Around one third of the UK’s emissions are within the power or influence of local authorities. Every local authority across the UK must be taking action to tackle climate change, in order for the UK to reach its 2050 net zero goal, and for local authorities themselves to reach their own net zero targets.
mySociety builds services that support local authorities and their communities in their climate action planning. Through tools like the Climate Action Plan Explorer (CAPE) and our work on Climate Scorecards, we bring together local authority climate plans from across the country to make knowledge sharing easier, and the information more accessible. We know that council officers already use CAPE when seeking out best practice in different policy areas, but in order to improve these tools we need more data, and for that data to be published in an open format. That way, we can build and combine the data to make it more accessible, and more useful, for everyone.
The data we need
- To understand local authority emissions: structured data of council’s scope 1-3 emissions
- To understand the effect on the area: Broader data about the local authority’s influence and activities in their wider local area
- To understand development, setbacks and changes: Context and reflections from the public body on their own progress and future plans
Running through this, this information needs to be published in a way that avoids the problem of public fragmented data, to unlock the most value from publishing this data.
Understanding local authority emissions
84% of councils have a commitment to bring their own emissions, or those of their area, to net zero by a certain date. To this, it’s essential for public bodies to publish structured data of their scope 1-3 emissions.
These scope 1 (direct operational), scope 2 (indirect from supplied electricity & heat) and scope 3 (supply chain & other indirect) emissions should be broken down by source and by year, from a baseline year. Reporting templates for this are already in use for local authorities in Scotland and Wales.
Understanding and sharing local authorities impact on their area
In addition to scope 1-3 emissions, the ‘one third’ figure above draws on the fact that local authorities have considerable influence over their wider local area. To help build a more detailed picture of the work taking place across local authority areas, we need structured data covering:
- Organisational plans and targets relevant to climate change, progress against these, and plans for future progress. These plans and targets are generated internally by the local authority or public body, but should capture the work they are doing internally and externally to support their wider community. For example, Aberdeen City Council’s recent submission using the Scottish Framework highlighted their Housing Strategy which included energy efficiency measures for privately owned, privately rented, and social housing.
- Details of carbon saving projects across the local area. These will be unique to the reporting body, but will again illustrate what is taking place across that authority’s local area, and may provide inspiration and opportunity for other public bodies. In the Scottish template, authorities are asked to provide structured data about all carbon savings from projects, and the top 10 carbon reduction projects to be carried out by the body in the report year.
- Risk assessments and action plans for climate adaptation. These help to build a picture of the planning across the local area, and sharing this will help councils facing similar challenges to enhance their own planning.
In order to provide the most useful data and tools, we also need to know more about how local authorities reflect on their own progress. In these instances, free text which we can semantically search, is often most helpful. We need data around:
- Personnel, systems & processes to manage climate monitoring and reporting. This helps us to understand who is doing the work, and how resource allocation happens.
- Progress since the last reporting period, and key areas of focus for the period ahead. This gives a vital sense of context and perspective from inside the reporting body, and helps situate the scale of work undertaken against work yet to be done.
Publishing data usefully
Requirements to publish data put extra costs on public authorities. As such, we need to make sure that this is done in a way that the data is most useful and accessible.
Fragmented public data is a problem that happens when many organisations are required to publish the same data, but not to a common standard or in a common location. With The Centre for Public Data, mySociety has published recommendations on unlocking the value of fragmented public data. We recommend:
- A collaborative (but required) data standard to agree the data and format that is expected.
- An online central repository of the location of the published data, so that data users can find it easily.
- Support from the data convener to make publication simple and effective.
This applies to information directly about climate data, but is also a useful requirement for any new requirement to publish. For instance, while both EPC ratings and datasets of council assets are required to be published, in practice the lack of a coordinated publishing approach for assets data means this data cannot be combined to understand energy efficiency of council properties across the country.
This is an evolving document and we want your feedback! Get in touch.
- Read the Fragmented Data report (written by mySociety and the Centre for Public Data) for more detail, examples and case studies.
- Sign up for our climate newsletter
- Contact Julia, our Policy and Advocacy Manager, to see how to implement our recommendations in your local area.