TWO Somerset councils have been recognised by a climate action organisation for having the best plans for tackling the climate emergency in the UK.

Climate Emergency UK is a not-for-profit cooperative that works with councils to share best practice about climate change and the ecological emergency to encourage effective action.

The organisation has ranked the climate action plans of the UK’s 409 local authorities after scoring them in nine categories.

Scores are given as percentages, and the councils are divided into categories (single tier, district, county, and combined councils, and local authorities in Northern Ireland).

Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) topped the leaderboard for district councils with a total score of 92 per cent, while Somerset County Council ranked highest in its category with a score of 63 per cent.

Across all categories, SWT was the only local authority to score above 90 per cent.

County councils received an average score of 40 per cent, while district councils averaged 43 per cent.

Councillor Dixie Darch, SWT’s executive member for climate change, said: “We are beyond proud to be the top-ranking district council.

“Congratulations are due to all officers and councillors, past and present, who have worked to put us in this position.

“We are committed to creating a more sustainable future for everyone, putting climate and environmental responsibility at the heart of everything we do.

“This involves direct action and policy, partnership working, enabling organisations and communities, leading by example and supporting individuals.

“The challenge has never been greater for local councils: it is essential we rise to that challenge."

SWT’s climate change initiatives include declaring its boundaries a fracking-free zone; pledging to manage its council services, building and land in a biodiversity-friendly way, and entering a partnership agreement with Sedgemoor District Council to deliver joint climate change actions.

Somerset County Gazette: TOP-RANKING: SWT is "beyond proud" of its 92 per cent scorecardTOP-RANKING: SWT is "beyond proud" of its 92 per cent scorecard

It is also part of Somerset’s Climate Emergency Strategy in partnership with Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor, Mendip, and South Somerset District Councils.

Climate Emergency UK recognised the councils’ joint effort as an example of best practice.

Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council cabinet member for climate change, said: “We’ve set out ambitious plans to help Somerset become carbon neutral by 2030, and we’re delighted to see this work being recognised nationally.

“We know there is a lot to do, and we can’t do it alone, so it is great to see Somerset’s district councils recognised too.

“Tackling the climate emergency is at the forefront of our decision making at Somerset County Council and we are determined to build on the good work done so far across Somerset.”

The county council has several schemes underway, including its £1.5 million Climate Emergency Community Fund, which has so far been used to develop 44 community projects which aim to help create a climate-resilient county.

Somerset County Gazette: NEW SCHOOL: A computer-generated image of how the 'Passivhaus' primary school in Comeytrowe could lookNEW SCHOOL: A computer-generated image of how the 'Passivhaus' primary school in Comeytrowe could look

It is also working on ‘decarbonising’ a number of its buildings, including County Hall in Taunton, its Glastonbury Hub, and some of its libraries.

The council is also building a 420-place ‘Passivhaus’ primary school in Comeytrowe, Taunton, which aims to be fossil-free in its daily operations.

The Climate Emergency UK total scores for Somerset’s other councils were:

  • Sedgemoor District Council: 71 per cent
  • Mendip District Council: 71 per cent
  • South Somerset District Council: 57 per cent
  • Bath and North East Somerset Council (single tier): 50 per cent
  • North Somerset Council (single tier): 33 per cent

Next year, the cooperative will assess the actions being taken by councils to reduce their emissions and improve biodiversity, giving a broader view than looking only at their action plans.

Ian Beevor of Climate Emergency UK said: “Councils may be doing good things which aren’t reflected in their action plan.

"That is why next year, we will be assessing all councils on what they are actually doing."

He added: “Local authorities can help to deliver 30 per cent of the cuts in carbon emissions needed to get to net zero, according to the sixth UK Carbon Budget published a year ago, so it is vital that councils do as much as they can.

“While we understand that councils need much more support and funding from national government, and have been stretched by responding to the pandemic, the fact that some councils have developed well thought out, costed and ambitious plans, shows that it is possible.”

Somerset County Gazette: COUNTY HALL: Somerset County Council's Taunton building is one of several it is working to 'decarbonise'COUNTY HALL: Somerset County Council's Taunton building is one of several it is working to 'decarbonise'

According to Climate Emergency UK, around one in five local authorities have not published plans to tackle climate change, “despite most having declared a climate emergency more than two years ago”.

For more information on Somerset County Council’s work to tackle climate change, visit:

For more information about the work SWT is doing, visit:

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