Councils Ranked on Net Zero Progress

Environmental Policies

Four years after councils started declaring climate emergencies, Climate Emergency UK
has found that the majority of UK councils are underperforming in their journey towards net
zero. As the first organisation to assess all UK councils on their progress, Climate
Emergency UK found that only 41 councils in the UK scored 50% or more for their climate
action, the average score being 32%. The results, published as Council Climate Action
Scorecards, and can be explored in full here. According to the survey, scorecards were
not submitted by the former Craven District and North Yorkshire CC which were
replaced by North Yorkshire (Unitary) Council on 1 April 2023. This council will be
assessed in future Scorecard editions.

The Scorecards questions were created after consultation with over 80 organisations and
experts individuals within the climate sector, such as Green Finance Institute, Ashden,
councilors and council staff and mySociety (Scorecard partners).

Councils are assessed according to a three stage marking process, primarily using publicly
available data from council websites, as well as national data and FOI responses from

The survey work was completed between January and August 2023.

The average score for Scottish councils was 34%, 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.

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 &

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.

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, it published the Council Climate Plan Scorecard- 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.

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

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 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.

Annie 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”.

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