Bristol was European Green Capital in 2015 and although they have a fifteen-year history of working to reduce the city’s contribution to climate change, in the last couple of years Bristol City Council (BCC) has really stepped up its climate work and became the first local authority to declare a Climate Emergency in November 2018.
The scale of what needs to be achieved is the challenge for Bristol. Their strategy is a city-wide shared vision which is not owned by any one organisation. The Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change was established to provide technical expertise for the strategy. This committee worked with the Council as well as the Bristol Green Partnership, a partnership of over nine hundred organisations who have committed to working towards Bristol becoming a sustainable city. Ensuring that they are on track to reach their ambition for a carbon neutral and climate resilient city by 2030, means being able to demonstrate progress on a regular basis.
Evaluation is vital and BCC makes sure that they look back at their key performance indicators. A system is in place which allows them to regularly review their original objectives and make sure there is evidence of achievement against their targets. This includes looking at their digital and media reach as well as collating any anecdotal or qualitative feedback through two-way communication. Every quarter, they look across their service and identify the best-case examples of working or campaigns which they then report back to the organisation through internal communication channels so best practice can be built upon in all services.
To ensure that their vision really is city-wide, BCC uses insights from surveys to engage their local residents. Most recently this has included creating a Bristol Climate Hub. The launch of the tool was brought forward in response to requests from citizens who said they wanted to help combat climate change but needed clear advice on which actions are most effective for them. One important feature of the Hub is a quiz which creates different personas considering what people might think about climate change and the actions they already take as well their functionality level, income level etc to provide tailored advice on how they can get involved and help.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, as people’s habits changed, BCC noticed a big reduction in emissions levels in the city. As part of applying for grants for temporary traffic measures, BCC has been required to continually measure and monitor these levels, which has provided the demonstrable impacts of reducing cars on the road which can be reported back to residents and stakeholders in clear communications. This regular evaluation is something they will continue to draw from for any future campaigns.
BCC has learnt that extensively assessing what you ask of residents with service leads and officers is essential. These asks need to be both impact-assessed and relatable to residents and should provide clear steps for people to take.
Alison Butts, External Communications Manager at Bristol City Council:
“With a topic like this, which can be so contentious and complex you need to rely on science. Try to find that middle ground; to engage and inspire people but on a really sound, factual basis.”
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