to use the plan

  1. Download the Climate Action Plan for councils in England and Wales.
  2. Discuss the Climate Action Plan with your group and allies – you might find our Explainer Guides helpful. Then edit the 50 actions to reflect your local context.
  3. Research what your council is already doing, particularly whether they are writing a Covid-19 recovery plan and/or Climate Action Plan.
  4. Prioritise the most important actions for your council to take straight away. Our handy postcode lookup tool is a good place to start.
  5. Get your community behind the plan. Put on on-line events and panel discussions. We’ve produced guides and tips on how to campaign during the COVID-19 crisis.
  6. Listen to what others think about how the plan could be improved and implemented.
  7. Lobby the council to adopt the plan. Start an online petition, organise socially distanced events and demonstrations, talk to the local media, and arrange meetings with your local councillors.

Affordability, co-benefits and carbon savings

We understand it can take councils time to tackle climate breakdown, so we've teamed up with sustainable energy charity Ashden to help you prioritise.

We've analysed some of the actions from the Climate Action Plan, and identified those which will have most impact in terms of carbon savings, affordability and co-benefits such as job creation and growing the economy. Find out more about the top Climate Actions for councils.

Tiers of government

This Climate Action Plan has been made for councils in England and Wales and is not applicable to those in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Some actions in the Plan will not be relevant for all councils due to the different powers and responsibilities they have. We understand it can take councils time to tackle climate breakdown, so we've teamed up with sustainable energy charity Ashden to help you prioritise. Read more about the top climate actions based on biggest impact in terms of carbon savings, affordability and co-benefits such as job creation.

There are different types of local authorities:

  • two-tier local authorities (eg county councils, district councils);
  • unitary authorities;
  • metropolitan authorities;
  • and combined local authorities.

Some combined authorities have a mayor who has specific powers over local decision-making.

We've put together a table to show you which local authorities can take which actions.

Types of local authorities and the powers they have
Which actions can each type of local authority take? Friends of the Earth

Your council’s Climate Action Plan should take into account the different needs, geography and demographics of your local area.

In dense urban areas, like central London boroughs, homes will be responsible for the majority of emissions. In smaller cities, or more suburban or rural areas, transport may be the largest source. You can find out more about your area in our handy postcode look-up tool.

That's why we're encouraging groups to prioritise the parts of the plan that are most relevant for their area.

Even so, we'd like all councils to commit to improving decision-making, raising money and campaigning – as these actions really can have a big impact on the success of the overall plan.

We want to see councils commit to all of these actions, or at least a large majority. We particularly want councils to pass a motion in support the joint call to action to government from green groups and local government association (the blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level).

The next stage will be deciding how to hold councils to account for these commitments.

As our campaign progresses and we continue to share and learn from each other, we will likely adapt the Climate Action Plan for councils. So please let us know if you have any feedback by emailing [email protected].

Climate Action