Climate Emergency! This government and its over-influential fossil fuel and fracking-loving, regulation-hating, climate-wrecking corporate backers should not be allowed to ditch decades-worth of scrupulously researched and negotiated health and safety protections, workers and consumers’ rights and environmental and Net Zero commitments.
We have to stop them!
Everyone at every political level can step up to the challenge. After all, the actions needed now on the climate, biodiversity and resource crises will not only safeguard the future of humanity, but would secure improvement in our immediate health and well-being. Just imagine a cleaner, greener, safer future with equal access to clean air, water, resources and renewable energy!
#thefuturewechoose, #fridaysforfuture, #jointheregeneration
Toolkits are available for councils and communities to enable anyone to take Climate Action now
It has been all too easy for some local councils to look away from taking climate and environmental action themselves or show leadership on behalf of their community. Excuses abound …
- “Transport is the local authority’s responsibility”;
- “We can’t do anything until government changes the planning regulations”;
- “Nothing will happen until the businesses change their ways”;
- “What we do is irrelevant when India and China are doing nothing about it”;
- “My constituents don’t complain to me about climate change”.
There are always reasons to resist making changes.
However, it is the responsibility of all elected representatives at every level to show awareness, understanding and leadership on the climate, environmental and resource/waste crises.
Happily, on the question of mitigating and adapting to climate disruption caused by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, there are now a number of toolkits and trackers to help any council, community group or individual to start to take positive action which will improve people’s lives while reducing carbon impacts.
Carbon Literacy training is now available in a number of toolkits aimed at particular government, public organisation or private industry sectors, e.g. healthcare, social housing, the civil service, automotive, museums, universities and colleges and local authorities.
The training materials are contributed, curated, selected and reviewed by representatives of the relevant sector and kept up to date by sectoral experts and The Carbon Literacy Project. This enables peer-led, relevant and action-oriented training, to build understanding of individual and organisational responsibilities, along with opportunities for genuine action within an organisation and throughout the scope of its operation and influence.
Organisations, including local councils, can also apply to become a Carbon Literate Organisation. There are trackerswhich enable anyone to see how well their local authority is performing.
The Climate Action council tracker from Friends of the Earth breaks down key topics and highlights the selected council’s activities in each, relative to targets, current activity and the areas for targeting action. The web page also provides resources, examples of positive climate and environmental projects, and offers training events and guidance on council climate action planning.
Climate Emergency UK created council climate plan scorecards to assess plans according to 28 questions across nine sections, based on the expert-approved checklist for Council Action Plans. There is also a council league table.
The trackers and league tables are supported by a wealth of data, resources and links. There are further suggestions for ways to support and encourage councils and communities to work together, and for individuals and community groups to campaign for positive climate and environmental action.
Local climate action networks can be a huge source of knowledge, experience and a shared desire to work collectively to improve community adaptability, resilience and sustainability. They are largely run by enthusiastic volunteers, happy to share ideas to prevent others reinventing the wheel, where best practice and experience locally could help.
The Dorset Climate Action Network (Dorset CAN), for example, has open weekly action team meetings, and teams working on transport, energy, land-use and advocacy projects, as well as a youth group and events team. Anyone is welcome to join if they share Dorset CAN’s vision and values, so could contribute ideas, knowledge and expertise, join or start a project, or simply be part of a supportive environment helping councils and communities develop better climate and environmental awareness and responses.
More specific toolkits are available to help measure and monitor carbon and other impacts.
The Impact Community Carbon Calculator enables reports to be produced at a keystroke, detailing current emissions on a territorial and consumption (imported) basis at a parish and ward level. This can enable councils and communities to identify priority areas for action to achieve the greatest impact.
The latest available government and private licensed data has been collated by the project teams at the Centre for Sustainable Energy and University of Exeter, supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to provide a snapshot of greenhouse gas emissions at ward level. Parish and town councils can quickly assess where any climate and environmental action could have the greatest impact to reduce emissions, either originating in their area or being imported from elsewhere.
There are easy to use visual pie-charts and bar charts comparing areas’ impacts, as well as the ability to download the datasets for further detail. The calculator was then developed to enable a download of a ready-written report, summarising the key issues and suggesting change levers and priority actions, with guidance and links.
For example, in Lyme Regis, Dorset, most people feel instinctively that dealing with traffic gridlock, parking, speeding, pedestrian safety and air quality issues should be the priority area to tackle to decarbonise and improve the quality of life for residents, and aim for Net Zero emissions. However, the Impact Community Carbon Calculator clearly shows housing creates almost half the territorial emissions.
