Northumberland County Council climate change action plan rated joint worst in the North East

A ranking with ‘scorecards’ for local authorities based on their response to the climate crisis has been published by a campaign group – with Northumberland County Council coming joint last in the North East.
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The ranking, put together by Climate Emergency UK, scores councils based on their response to 91 questions relating to carbon emissions and biodiversity loss.

The group say the criteria was created “through extensive research and consultation with council staff, councillors, campaigners and other organisations”.

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The ranking has put Durham County Council as the highest-rated council in the LA7 – the seven councils that cover the area which makes up the new North East Combined Authority – with a score of 47%. South Tyneside and Northumberland meanwhile came joint last, with a score of 26%.

Climate change activists stage a major protest in Newcastle. Photo: NCJ Media.Climate change activists stage a major protest in Newcastle. Photo: NCJ Media.
Climate change activists stage a major protest in Newcastle. Photo: NCJ Media.

Climate Emergency UK has called on councils to do more to tackle the crisis, after just 41 councils scored 50% or more. The average score across all authorities in the UK was just 32%.

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.

“Local factors, such as political will and community support, are at play in determining the action councils are taking to combat climate change.”

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However, the Local Government Association has criticised the system used.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: “We don’t support league tables as they often paint a two dimensional picture of the context that councils are working within, and unfairly compare councils with different challenges.

“Councils are already leading the way in transitioning to net zero and are ambitious to do more. Government needs to empower local climate action that can hit targets, mobilise support, and deliver on the evidence showing local approaches can save hundreds of billions.”

It has also been pointed out that the majority of authorities achieving higher scores were London boroughs, leading to accusations of a bias towards southern, urban councils.

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A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “Northumberland County Council is fully committed to tackling our contribution to climate change. We have made great strides in reducing carbon emissions in our county since declaring a climate emergency in 2019 and we are well on the way to halving our own carbon emissions by 2025.

“While we are disappointed with some of the scoring, we acknowledge that we need to improve how we publish and report on the work we are doing. We will be launching a new climate change website where our projects, investments and partnerships will be clearly reported to ensure that our progress is publicly available and easily accessible.

“We have a dedicated in-house climate change team which has been working hard on the next Climate Change Action Plan for 2024-26 which, once published, will set out the progress we have made and the continued plans we have to reduce carbon emissions, protect and restore our natural environment and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate. 

“A new Environment Policy Statement has been agreed which strengthens our commitment to maintaining, protecting and enhancing the environment of the county for the benefit of all. It outlines detailed plans to support biodiversity and local nature recovery. Through working closely with the county’s landowners and land managers the Future of Farming report has been produced which explores the most efficient use of land and sustainable production going forward. 

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“We continue to invest in infrastructure to reduce emissions and the new state-of-the-art Energy Central Learning Hub at the Port of Blyth is supporting the development of skills for low-carbon jobs.  

“Just this year we installed an innovative solar carport at our headquarters in Morpeth – the third of its kind in the UK. This will provide 40% of energy requirements for our head office building and powers scores of EV charge points to support the use of zero-tailpipe emission vehicles by our staff and fleet.

“Through our Environment and Climate Fund we are offering financial support to our communities, engaging them in climate action and encouraging them to make more sustainable changes. 

“Each year the council gives away 15,000 free trees to residents and community groups through its free tree scheme which is now in its third year of operation. It has increased tree planting in gardens and other green spaces across the county.

“These are just some of the ways the council is making strides for a greener more sustainable county, and we continue to work hard to ensure Northumberland is equipped for the future.”