How addressing residents’ needs has a positive impact on climate change outcomes
30th May 2022
Donna Sealey is a Community Development Worker at Ambition Lawrence Weston and a lifelong resident of the area. In this blog she shares their approach to engaging the local community in the development of their Community Climate Action plan.
Lawrence Weston is a neighbourhood on the northern edge of Bristol with around 7,300 residents and we have collectively been busy writing our own Community Climate Action Plan. We are one of six communities in Bristol who are pioneering this new approach to tackling the climate crisis at a local neighbourhood level.
Residents are part of the solution
Ambition Lawrence Weston have co-produced our climate action plan with local residents leading the way, after all they are the local experts who know their community the best. It is imperative to give residents the lead when planning any kind of community action, residents have to feel that they are part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
Lawrence Weston’s carbon emissions follow the same pattern as Bristol with our biggest carbon emissions coming from goods and services. Our lowest carbon emissions come from transport (9% car use, 5% air travel and 4% public transport). Our overall carbon emissions per person is less than the Bristol average, but the repercussions on our residents is huge. The cost of food, petrol and energy rising, poor transport links, poor retail offer and rising sea levels all impact our local community.
Listen to what matters to locals
Local residents are often time poor, in low skilled and insecure employment, living in poverty, have housing issues, and caring responsibilities, coupled with the rising cost of living, and cuts to universal credit whilst living in a pandemic. It is therefore important to frame conversations around what is really important to locals.
It comes as no surprise that housing, public transport, jobs and skills, food and fuel poverty, and green spaces all feature strongly in our plan. Residents were at the forefront of deciding what the issues are, and how they are impacting on their everyday life, but more importantly, what the actions should be in addressing these issues, as well as the journey on how we reach carbon neutrality.
To get residents on board, you have to tackle issues that are affecting them today and work together to come up with solutions so they can see outcomes to improve their everyday life for tomorrow.
Focus on co-benefits of climate action
Climate action is not something that we have been focussing on explicitly and residents don’t think of it as a direct priority for them. Our priorities are the co-benefits for improving overall health and wellbeing, with climate being a secondary outcome of our engagement strategy. So, for example, our Lawrence Weston in bloom project that we have been running for the last three years is about improving our green spaces, bringing people together to reduce social isolation, improve mental health and improve the look and feel of our community. It has incidental climate outcomes of protecting and improving the biodiversity within our community, sustaining wildlife populations and improving local air quality.
Just to assure the residents, Ambition Lawrence Weston are committed to delivering action on climate change, but not at the expense of meeting the residents’ more immediate and pressing priorities, like poverty, housing needs and access to services and employment. We are absolutely focussed on meeting the pressures our residents are experiencing right now, whilst creating a positive impact on climate change outcomes at the same time.
Ambition Lawrence Weston are one of six community organisations who have been co-producing Community Climate Action plans over the past year. Watch the recording of our webinar on How to Cocreate a Community Climate Action Plan to find out how to apply their learning in your own community.