What's a Climate Action Plan and can it help your area?

In the last few years, the climate crisis has shot up the agenda in local and national elections. Leaders and decision-makers have been keen to show they take climate seriously. But how can we turn election promises into action?
  Published:  22 Jun 2021    |      3 minute read

Whether it’s saving up for a holiday or studying for a qualification, most long-term goals need a plan – a breakdown of the steps you need to take to achieve your goal.

The same applies to tackling climate breakdown. It’s all well and good saying we need to reduce emissions and help nature flourish, but we need a plan of action to ensure those goals are reached.

Introducing: The Climate Action Plan

Thankfully, you don’t have to start a plan from scratch. We’ve made a series of plans for different levels of government, but the most popular plan within our grassroots network is the Climate Action Plan for Councils [PDF]. It contains 50 actions that councils can take to make their area more climate and nature friendly, and is split into key areas like:

  • Protecting our most vulnerable from the effects of climate change.
  • Ensuring new builds are well insulated and have eco-aware fittings.
  • Increasing and improving public transportation provisions.
  • Enabling and supporting the use of renewable energy.
  • Promoting sustainable consumption in order to to become a zero-waste area
  • Ensuring everyone has access to green spaces.

Essentially, the goal of the plan is to ensure that climate and nature restoration goals are front and centre in all decision-making and investments.

Will councils listen?

The good news is that councils are used to working to plans. Most councils already work to one called a “Local Plan”.

A Local Plan is a document used by councils that sets out their vision for how land in the area is used, usually over a five-year period. The Climate Action Plan should influence the Local Plan, and any other plans the councils adopt that might impact an area’s biodiversity or emissions.

Why is a Climate Action Plan good for my area?

If done properly, taking climate action will improve the standard of living for everyone in your community. By getting your council to adopt and implement a Climate Action Plan, you can help your area achieve:

  • Cleaner air and improved health (the rise of pollutants in cities has been linked to poor health).
  • Better access to green spaces, providing pockets of peace and play-space, as well as letting our wildlife thrive.
  • Better public transport provisions to reduce air pollution and keep us safe and well-connected.
  • Eco-heating provisions so we can end fuel poverty and poorly insulated home.
  • A more circular economy, through promotion of re-use, re-something, recycle.

And the list goes on. If you’re not sure about what exactly needs tackling in your local area, you can always use our data-driven postcode tool "Near Me" to help you understand what improvements could be made in your local area.

How our grassroots network use Climate Action Plans

Our grassroots network helps combat the global climate crisis by tackling issues in their areas. From lobbying MPs and fighting airport expansion to planting trees, community groups are taking the urgent action needed to tackle the climate crisis.

Campaigning on elections

In the May 2021 elections, our network campaigned to get councillors, Senedd candidates, the London Assembly and Metro Mayors to take our Climate Action Pledge. Pledging meant candidates committed to implementing a Climate Action Plan in their local area or region.

Groups across England and Wales organised almost 40 public hustings, secured meetings with candidates, and got the word out by local media and social media to raise the profile of climate action in the elections. And our supporters sent thousands of emails to candidates to help strengthen the call to action.

Their incredible work prompted some great results:

  • 6 out of the 8 elected Metro Mayors took the Climate Action Pledge (that’s 75%)
  • 56% of elected London Assembly also pledged
  • 41% of Senedd candidates signed the Climate Action Pledge, as did
  • More than 500 councillor candidates.

Turning words into action

The election pledges have been very promising. But as we all know, securing action from our decision-makers often relies on local people speaking up and demanding more.

Take Leicester, for example. Back in December 2019, Leicester City Council had a public consultation on climate to gauge residents’ opinions on what should be done. During the meeting, council members mention a final draft was due on the area’s Local Plan.

Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire
Credit: Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire

There’s a small window of opportunity for residents to respond to a Local Plan before it’s “locked in”, so grassroots groups and concerned individuals* forged allies and joined together to research the Local Plan and highlight to councillors and other key decision-makers exactly what was missing.

Zina Zelter, from Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire, used our Climate Action Plan as a starting point for seeking action from council on climate concerns.

Their joint campaigning paid off. As well as receiving a swift response from the Deputy Mayor, the Mayor declared that the Local Plan was not a last draft and further consultation would take place before it’s published.

Get involved

Whether you're in a rural area or live in an urban centre, every neighbourhood has things that could be improved upon.

The first step is finding out what needs improving. Happily, we've got a tool to help you figure out just that – and how you can join others in your community to make a difference. All you need is your postcode.

*Individuals and grassroots groups included Climate Action Leicester and Leicestershire, Leicester Friends of the Earth and campaigners Hannah Wakley and Sarah Shaw.