frequently asked questions

What is Race to Zero ?

Race to Zero is an international framework to accelerate climate action and build a fairer, healthier, greener future.

Organisations like cities, regions, local authorities, national parks, businesses and universities adopt a target to cut carbon in line with a ‘fair share’ of effort towards achieving the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.

 They then develop an action plan for the local area, or organisation involving a wide range of stakeholders to make sure it is tailored to support a just transition to net zero. Race to Zero organisations report on climate action through an internationally recognised process to ensure rigour and transparency.

Which organisations should join Race to Zero?

The table below (Administrative levels) sets out how Corporate Joint Committees, local authorities, Public Services Boards, National Parks and Town Councils could align their work with Race to Zero – and examples of how it is already happening.

Why is Race to Zero needed in Wales?

Race to Zero helps organisations to be climate leaders with clear ambition in line with the Paris Agreement and support to develop inclusive action plans and the capacity to deliver.

Most local authorities in Wales declared a climate emergency but they do not have a plan for a just transition to net zero in their local area. Race to Zero helps organisations with responsibility for an area to lead an inclusive process of climate action planning and delivery.

Currently the public sector is focusing on cutting carbon emissions from its own operations and services. This is important and should be supported to succeed. But emissions under the direct control of the public sector are only a small proportion of those that they can help to cut by leading area-wide inclusive action.

How can communities benefit?

Race to Zero encourages inclusive action planning to make sure that communities are actively involved in jointly imagining and creating a net zero future for their local area.

Well-planned low carbon communities can benefit from improvements to the local environment, economy and health including through:

  • Better insulated homes and lower bills
  • Better public and community transport, and more active travel such as walking and cycling
  • Healthier locally grown food
  • A growth in local green jobs with investment in training and skills

Wales already has a Public Sector Net Zero goal and reporting mechanism – why do we need anything else?

Wales’ Public Sector Net Zero by 2030 goal and Welsh Net Zero Reporting focuses on the operational activities of those organisations.

Welsh Government recognises that the decarbonisation of the public sector’s operations will have a wider impact on society:

A key role for the Welsh public sector is to influence the wider economy through its demand for goods and services and its support for sustainable, low carbon economic growth.”

The Climate Change Committee found that local authorities’ operational emissions (including the goods and services it procures) represent around 2-5% of local emissions.

So, the task of decarbonising the public sector is important (not least because it shows integrity and can help drive innovation and market responses) and needs to be done, but it represents a small fraction of the country’s overall emissions.

The Climate Change Committee found that local authorities can have influence over around 30% of emissions in the local area. They found the Sixth Carbon Budget will not be met if these wider local emissions are not cut.

Local authorities and other actors including CJCs and national parks in Wales are already leading wider climate action in their local areas. Many have declared a climate emergency which has raised public expectations of them leading society-wide action.

The problem is, other than Local Area Energy Plans, there is no consistent approach being taken to territorial/area-based climate action which is resulting in:

  • Lower ambition and scale and speed of action than the science says is needed because of a lack of clear area-based goals.
  • An inability to collaborate effectively and efficiently between organisations and across geographical areas.
  • A lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities in local areas – and therefore huge gaps in delivery and some duplication.

A lack of transparency between organisations,  stakeholders and the public – resulting in eroded trust and lack of confidence in climate action.

What are operational emissions, territorial or production-based emissions, consumption-based emissions, and scopes 1, 2 and 3?

Operational emissions are the greenhouse gasses attributable to the activities of an organisation – from buildings and fleets to emissions embodied in the goods and services provided and procure. Operational emissions are covered in the Welsh Public Sector Net Zero by 2030 goal and reporting.

Territorial or production-based emissions refer to emissions from fossil fuels that are directly released or are used within a territorial area such as a country or local authority.

Scope 1: Direct emissions – for example onsite burning of fossil fuels for heat or electricity, or internal combustion engine vehicles.

Scope 2: Indirect emissions from energy – for example use of purchased electricity.

