Near you: methodology

Friends of the Earth has sourced data by local authority area on a range of issues relevant to climate change. Most data are from official government sources but where these aren’t available other credible datasets have been used, or Friends of the Earth has conducted in-house analysis.

19 May 2022

Friends of the Earth has sourced data by local authority area on a range of issues relevant to climate change, nature and health. Most data are from official government sources. Where these aren’t available, other credible datasets have been used, or Friends of the Earth has conducted in-house analysis. All data sources are described and referenced below.

A series of official 2030 goals by local authority area have been identify and used alongside Friends of the Earth’s 2030 goals (which are generally more ambitious). The official goals are derived from government 2030 targets or, if these aren’t available, targets recommended by the government’s official climate advisors, the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

The data presented in the tool covers 5 main topics: Energy, Homes, Transport, Nature and Health. Data related to each of these topics has been used to derive a combined score of performance, typically against progress towards 2030 goals.

There's also a Community section, although no specific goals or combined sectors scores have been derived for this.

For the individual indicators, progress towards 2030 goals and for the combined topic scores, we've also compared performance in a local authority area with similar areas, using groupings by the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Energy

Renewable energy generation

We use government data on renewable energy production by local authority area. However, we exclude biomass burning and incineration from these figures because both emit large amounts of carbon. We also exclude offshore wind and other marine renewable energy because their inclusion would make comparison between local authorities invalid, as many do not have coastlines.

The CCC has said how much renewable energy production needs to increase by 2030 and of this how much is offshore wind energy. This implies that onshore renewable energy production in the UK needs to almost double from 55 terra-watt hours (TWh) to 105 TWh. The CCC’s pathway still includes a lot of fossil fuel gas-fired electricity production. To minimise the use of fossil fuels, Friends of the Earth says that on-shore renewable energy production should increase by at least three-fold by 2030.

There’s no straightforward way to apportion how much of the increased onshore renewable energy should be produced in each local authority area, partly because there’s no official assessments of the renewable energy potential in each area. However, if each local authority area matched the current amount of renewable energy produced within the best performing in its ONS group (calculated as renewable energy capacity per square kilometre to correct for areas of different size), then renewable energy production would increase by more than threefold. So, this is the target Friends of the Earth has set.

To meet the CCC target we’ve scaled back from our targets so that renewable energy production by 2030 is almost doubled. After 2030 the growth of renewable energy will need to continue to grow substantially.

In the section on key statistics, we identify how many homes could be powered by the renewable energy generated within the local authority area. This is calculated using typical electric consumption figures for households published by OFGEM. Household electricity consumption is a small part of energy use, with roughly four times more energy used for heating. As heating (and transport) is electrified, much more renewable electricity will need to be produced.

Domestic heat pump installations

For heat pumps, we've used domestic address-level Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) data to identify all homes which have a heat pump as the main heating system. This data has been corroborated with data on numbers of domestic heat pumps installed through government grants, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Domestic heat pump statistics are also included in the Homes section and analysis.

As part of the 6th Carbon Budget, the CCC has stated that 5.5 million heat pumps should be installed by 2030. Friends of the Earth believes that the UK should push for a faster decarbonisation of the UK domestic heating sector and aim for 10 million heat pumps to be installed by 2030. In order to apportion the target to local authority level, we've used the total number of dwellings within each area to estimate the proportion of the heat pump target that should be installed in each local authority.

Pension fossil fuel investments

Friends of the Earth has worked with the NGO Platform to analyse local authority pension scheme investments in fossil fuels. The data from this analysis reveals the total investments in coal, oil and gas in each local authority pension scheme. Read the full report and methodology.

There's no official target on divestment of pension funds, but Friends of the Earth believes that there should be a push to eliminate all investments in climate-wrecking energy projects. Therefore, we’ve set a target of zero investment in fossil fuels for local authority pension schemes.

Public opinion on wind turbines

YouGov carries out regular polling of attitudes of the public across the country, including on renewable energy. Friends of the Earth subscribes to YouGov Profiles. The data on public willingness to have a wind farm in their area is from February 2022.

The YouGov polling figures are for illustration only and the data have not been weighted to be representative of people in this local authority area.

Energy combined score

The combined Energy score shown in the Energy sector in the Near You tool combines progress towards the CCC 2030 target for renewable energy generation, progress towards the CCC 2030 targets on heat pump installations and progress towards zero pension fund investment in fossil fuels.

