Essex County (United Kingdom)

Essex County, located in the East of England, has a population of over 1.8 million, is known for its mix of vibrant urban centres and picturesque rural landscape. 

Essex has a strong commitment to sustainability, reflected in Essex County Council Everyone’s Essex strategy which regards High Environmental Quality as one of its four key pillars for action. The County Council’s established a Climate Action Commission to advise on the county's approach to climate change. In July 2021, the commission released the report 'Net-Zero: Making Essex Carbon Neutral,' outlining a detailed strategy to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the county by 2050, aligning with UK statutory goals. The plan also focuses on enhancing Essex's resilience to climate impacts, including flooding, water shortages, and overheating.

In line with the commission's recommendations, in November 2021 Essex County Council launched an ambitious £200 million, four-year Climate Action Plan, which was revised to £250 million in July 2023; the Council also releases annual reports to monitor progress. The plan encompasses initiatives in land use, green infrastructure, transport, built environment, energy, waste, community engagement, and the promotion of a green economy.

Sustainability focus: Green Infrastructure

Essex County Council recognises that green infrastructure is critical to both absorbing carbon, but also increasing resilience to climate change: reducing risks from flooding, water scarcity and overheating – all of which Essex suffers from - while providing green space for both residents and nature. Essex County Council has committed to a target of 30% of Essex to be natural green infrastructure by 2040 and is working with farmers and landowners across the county to deliver this ambition. 

In October 2019, Essex County Council launched the Essex Forest Initiative, a £1 million investment with a commitment of planting 375,000 trees over the next five years. The project has continued to make excellent progress, with over 316,000 trees planted across the county in four years. In October 2022, the project received global recognition for its success, and was awarded the prestigious Green Apple Environment Awards

©British Heritage Travel
Castle Park (Colchester)

In addition, Essex County Council has made the Black water and Colne estuaries - 30% of the county -  a climate focus area, a designated pilot area created to provide vital insight and accelerate best practice in sustainable land management. Essex County Council has:

  • worked with Natural England, Environment Agency, Essex & Suffolk Water company and Anglia Water company to share best practise on regenerative farming, green infrastructure and water management,
  • worked with landowners to develop commercial business cases for investment in green infrastructure,
  • established a consortium of 27 landowners to develop landscape scale greening projects covering over 2,700 hectares.

Essex County Council has also formed the Local Nature Partnership, which brings together businesses, national environment agencies, wildlife charities, farmers and landowners who work collaboratively to guide local action for nature recovery.  This initiative is structured around four working groups, focusing on four key themes including Local Nature Recovery Strategy, Community Engagement, Planning and Biodiversity Net Gain and Agriculture, and is supporting development of the forthcoming Nature Recovery Strategy. 

Essex County Council has invested in nature-based flood management schemes to protect homes across the county from surface water flooding. In addition, the Council has developed innovative sustainable drainage projects to help build the county’s resilience to flooding including leaky damns in parks and sustainable drainage interventions in several schools. 

Essex County Council is one of five authorities which was selected to be part of Involve’s Climate Engagement Programme and worked with three parish councils and their communities to support the development of local nature recovery plans.

The need to knows

  • More than 61% of Essex is farmland.
  • Essex currently has 177 miles of National Cycle Route, over 200 miles of off-road cycle routes and 43 miles of on-road cycle routes, and Essex County Council currently spends £2.50 per head of population on cycling per annum.
  • Essex has the UK’s first electric vehicle charging forecourt in Braintree.
  • Essex County Council is on target to convert all 130,000 units of street lighting to LED by the end of 2024, driving savings of £39m over the next 25 years and carbon reduction of 6,500 tonnes per year.
  • Essex County Council helped establish 4 community energy groups via the Pathways programme, which contributed to the Tollesbury Primary decarbonisation project, which supported the installation of solar panels, heat pumps, insulation, and LEDs. The support also enabled the delivery of Energy Advice service in 2 communities, which resulted in £130,000 savings for residents.
  • Developed by Greenredeem, Essex County Council launched a free app called Carbon Cutting Essex, which allows residents to track their carbon footprint and discover how they can reduce it. Since its launch in May 2023 there has been a total of 249,000 carbon cutting activities carried out by residents through the app.
  • Essex County Council has developed the Net Zero Innovation Network, a group comprising 30 plus businesses, academic institutions and the public sector who work in collaboration to drive forward themes across the Essex Climate Action Commission. The group will help to secure funding opportunities which will deliver transformational green projects.
  • DigiGo, an electric shared transport service, has transported over 35,000 passengers since its commencement with more capacity for growth within its existing fleet. It is on-target to deliver its revised forecast to transport around 39,000 passengers during 2023/24. 

What the city has to say

“As the Climate Czar for Essex County Council, I am proud to report significant strides in our climate action over the last three years. Our commitment to environmental stewardship has been exemplified by our decision to join ICLEI, a pivotal move that has enhanced our global collaboration on sustainable practices. These endeavours have not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by the numerous awards we have garnered, underscoring Essex County Council’s unwavering dedication to building a greener, more resilient community.”


Councillor Peter Schwier, Climate Czar and Cabinet Member for Environment, Waste Reduction and Recycling

ICLEI and Essex County

Essex County has been an ICLEI Member since May 2021, and is a signatory of ICLEI 100% Renewables Cities and Regions Energy Compact.

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