Consumption-based emissions analysis takes into account the entire lifecycle of goods and services consumed by people, including emissions associated with imports and exports.

Scope 3: Indirect emissions embodied in goods and services – upstream and downstream of use.

To understand the emissions attributable to a local area like a region or local authority it is necessary to understand production and consumption-based emissions: Scopes 1, 2 and 3. See Page 16 Welsh Public Sector Net Zero Carbon Reporting Guide for more information about Scopes 1, 2 and 3.

We want to focus on delivery – aren’t action plans a diversion?

Everyone who is serious about climate change wants to maximise delivery.

Having a plan helps to drive delivery. C40 Cities (which is an organisation with data and measurement at the centre of its work) finds that the cities around the world that adopt a science and equity-based target, and develop an evidence-based action plan, deliver three times more action than the cities that just try to be more sustainable.

A strategic plan for a local area enables:

  • Clarity about the scale, speed and type of action needed – informed by relevant evidence.
  • An opportunity to prioritise and sequence actions to maximise efficacy and cost effectiveness.
  • An opportunity for all relevant stakeholders to be involved in co-designing the future of their place in a way that is tailored to local needs – planning for a just transition away from a high carbon society to a society that is fairer and healthier. 
  • A broad range and large number of engaged participants to then be involved in delivery.

Individual project proposals are more compelling to funders because they are linked to a wider strategic plan and theory of change.

Developing action plans is time consuming – they don’t necessarily lead to rational decision-making

Strategic territorial action planning is an opportunity to gather the relevant evidence and involve the relevant stakeholders in a conversation about place-shaping in a way that meets environmental and well-being needs.

Humans are not rational beings; our decisions are shaped by values and the stories we construct and share to understand the world. However, we maximise the chance of surfacing and addressing challenges, opportunities, assumptions, and power imbalances if we have a structured, evidence-based and inclusive approach to action planning. 

Best practice engagement and governance protocols can help to embed decision-making aligned with the Well-being of Future Generations Act in an action planning and delivery processes.

Well-designed action planning will involve all the relevant stakeholders and they are much more likely to be committed to active delivery if they are involved in the development of the plan.

Wales is a small country – do we really need nested regional, local authority and national park climate plans as well?


Wales is diverse in many ways and climate plans need to be tailored to local needs and circumstances.

Nested plans operating at different administrative levels and geographical areas can provide the level of detail needed to respond to local needs and circumstances.

The keys to the effectiveness of nested plans will be:

  • The use of consistent and best practice methodology across different organisations.
  • Clarity about roles and responsibilities between all actors involved, and effective communication.
  • Co-design and engagement to ensure all those effected by the plans have the opportunity to be part of shaping them.

Having a clear strategic plan for a local area is critical to catalysing investment in local climate-related projects. Leaving climate planning to just national government or the regions/CJCs would leave local authorities and national parks without a distinct voice articulating their local needs for investment.
National Parks have been tasked by Welsh Government with being “exemplars in responding to the climate and nature emergency. You are uniquely placed to engage with the communities within your boundaries to develop solution which deliver benefits for people and the environment.” National parks cannot do that without developing a strategic plan for the Park.

What is a framework?

Do we need a new framework for area-based climate action or just to fill some gaps in delivery?

Race to Zero provides a structured approach to scaling up climate action following the 5Ps:

PLEDGE: To maximise effort towards or beyond a fair share of halving global greenhouse gasses 2030, and to reach net zero by 2050 at the latest.

PLAN: Within 12 months develop an evidence-based emissions reduction plan in line with the pledge.

PROCEED: Take immediate action to scale up delivery towards meeting the pledge.

PUBLISH: Report climate data and actions feeding into the UNFCCC Global Climate Action Portal.

PERSUADE: Use the voice and influence of your organisation to help achieve the pledge. The benefit of the 5Ps approach is it provides a systematic approach that supports evidence-based and inclusive scaled-up action.

The benefit of the 5Ps approach is it provides a systematic approach that supports evidence-based and inclusive scaled-up action.