Each of these indicators has been converted into a score of between 0 and 1, where 0 refers to no progress having been made towards the target (eg, no heat pumps installed) and 1 equates to the target being reached. These are then combined to derive an overall score for energy. In calculating this combined score, the divestment score component has been weighted by a factor of 0.5 (ie, reduced in significance). No pension fund has 100% investment in fossil fuels and without applying this weighting, this component would incorrectly amplify the energy score

Homes

Energy efficiency and well-insulated homes

We used address-level Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) data to identify the number of domestic properties in each local authority area in each EPC band and pulled out the statistics on the numbers insulated to an EPC band C rating or above. EPC C is regarded as well insulated and aligns with energy efficiency and fuel poverty targets (see below). In conducting this analysis, we have ensured only the most recent EPC is used for each dwelling, eliminating any duplicate EPCs.

The government has set a target for all homes to reach EPC C by 2035, so we have identified the proportion needing to be insulated by 2030 if they were on track. In the key statistics section, we identify how many need to be insulated on average each year if this target is to be met. Friends of the Earth says all homes should be EPC C or higher by 2030.

Households in fuel poverty

The UK government publishes data on fuel poverty by local authority in England. For Wales, figures were provided to Friends of the Earth by Statistics Wales, and also appear in a report which includes a methodology on how these were estimated. Note that the definition of fuel poverty is different in England and Wales.

The government has a target to ensure that, in England, fuel poor homes are insulated to EPC band C standard by 2030. While this is not an explicitly stated target to eliminate fuel poverty, under the current definition households can only be in fuel poverty if their homes are in EPC band D or below, thus hitting this target would also result in the eradication of fuel poverty under the official definition. The Welsh government has a target to ensure that no more than 5% of households are estimated to be living in fuel poverty by 2035.

The energy crisis and fuel affordability

Data on fuel poverty from the governments in England and Wales are at least 2 years out of date and therefore don't reflect the current energy crisis, the impact of the fuel cap rise or the impacts of soaring energy bills. Friends of the Earth has carried out analysis calculating average fuel costs across all neighbourhoods in England and Wales using statistics on energy consumption, energy efficiency and the latest fuel price rises. These have been combined with data on income deprivation to identify neighbourhoods with above-average energy costs and below-average incomes.

We've also used statistics on energy efficiency of homes and housing tenure to further segment these neighbours into three distinct priority groups:

  • neighbourhoods with a high proportion of poorly insulated rental properties which would most benefit from higher rental standards
  • neighbourhoods with a high proportion of poorly insulated owner-occupier homes which would benefit from a free street-by-street insulation programme
  • neighbourhoods which have a high proportion of well-insulated properties which would benefit most with financial support.

Combined, these account for approximately 25% of all neighbourhoods. The remaining 75% of neighbourhoods will also need support, and beyond this rapid targeted response to the energy crisis, Friends of the Earth wants to see all areas benefit from better insulation and being powered with clean, cheap, renewable energy.

Domestic heat pump installations

For heat pumps, we've used domestic address-level Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) data to identify all homes which have a heat pump as the main heating system. This data has been corroborated with data on numbers of domestic heat pumps installed through government grants, such as the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Domestic heat pump statistics are also included in the Homes section and analysis.

As part of the 6th Carbon Budget, the CCC has stated that 5.5 million heat pumps should be installed by 2030. Friends of the Earth believes that the UK should push for a faster decarbonisation of the UK domestic heating sector and aim for 10 million heat pumps to be installed by 2030. In order to apportion the target to local authority level, we've used the total number of dwellings within each area to estimate the proportion of the heat pump target that should be installed in each local authority.

Household waste recycling

UK government data is used for current levels of household waste reuse, recycling and composting for English local authorities, and from StatsWales for Welsh local authorities.

The CCC has said that 68% of waste should be reused, recycled, or composted by 2030. The Welsh government has a target of 70% by 2025 and zero waste by 2050, but it doesn’t have a 2030 target. Friends of the Earth recommends a stretch target of zero waste/ 100% reuse, recycling and composting by 2030, recognising that this would also require significant government action on issues such as product design as well as funding.

Public opinion on recycling

YouGov carries out regular polling of attitudes of the public across the country, including on waste recycling. Friends of the Earth subscribes to YouGov Profiles. The data on recycling is from February 2022.

The YouGov polling figures are for illustration only and the data have not been weighted to be representative of people in this local authority area.

Homes combined score

The combined score for Homes in the Near You tool combines progress towards improving all homes to EPC band C, progress towards tackling fuel poverty, and progress towards meeting domestic waste recycling rates. It also includes progress towards the CCC 2030 targets on domestic heat pump installations.

Each of these indicators has been converted into a score of between 0 and 1, where 0 refers to no progress having been made towards the target and 1 equates to the target being reached. These are then combined to derive an overall score for Homes. In calculating this combined score, the fuel poverty component has been weighted by a factor of 0.5 (ie, reduced in significance). No local authority has 100% fuel poverty rates and without applying this weighting, this component would incorrectly amplify the score for Homes.

