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COP26: Cities vs the Climate and Nature Crises


On Wednesday 29 September we held an online gathering COP26: Cities vs the Climate and Nature Crises to highlight how, regardless of what world leaders decide at COP, cities can and are responding to the climate and nature emergencies, but that deeper and faster action is needed.

Read on for a summary of the event or you can watch the full recording.

Enabling a power shift

The event was opened and hosted by Katie Hodgetts, a youth environmental activist, co-founder of Bristol Youth Strike for Climate and founder of the Resilience Project, which supports young people facing eco-anxiety. She spoke about how cities have a role to play in transferring national power more locally, and ensuring a just and fair future by asking where is that power shifting and to who?

The Partnership’s Community Project Manager Amy Harrison provided an overview of our work and explained how we are stepping up our efforts in the run up to COP26. We are calling for all or a step change in efforts to tackle the climate and nature crises, for justice and inclusion to be at the heart of how change happens, and for collaboration to be key to the approach.

Amy emphasised how communities have shown great leadership throughout the paAsia Yousifndemic and their expertise and experience will be vital in bringing everyone on board with the changes required to tackle climate change.

Black and Green Ambassador Asia Yousif spoke of her experience working with Black and Brown communities in Bristol, of diversity being a tool for positive change and the importance of creating opportunities for people to get involved.

Cities are a collective of citizens who have influence

Polly Billington, Chief Executive of UK100, joined as the headline speaker, providing a powerful overview of the importance and power of cities taking climate action. UK100 supports a network of ambitious local government leaders in their transition to Net Zero. Their work helps those local leaders understand where they have power to effect change and where there are limitations.

She talked about cities being more than those people in the town halls, and how by understanding the problem, learning from each other about some of the solutions, and understanding the importance of power and crucially where we have influence, we can help local authorities unlock some of the barriers to change.

“The laws of science are non-negotiable; politics is all about negotiation. Imagine that challenge eternally, that is what we are up against. But you have opportunity and cities are absolutely not only the place to effect that change but also the people who will help you make bigger change in the future.”

Collaborating for change

This strong opening was followed by three UK cities sharing their approach, progress, and barriers to tackling the climate and nature crises along with a Q&A session. Each city faces unique challenges but there were common themes in their approaches and a lot we can learn from each other.

Cllr Nicola Beech from Bristol, Cllr Clare Penny-Evans from Newcastle and Cllr Anna Richardson from Glasgow City Council spoke of the importance of collaborating for positive change, and how tackling inequality and improving living standards must be at the heart of action on climate change.

Re-Envisioning Bristol

re envisioning 2030s BristolThe Partnership’s Project Coordinator Clara Fung launched a re-envisioning of 2030s Bristol co-created by a range of organisations and stakeholders and illustrated by Andy Council. She prompted the audience to share what they would like to see in a future Bristol which generated some lively chat.

Clara explained that crisis in Cantonese is made up of two characters: ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’. Right now, we are at a crucial point in tackling the crises, but we have an opportunity to create a positive future and having imagination and collective visions will help us get there.

Stories from the city

To round off the event we showcased five different stories from the city to celebrate the range of groups and organisations already taking action across Bristol and hopefully inspire others to step up. We heard from:

  • Jenny Foster from the Global Goals Centre on their #Bristol17 campaign, celebrating local heroes working towards a fairer, greener future for all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Joseph Watts from Wiper and True about their successes and challenges in creating a sustainable brewing business.
  • Artist Emma Blake Morsi sharing how she uses art to engage marginalised groups in the climate conversation and have a wider positive impact.
  • Peninah Achieng-Kindberg from African Voices Forum about their work to empower Africans and African-Caribbeans to take active part in policies and initiatives that concern them such as the Our Air Our City campaign – a collaborative effort by several community groups and activists to fight for cleaner air for Bristol.
  • Headteacher Jonathan Parr and the young green ambassadors at Henleaze Junior School about their efforts to grow their own food and create a nature zone for wildlife plus an outdoor classroom, working with Tom Walmsley, Environmental Education Expert. You can watch their video below.

Video from Henleaze Junior School

Thank you to all our speakers, Katie Hodgetts for her brilliant hosting skills, and to everyone who attended. As well as a massive thank you to our supporting members for making our work possible and leading the way in in Bristol’s journey to becoming a carbon neutral and climate resilient city.

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