Why do we need a consistent framework for area-based action plans across Wales?

A consistent approach is needed because the plans spanning different administrative levels and geographical areas will collectively need to achieve national climate goals – only a common framework can ensure there are no gaps and there is no double counting. 

Different entities in Wales working to different levels of ambition and using different methodologies makes it difficult to collaborate effectively and efficiently.

A consistent framework will make it possible for supporting organisations to provide high quality ‘do it once for Wales’ services to public sector organisations rather than attempting to provide ad hoc climate support.

Scope 3 operational emissions can include goods and services in the local area – so isn’t the public sector already providing the local leadership needed by decarbonising those emissions?

Public procurement focused on decarbonising Scope 3 emissions will help to shape the low carbon goods and services of the local area and is therefore part of the leadership needed

The public sector has had a pivotal role in catalysing private sector change around the world (for example PV and electric buses) so this is important.

But public sector emissions, even including Scope 3, still account for a small proportion of local area emissions.

Public sector organisations with an area remit, are uniquely placed to play a bigger role in leading the development of a climate vision and strategic plan for the local area which involves emissions (as well as adaptation and nature-based sequestration) relating to all parts of society

What governance arrangements are needed across the public sector to ensure climate action is considered at the very earliest stages of decision-making?

Governance is an emergent area of good practice globally.

Climate Budgeting was pioneered by Oslo Council in Norway in 2017 and means the city council can only approve spending plans which are consistent with Oslo’s climate target. Now 11 of the biggest cities around the world have adopted the approach including New York City. Read more here on the C40 Knowledge Hub.

There are some good examples in Wales including Denbighshire changing the local authority constitution to ensure financial decisions of the council are aligned with the local authority climate plan. Presentation, template Business Report and Template Council Report hosted by WLGA here.

Governance is one of the focuses of CDP reporting.

Race to Zero across administrative levels in Wales

Race to Zero is a leadership framework intended to provide structure and guidance to organisations wanting to take action for a fairer, greener net zero future.

Race to Zero is a relatively new framework and in Wales organisations across different administrative levels are moving towards joining and exploring how they can work together to maximise efficiency and impact.



What can be done?

What has been done?

Wales as a country is a member of Race to Zero because it is a member of the Under2 Coalition of high ambition nations.



Each CJC could each develop a regional carbon footprint assessment to understand the sources of emissions attributable to the region.

It could calculate a Paris Agreement aligned ‘fair share’ net zero target to understand the speed and scale of action needed across the region.

Each CJC Board could pledge to maximise effort towards achieving the target to ensure systematic action is committed to from the top of the organisation.

Economies of scale mean it would be cost-effective for CJCs to commission carbon footprint assessments to include a breakdown of data for each local authority in their region.


Each CJC could work with partners to develop a regional top-level strategic climate action plan that sets out clearly the main interventions needed to achieve the net zero target, and a matrix of who in the region is responsible for each intervention.

Aligning regional energy plans will be central to this work.

The plan could identify how the region can contribute to Welsh sectoral targets in a way that is tailored to the needs of the region.

Proceed: Each CJC could fulfil its economic, planning and transport responsibilities in a way aligns with the net zero target.

Publish: Each CJC could report on the regional carbon assessment, action plan and delivery via CDP. This has the benefit of tailored feedback and pointers to global best practice to learn from.

Persuade: Each CJC could use the powerful evidence and analysis it has gathered to make the case for an enabling policy context and for catalysing investment into the region for projects contributing to the next zero target.

Cardiff Capital Region example Pledge:

During Cop26 Cardiff Capital Region agreed to work towards the Race to Zero pledge for the region.

It has aligned its regional energy strategy to a Paris aligned ‘fair share’ trajectory.

It has more work to do to understand Scope 3 embodied emissions attributable to the region.


Pledge: All 22 local authority Cabinets could pledge from the top of the organisation to maximise effort towards a Paris Agreement aligned ‘fair share’ net zero target to ensure systematic action is committed to from the top of the organisation.

