Climate change performance measurement, control and accountability in English local areas

Stuart Cooper, Graham Pearce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – This paper aims to consider how climate change performance is measured and accounted for within the performance framework for local authority areas in England adopted in 2008. It critically evaluates the design of two mitigation and one adaptation indicators that are most relevant to climate change. Further, the potential for these performance indicators to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation is discussed.
Design/methodology/approach – The authors begin by examining the importance of the performance framework and the related Local Area Agreements (LAAs), which were negotiated for all local areas in England between central government and Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs). This development is located within the broader literature relating to new public management. The potential for this framework to assist in delivering the UK's climate change policy objectives is researched in a two-stage process. First, government publications and all 150 LAAs were analysed to identify the level of priority given to the climate change indicators. Second, interviews were conducted in spring 2009 with civil servants and local authority officials from the English West Midlands who were engaged in negotiating the climate change content of the LAAs.
Findings – Nationally, the authors find that 97 per cent of LAAs included at least one climate change indicator as a priority. The indicators themselves, however, are perceived to be problematic – in terms of appropriateness, accuracy and timeliness. In addition, concerns were identified about the level of local control over the drivers of climate change performance and, therefore, a question is raised as to how LSPs can be held accountable for this. On a more positive note, for those concerned about climate change, the authors do find evidence that the inclusion of these indicators within the performance framework has helped to move climate change up the agenda for local authorities and their partners. However, actions by the UK's new coalition government to abolish the national performance framework and substantially reduce public expenditure potentially threaten this advance.
Originality/value – This paper offers an insight into a new development for measuring climate change performance at a local level, which is relatively under-researched. It also contributes to knowledge of accountability within a local government setting and provides a reference point for further research into the potential role of local actions to address the issue of climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1097-1118
Number of pages22
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • climate change
  • local government
  • performance measurement
  • control
  • accountability


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