Transport

Green commuting

The data on the proportion of commuting journeys made by public transport, cycling or walking is from 2011 ONS Census data. This is the most recent data set available for every local authority area. The data is unlikely to have changed significantly since 2011 and may even be worse given cuts to buses have reduced bus passenger miles in most locations.

The official target for public transport, cycling and walking is derived from a recommendation by the CCC to reduce car mileage across the UK by 6% by 2030. This would require an increase in public transport, cycling and walking of around a third. Friends of the Earth’s target is a more ambitious doubling, which would reduce car mileage by around 20% and decrease emissions faster. Meeting this average UK increase will mean some areas increasing the proportion of journeys using public transport, cycling, or walking by more than others. The table below shows the increases needed by different types of local authority areas by ONS groupings. We checked these targets with the CCC who told us they thought they were reasonable approximations.

ONG groupings for green commute data
ONG groupings for green commute data
Cycling targets

Estimates for potential bike use comes from the Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT) funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and others. We have compared this with the data on the proportion of commuting journeys made by bike from 2011 ONS Census data.

Electric vehicle charging points

The data on EV charging points comes from the Department for Transport. The UK electric vehicle infrastructure strategy has set a target of 300,000 public EV charging points nationally by 2030. Friends of the Earth supports this recommendation. We've broken down this national figure to estimate the number needed in local areas based on the number of licensed cars within an area.

Public opinion on driving less

YouGov carries out regular polling of attitudes of the public across the country, including on attitudes to driving. Friends of the Earth subscribes to YouGov Profiles. The data on public views on the need to drive less is from February 2022.

The YouGov polling figures are for illustration only and the data have not been weighted to be representative of people in this local authority area.

Transport combined score

The combined score for Transport in the Near You tool combines progress towards CCC green commute targets, progress towards fulfilling cycling potential (from the PCT), and progress towards installing public EV charging points.

Each of these indicators has been converted into a score of between 0 and 1, where 0 refers to no progress having been made towards the target and 1 equates to the target being reached. These are then combined to derive an overall score for Transport.

Nature

We have two sets of data in this topic area – green space deprivation and woodland opportunity. In some areas both aren’t shown if the data indicates that one or the other is not particularly relevant for the local authority area. Unfortunately, we don't have either of these data sets for Wales.

Green space deprivation

Friends of the Earth identified the green space deprived neighbourhoods by mapping the availability of public green space, garden space, and open access land within or near to communities. For the 1,108 most green space deprived communities we found a strong correlation with ethnicity and income. For example, nearly 40% of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds live in the most green space deprived areas, compared to just 14% of white people.

For those local authority areas with three or more green space deprived neighbourhoods, we’ve shown the data above. Because the Ordinance Survey data we’ve used does not capture all public green space, we’ve excluded local authority areas with fewer than three green space deprived neighbourhoods from the data above. However, all the data for all areas is available on our green space map and our detailed report outlines the methodology in full.

There's no official target for reducing green space deprivation. Friends of the Earth believes that green space deprivation should be eliminated.

Woodland opportunity

The woodland opportunity analysis involved mapping where woodland could go while excluding protected wildlife sites, areas of peatland (where tree planting would cause more harm than good), and good agricultural land (grades 1, 2, and 3a).

We have also included buffers around non-wooded wildlife sites to provide extra protection and we have excluded grasslands that have not been ploughed for several years as these might be valuable for wildflowers and butterflies even if they aren’t officially designated.

Our mapping does not include the potential for planting individual trees (eg, street trees), hedgerows, or incorporating trees into agriculture (known as agroforestry). Our estimates are therefore very conservative. However, it’s still important that every site is properly assessed before planting to check that no valuable wildlife is lost, that the soil is suitable, and that the planting wouldn’t harm nearby nature reserves. The full data set and mapping is also shown on our Woodland Opportunity Map.

The number of hectares of woodland opportunity identified is not a target, as some land may be unsuitable after further on-site investigation. Of the woodland opportunity we do identify, we also suggest the proportion of which will may be suitable for a rewilding approach because it is with 150 meters of an existing broadleaf tree woodland seed source (birds such as Jays disperse trees over this distance). Rewilding is cheaper than tree planting.

Nature combined score

The combined score for Nature in the Near You tool combines progress towards fulfilling woodland opportunity (a comparison of current woodland coverage and potential) and progress towards reducing the number of green space deprived neighbourhoods.

Each of these indicators has been converted into a score of between 0 and 1, where 0 refers to no progress having been made towards the target and 1 equates to the target being reached. These are then combined to derive an overall score for Nature. The data used in this analysis is only available for England. For areas where there is no further woodland opportunity, the progress towards this target has been set to zero.

Health

We have three sets of data in this topic area. For some areas, we don't display green space deprivation if the data analysis suggests it's not a particularly problematic issue for the area.