This chart reassured the town council to support local Community Energy Champions to join Bridport Town Council’s training scheme with the Centre for Sustainable Energy. That scheme helps to guide householders on potential energy saving measures, low-cost ways to insulate their homes, and availability of any grants towards reducing energy costs, improving efficiency or switching to renewable energy options.
The per-household consumption or imported greenhouse gas emissions shown against Dorset and GB averages clearly suggest higher than average carbon impacts in Lyme Regis which could be tackled through better community-wide carbon literacy and by using personal or household carbon foot-printing tools.
One of the biggest challenges facing anyone working or campaigning in the Net Zero – climate action – community adaptation and resilience space, is how to engage the wider public in addressing the challenges we face and making the changes we need.
The point is, there is no shortage of tools and trackers. They can enable anyone, whether as an individual or as part of an organisation, to start to measure and monitor climate and environmental action.
Giki Zero goes beyond a snapshot and enables the monitoring of various lifestyle changes, and assess the effect on personal, household or community-wide carbon reduction.
Various other carbon footprint and nature impact calculators are available.
Another useful toolkit is the Climate Heatmap from Commonplace, a market leader in online community engagement. Examples from Dorset include the Weymouth Climate Change Action Map and the Lyme Area Climate Action Map, created as part of the 2030 Vision project with the Lyme Regis Development Trust.
Listening to the community, creating a shared vision and learning from others’ experience is a pragmatic and achievable way to start climate and environmental action planning. Ensuring people’s needs are met with social and economic justice are at the forefront of project planning is vital, so understanding the co-benefits of proposals is important from the outset.
Ashden has a toolkit for councils showing the benefits to people as well as to the environment of a wide range of initiatives. There is also a range of excellent case studies of local authority climate actions.
Various structures are being used for policy and project design for the climate and environmental crisis, particularly since the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted and exacerbated existing social and economic inequalities. For example, London’s Sustainable Development Commission (LSDC) is using the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the foreword to LSDC’s report in March 2021, Dr Paul Toyne explains:
“The SDGs are part of the UN’s wider ‘2030 Agenda’ for sustainable development, and the decade ahead will be critical. The decisions we make now will shape the battle against the climate and ecological emergencies, and the connected challenges of poverty and inequality. The SDGs provide an opportunity to help create decent jobs and ensure a just transition to a zero-carbon circular economy; improve public health and wellbeing; whilst creating a fairer, more cohesive and inclusive society – and above all, leave a London that is fit for generations to come.”
Cornwall Council is pioneering a Decision Wheel based on the concepts of Doughnut Economics and the need to assess the impact of any decision on a range of planetary, resources and social boundaries. The Devon Doughnut Collective is working with its various partnerships and alliances to develop a Devon Doughnut approach to decision-making. Dorset Council is also starting to adopt the Decision Wheel approach.
So there really is no excuse, no lack of data or easy-to-use toolkits to make a start, and no lack of friendly, supportive networks to help support or start local action.
Members of the public can attend council meetings and ask questions or send questions in advance. Offer your skills and support to co-operate with councils and active community groups and don’t be afraid to hold them to account!
Further reading, information and resources
County Councils Climate and Ecological Action Plans
Cornwall Council’s Action Plan
Devon County Council’s Strategic Plan –https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/emergencies-severe-weather/climate-and-ecological-emergency
Dorset Council’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy and Action Plan
Somerset County Council’s Climate Resilient Somerset
Organisations supporting councils
NALC(National Association of Local Councils) Climate Change resources and case studies – https://www.nalc.gov.uk/our-work/climate-change
CALC (Cornwall Association of Local Councils)
DALC (Devon Association of Local Councils)
DAPTC (Dorset Association of Parish and Town Councils)
SALC (Somerset Association of Local Councils)
County Climate Action Networks
Cornwall Climate Action Network – Friends of the Earth https://takeclimateaction.uk/group/cornwall-climate-action-network
Devon Climate Emergency https://devonclimateemergency.org.uk/
Dorset CAN (Climate Action Network) – https://www.dorsetcan.org/
Somerset CAN (Climate Action Network) – https://somersetcan.org.uk/
Other groups – Dorset as an example
Dorset Action – https://dtaction.co.uk/ People’s Assemblies, support and networking for councillors and others interesting in tackling the climate and ecological emergencies.
Dorset Declares – https://www.dorsetdeclares.com/ Advice for businesses aiming to become more sustainable and develop a Net Zero plan.
Sustainable Dorset –https://www.sustainabledorset.org/ A hub of sustainable and resilient activity across the county.
Zero Carbon Dorset – https://www.dorset2030.com/ Developing a Vision for a Net Zero Dorset in 2030.