1. mySociety recommendations in new ‘The Future Is Local’ report

    Over the summer, we were invited to be a part of the Local Mission Zero Network consultation, and we’re thrilled that our key fragmented data policy recommendations have been included in the new report, as well as recognition for some of our wider work on climate. 

    Rt Hon Chris Skidmore OBE MP, former Net Zero Review Chair and one of the co-authors of the report, said:

    “The Local Mission Zero Network’s first report, The Future Is Local, sets out over thirty recommendations to further the Net Zero Review’s local delivery mission. It’s clear that if central government won’t step up, it should get out of the way and allow local and regional leaders to forge ahead with their positive vision to achieve local Net Zero in partnership with communities up and down the country. Unleashing their ambition is the most effective way to harness the economic and regional growth opportunities that Net Zero can unlock.

    I’d like to thank MySociety for their involvement in the network and also for their input in making key recommendations on the need for better data and information to achieve Net zero.”

    The report, co-authored with Lord Ben Houchen, released today, is “intended not only to highlight the continued challenges facing the local delivery of net zero, it also seeks to frame these challenges into a new framework for ensuring local authorities and regions have the certainty to achieve their net zero ambitions”. It is a much needed intervention, and makes clear that “in the current policy environment, and ahead of the next General Election, greater certainty over local net zero is essential”.

    Within Recommendation 1, Introduce a Local Net Zero Charter to agree responsibilities and enhance partnership between the UK government, devolved governments and regional, city and local authorities, there are three specific recommendations relating to our fragmented data work:

    1f) A Local Net Zero Data and Reporting Framework should be established, in order to provide consistency and increase integrity for reporting across local authorities.

    1g) The Net Zero Review recommended that ONS should collect more forms of net zero related data, and this network maintains that net zero will be better delivered the more we know, and where we know action needs to take place.

    1h) The need for open source and operable data is also important, if we are to encourage better uses of AI and future systems thinking. This data to be held in a central repository, supported by a central government data convenor.

    In the Unlocking the value of fragmented public data report we published last year, we stress the importance of local climate data being published in a way that is useful, ultimately creating positive feedback loops across the economy. It’s great to see the report emphasise this:

    “The challenge of fragmented and inoperable data standards is not merely a matter for more effective local authority performance. The future of energy system planning could be better forecast if several datasets were better aligned.” 

    The body of the report also highlights our conclusions about the kinds of climate data we need:

    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.

    Finally, our CAPE project was mentioned as “effective monitor[ing]”, and we were so pleased to see the work we do with Climate Emergency UK to create the Climate Scorecards recognised: “By simplifying complex data, it allowed stakeholders to identify gaps and progress in climate initiatives, empowering communities to advocate for change”.

    If you’d like to read the report in full, you can find it here. You may even want to share some of the recommendations from the report with your MP, which you could do using our service WriteToThem

    Any questions for our policy team? Get in touch: policy@mysociety.org 

  2. Empowering local change together: mySociety joins the Blueprint Coalition

    We’re delighted to announce that mySociety has joined the Blueprint Coalition – an influential group of local government organisations, environmental groups, and research institutions working together to deliver local climate action with a joined-up approach. 

    The Coalition works across sectoral, geographical and party boundaries to make change happen. We’re excited to join the other members in calling upon the government to provide the crucial support local authorities need to deliver on tackling the climate crisis.

    About mySociety

    Becoming a part of the Blueprint Coalition isn’t just a milestone; it’s a commitment to a cause larger than ourselves. As mySociety joins hands with like-minded organisations, we are poised to make significant progress in our aim to make climate-related data more accessible. We believe that more information makes for better-informed action, so everything we do puts richer, more usable data into the open, where everyone can use it. 

    Our Climate, Transparency and Democracy streams consist of a number of services (such as CAPE, Climate Scorecards, TheyWorkForYou, WriteToThem, and WhatDoTheyKnow) which we bring to the Coalition alongside our research, policy and advocacy work. Our policy work has been focusing on the issue of fragmented data, and we’re excited to be planning a webinar on this topic with the Coalition – watch this space!

    About the Blueprint Coalition

    In December 2020, the Blueprint Coalition published a comprehensive manifesto that serves as a roadmap to expedite climate action and usher in a green recovery at the local level. It outlines the national leadership, policies, powers, and funding required to empower local authorities in making impactful changes on a substantial scale. Drawing on the first-hand experiences of local authorities that have declared climate emergencies, this blueprint serves as a guiding light for collective action towards a sustainable future.

    A defining feature of the Blueprint Coalition is its central ethos of fostering partnerships between civil society, national and local governments. Recognising that achieving net zero carbon emissions requires the collaboration of all levels of governance, the Coalition’s work serves as a testament to the power of collaboration.

    The Coalition partners include: 

    • Ashden
    • Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Transport and Planning (ADEPT)
    • Centre for Alternative Technology
    • Climate Emergency UK
    • Friends of the Earth
    • Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment (Imperial College London)
    • London Environment Directors’ Network (LEDNet)
    • Place-based Climate Action Network (PCAN) at LSE
    • Solace
    • in addition to support from London Councils and Green Alliance.

    If you’d like to show your support for the Coalition, you can sign up here. And to stay updated on our Climate programme, you can sign up to our newsletter.

    Any other questions or comments? Get in touch with Julia, our Policy & Advocacy Manager.

    Image: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. See page for author.

  3. From fragmentation to collaboration: strengthening local climate data

    We’ve recently published a report on fragmented data and local councils’ climate action. Download it here.

    At all levels of government, and across the UK, there is growing recognition of the importance of local government in achieving the UK’s climate commitments. From this, there is a growing need to understand the impact of the interventions taking place at a local authority level, and as such, there are growing calls from central government and civil society for more climate data publishing. 

    We recognise that these calls for more data do not always take into account the resources needed from within authorities to prepare this data, nor how to make the data useful to the authorities that published it in the first place.

    More data publishing makes the climate data ecosystem richer, but smarter data publishing makes it more useful. If we replicate the history of previous central mandates to publish information, we will repeat mistakes that found local authorities using limited resources to put out data in ways that are far too costly to bring together and build upon.

    We call this problem fragmented public data, and believe that a little bit more coordination and central support can supercharge the value of the data that local government produces. We need better tools and a better understanding of the skills and resources available to council staff. A realistic analysis of resource limitations of local government, and working with council staff who produce the data, will create more useful results, than a ‘best practice’ that requires obstructively high levels of technical skill. 

    Central government has a role in providing more than an edict to publish: it must offer the support and resources to facilitate cooperation and publication of data spread over hundreds of local authorities. Net zero data publication does not have to be a burden. Together, civil society, central and local governments can come together to create a data ecosystem that is greater than the sum of its parts.  To build that ecosystem, we propose the following key principles:

    • A collaborative (but compulsory) data standard to agree the data and format that is expected.
    • A central repository of the location of the published data, which is kept up to date with new releases of data.
    • Support from a data convener to make publication simple – such as, through validation and publication tools, coordinating data submissions, and technical support.

    Take action


  4. What local climate data do we need?

    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

    1. To understand local authority emissions: structured data of council’s scope 1-3  emissions
    2. To understand the effect on the area: Broader data about the local authority’s influence and activities in their wider local area
    3. 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. 

    Progress tracking 

    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: 

    1. A collaborative (but required) data standard to agree the data and format that is expected. 
    2. An online central repository of the location of the published data, so that data users can find it easily.
    3. 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. 

    Take action

    This is an evolving document and we want your feedback! Get in touch.


    Header image: Jason Blackeye on Unsplash