Meat and Dairy consumption

Data on average meat and dairy consumption is from Cristina Stewart, Health Behaviours Researcher at the Livestock, Environment and People Project (LEAP) at the University of Oxford using the Year 11 (2018/19) data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. The data is only available at a regional level, so this is used for each local authority area in the region. The true figures for consumption may be higher as respondents may under-report intake. Different estimates of meat and dairy consumption have been made by others using the Family Food Survey. Both approaches have pros and cons. Regardless of the approach taken, the need to significantly reduce consumption of meat and dairy remains.

The “official target” is a 20% cut in meat and dairy consumption by 2030 as recommended by the (CCC). The government does not have a target. The CCC target has been criticised by others for being too weak. For example, some scientists suggest that beef consumption needs to decrease by 89%   to stay within so-called planetary boundaries.

Friends of the Earth and the Eating Better Coalition support a 50% reduction in meat and dairy consumption   by 2030, which includes reducing the consumption of pork and chicken because of the greenhouse gas and biodiversity impact of animal feed production, including through clearance of tropical forests and Cerrado habitats. We also support better environmental and animal welfare standards for the meat and dairy that’s still produced.

The energy crisis and fuel affordability

Data on fuel poverty from the governments in England and Wales are at least 2 years out of date and therefore don't reflect the current energy crisis, the impact of the fuel cap rise or the impacts of soaring energy bills. Friends of the Earth has carried out analysis calculating average fuel costs across all neighbourhoods in England and Wales using statistics on energy consumption, energy efficiency and the latest fuel price rises. These have been combined with data on income deprivation to identify neighbourhoods with above-average energy costs and below-average incomes.

We've also used statistics on energy efficiency of homes and housing tenure to further segment these neighbours into three distinct priority groups:

  • neighbourhoods with a high proportion of poorly insulated rental properties which would most benefit from higher rental standards
  • neighbourhoods with a high proportion of poorly insulated owner-occupier homes which would benefit from a free street-by-street insulation programme
  • neighbourhoods which have a high proportion of well-insulated properties which would benefit most with financial support.

Combined, these account for approximately 25% of all neighbourhoods. The remaining 75% of neighbourhoods will also need support, and beyond this rapid targeted response to the energy crisis, Friends of the Earth wants to see all areas benefit from better insulation and being powered with clean, cheap, renewable energy.

Green space deprivation

Friends of the Earth identified the green space deprived neighbourhoods by mapping the availability of public green space, garden space, and open access land within or near to communities. For the 1,108 most green space deprived communities we found a strong correlation with ethnicity and income. For example, nearly 40% of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds live in the most green space deprived areas, compared to just 14% of white people.

For those local authority areas with three or more green space deprived neighbourhoods, we’ve shown the data above. Because the Ordinance Survey data we’ve used does not capture all public green space, we’ve excluded local authority areas with fewer than three green space deprived neighbourhoods from the data above. However, all the data for all areas is available on our green space map and our detailed report outlines the methodology in full.

There's no official target for reducing green space deprivation. Friends of the Earth believes that green space deprivation should be eliminated.

Health combined score

The combined score for Health in the Near You tool combines progress towards eliminating green space deprived neighbourhoods, reducing meat and dairy consumption by 50% on current levels, and alleviating fuel poverty and cold homes. For areas in Wales, the score has not included green space deprivation as this data is not available.

Each of these indicators has been converted into a score of between 0 and 1, where 0 refers to no progress having been made towards the target and 1 equates to the target being reached. These are then combined to derive an overall score for Health. In calculating this combined score, the fuel poverty component has been weighted by a factor of 0.5 (ie, reduced in significance). No local authority has 100% fuel poverty rates and without applying this weighting, this component would incorrectly amplify the Health score.

Community

Green jobs and apprenticeships

Data on potential jobs comes from a report for the Local Government Association by Ecuity LLP Consultants. The job figures are gross figures and do not consider any job losses due to the transition away from fossil fuels. They also do not include job creation potentials in areas such as afforestation.

Friends of the Earth has highlighted the long-term impact of unemployment on young people. Just one year's unemployment in your late teens can result in up to £133,000 in lost earnings over the next two decades. Not to mention the effect it has on people's mental and physical health. Friends of the Earth commissioned Transition Economics to identify the number of green apprenticeships needed between 2021 and 2024 to give young people a route into green jobs and boost the local green economy in all parts of the country. Read the full report and methodology.

Public opinion on climate change

YouGov carries out regular polling of attitudes of the public across the country, including on attitudes to climate change. Friends of the Earth subscribes to YouGov Profiles. The data on public concern about climate change is from February 2022.

The YouGov polling figures are for illustration only and the data have not been weighted to be representative of people in this local authority area.