How community leadership on climate benefits all
14th June 2022
Amy Harrison is the Partnership’s Community Manager, responsible for coordinating the Bristol Community Climate Action project. In March 2022 the project produced Bristol’s first Community Climate Action plans. In this blog Amy reflects on the potential benefits of such plans to both communities and strategic decision-makers and shares a new report with insights from the project.
Community leadership on climate
Empowered community leadership on climate is an important element of how a city holistically responds to the climate and ecological emergencies. Community organisations showed real leadership during the pandemic and they proved how essential they are when a city or region needs to respond to a crisis. For Bristol to achieve its ambitious net zero carbon by 2030 target, the collective skills, knowledge and energy of the whole city will be needed. Communities and community Hub organisations have an essential role in this.
How community climate action plans can benefit communities
Cocreating a community climate action plan with and for a specific community of place or lived experience has the potential to unite a range of different stakeholders around a positive vision for the future of that community and a route map for how to turn that vision into a reality.
A plan helps raise the profile of a community organisation and can open doors to new and different collaborations and funding. It can also help position community organisations as respected climate leaders, increasing the likelihood of genuine engagement and support from external stakeholders and strategic decision-makers.
Coproduced community climate action plans enable the opinions of a broad range of citizens to be represented in strategic climate conversations and decision-making and helps residents feel like they are part of influencing something bigger and empowered to make change locally on an issue that often feels a little too intangible, complex and negative. Plans can also help identify the opportunities for climate action to bring tangible community co-benefits which improve the quality of life for local people.
How community-led climate action plans can benefit strategic decisionmakers
Involving communities as core, and equal partners can support innovate and ambitious climate action at a city and regional level. This action is more likely to be successful because it is inclusive, has public support and directly meets immediate local social needs alongside the more abstract and intangible needs of the climate crisis.
Community hub organisations are often trusted and relatable messengers who have credibility with their communities. This makes them essential engagement and communications partners for councils and other strategic organisations working on implementing climate strategy.
The urgency of the climate and ecological crises necessitates rapid change. The pace of change experienced by citizens will be significant and could result in public resistance which would be detrimental to achieving carbon reduction goals. Integrated community climate action at an early and strategic stage could not only help mitigate this resistance at a local level but help accelerate the pace of change needed to meet a city and region’s climate targets. However, failure to involve communities in climate action could risk perceptions of consultations and solutions as imposed from above, which can disempower communities and increase the risk of public backlash.
Community-led climate action plans and priorities can provide useful intelligence and evidence of need for local authorities and other strategic partners. This evidence can usefully contribute to the case for support for attracting strategic climate funding and investment to a city or region.
To hear more insights on cocreating community climate action plans read the Bristol Community Climate Action Project insights report.
“Representatives from Bristol’s Community Climate Action programme highlighted that there are communities, such as those with disabilities and living in deprived areas, who are impacted by climate policies at a national and local level. Steps need to be taken to consider them from the start: they have great ideas to offer the country and we should use them.” Professor Piers Forster, Member of the Committee on Climate Change