PCAN Report: Trends in Local Climate Action in the UK

Candice Howarth, John Barry, James Dyson, Sam Fankhauser, Andy Gouldson, Kate Lock, Alice Owen and Nick Robins

Published 18 March 2021

There is strong, vibrant and broad-based support for more climate action at the local level in the UK, but a lack of capacity and expertise, exacerbated by COVID-19, has affected some local authorities’ ability to respond.

A new report by the Place-Based Climate Action Network (PCAN) has found that three out of four local authorities have declared a climate emergency but these have been followed up with new or updated climate action plans in only 62% of cases.

However, new institutional models that promote more inclusive, partnership-based approaches to local climate action are taking off, with a growing number of local climate commissions, action networks and participatory forums like climate assemblies and juries.

The report also highlights the role played by local businesses and the financial sector, and the need for a just transition to underpin the response to climate change to ensure people and communities are not left behind.


The report takes stock of local climate action in the UK in 2020, providing a snapshot that shows how the momentum generated by climate emergency declarations in 2019 has been impacted by a combination of the pandemic and inconsistent support from national government.

It makes a suite of recommendations, including:

  • Local authorities should: follow up their climate emergency declarations with new or updated climate action plans; adopt a partnership-based approach to climate action involving non-state private and civic actors as well as the public sector; develop climate finance strategies to mobilise local savings and attract investment in climate action measures.
  • National government and the devolved administrations should: recognise and leverage the agency and power of local communities in fighting climate change; put in place a coherent framework to support local climate action, backed by centrally driven funds, resources and skills; tackle the policy and institutional barriers that hold back climate action, recognising that national policy uncertainty can thwart place-based climate action.
  • Local climate change communities should: broaden the scope of climate action to include adaptation and a just transition, utilising sustainable recovery strategies from COVID-19; formalise the drive for zero-carbon communities through structures like climate commissions; collaborate with their local university, national government and local authorities to improve the knowledge base on climate action.

A launch event for the report was held on 18 March 2021. Watch the recording of the webinar.

Download the full report and a policy summary below.


Appendices for the report are available below, together with a spreadsheet showing climate emergency declarations in the UK.

  • The PCAN team is keen to receive further input so if you have new data to supplement or update this, please let us know (email c.howarth@lse.ac.uk). 
  • You are free to use this data but please cite the PCAN report: Howarth, C., Barry, J.,Dyson, J., Fankhauser, S., Gouldson, A., Lock, K., Owen, A., Robins, N. (2021) Trends in Local Climate Action in the UK. A report by the Place-Based Climate Action Network (PCAN). UK
  • Please also let us know how/if you use the data so we can keep track of impact.


Image: Leeds Climate Change Citizens' Jury