If the carbon footprints assessments and Paris aligned net zero target have been conducted as part of a regional exercise this can be used by the local authority. Otherwise, the local authority would need to conduct or commission the work itself.

Plan: Working with partners and local stakeholder organisations and communities, develop a climate action plan that sets out clearly the main interventions needed to achieve the net zero target in the local authority area. Local Area Energy Plans will be central to this work.

A matrix of who in the local authority area is responsible for each intervention is important – including public sector organisations, businesses, local stakeholder organisations and communities. Clarity about regional responsibility will inform this plan.

The plan can identify how the local authority area can contribute to Welsh sectoral targets.

It is vital that this level of planning has an emphasis on involving local communities, stakeholder organisations and businesses in order to enable a locally tailored just transition to net zero.

Proceed: Each local authority should align statutory responsibilities including operations and services, procurement, planning and transport with the net zero target.

Publish: Each local authority could report on the local authority area carbon assessment, action plan and delivery via CDP. CDP’s questionnaire format can avoid double counting from the regional report and can help to identify gaps.

The aim is to ratchet up the quality and completeness of the questionnaire answers over time so it would not be disproportionately time consuming.

Persuade: Use the voice of the local authority to make the case for an enabling policy and funding context to reach the next zero target. Exercise leadership locally through showcasing, partnerships, and involving and engaging communities businesses and stakeholder organisations.


Pledge: PSBs cannot formally join Race to Zero because they cannot make a ‘top of the organisation’ pledge. They can however decide to align their work to race to Zero and commit to that in their Well-being Plan.

Plan: PSBs can take a lead in local area action planning instead of the local authority. This joined up public sector leadership could bring greater efficiency and impact.

Proceed: All PSB members can align their work with maximising effort to achieve the net zero target.

Publish: The PSB could support the information-gathering needed for the CDP report.

Persuade: Use the voice of all the PSB member organisations to make the case for an enabling policy and funding context to reach the next zero target. Work in a coordinated way and individually to exercise leadership locally through showcasing, partnerships, and involving and engaging communities businesses and stakeholder organisations.

Powys PSB example

Pledge: Powys PSB has committed to align its work to Race to Zero in its Well-being Plan.

The PSB climate working group (which includes Powys County Council) is commissioning an area-based carbon footprint assessment and Paris aligned net zero target.

Plan: The PSB climate working group is leading developing an area-based climate action plan (covering decarbonisation, sequestration and adaptation). It is setting up and supporting stakeholder and community engagement structures to make sure the plan is locally tailored for a just transition.

Proceed: The PSB climate working group is gathering information about climate projects in the local authority area and identifying initiatives that need to be scaled up in line with the net zero target.

Publish: The PSB climate working group has started the work of preparing CDP questionnaire answers on behalf of the local authority.

Persuade: The PSB climate working group is developing a programme of engagement to inspire local stakeholder organisations and communities to take part in Paris-aligned climate action.


National Parks

Pledge: All three Welsh National Park Authority Boards have pledged to maximise effort towards a Paris Agreement-aligned net zero target based on a carbon footprint assessment and ‘fair share’ net zero calculation.

Plan: All UK national parks are developing climate action plans in line with their pledge, involving local communities, stakeholder organisations and visitors in the process.

Proceed: UK National Parks are planning to identify priority actions to scale up in line with the pledge, and to work together to attract funding.

Publish: Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority reported emissions analysis, climate plans and actions to CDP in 2023. The intention is for all three Welsh national parks to publish in 2024.

Persuade: UK national parks are planning a coordinated communications campaign to raise the profile of national parks in responding to the climate emergency which will be an opportunity to advocate for policy, investment, partnerships and behaviour change needed.

A Bannau Brycheiniog Community Race to Zero group has formed because it was inspired by the local to global vision. The network of community catalysts is working to maximise community contributions to net zero such as community renewables and transport.


Some of the large Town and Community Councils in Wales could benefit from understanding the local carbon footprint and using the 5Ps approach to accelerate climate action.

None have joined so far.