Forest of Dean Climate Action is a climate emergency community partnership that is currently being established to coordinate a district wide community-based response to the climate emergency. It will bring together communities, businesses and organisations from across the district to deliver community led climate action through collaboration, empowerment and knowledge sharing, with the aim of driving the district to become carbon neutral by 2030, enabling the community to own both the problem and the solution.
The climate emergency requires a joined up community wide response that goes beyond the means and control of Forest of Dean District Council. Whilst there is already some good action being taken by existing local climate action groups in the district, an effective way to link up, scale up and coordinate action is needed to catalyse it on the kind of a scale required for the district to become carbon neutral by 2030.
Forest of Dean Climate Action will bring together residents, businesses, environmental groups and organisations in key sectors such as health, education, housing and farming from across the district to deliver community led climate action through collaboration, empowerment and knowledge sharing, with the imperative of driving the district to become carbon neutral by 2030. It will utilise the wide range of skills, knowledge, and connections present within the community to help deliver the necessary change.
The partnership will consist of a central Hub team run by 5-10 core members (some of which could be paid part-time or full-time roles), a wider visionary group of 40-50 key local partner organisations, and then a much wider community group of local residents who are engaged to contribute ideas, perspectives and local knowledge, and help to translate the partnership’s projects into local action.
It will need to be financially supported as it develops, with funding likely sought on a project by project basis in the form of sponsorship and grants. No funding is currently in place, however it is currently allocated some staff resource through the Council's Climate Emergency Officer post, as well as being supported by a team of volunteers from the community.
The partnership is still in it's early stages of development, but a website has just been launched (forestofdeanclimateaction.org.uk), with the intention of building up and connecting a network of stakeholders over the coming months so that the partnership can begin to work on projects and initiatives.
The partnership will enable the community to collectively own both the problem and the solutions to climate change whilst also ensuring a just transition to net zero by identifying the potentially diverse needs and priorities of Forest of Dean residents, businesses and visitors, ensuring all perspectives are accounted for. It is expected that the partnership will deliver a wide range of community climate mitigation and adaptation projects, each with their own set of related co-benefits. However these will all be delivered with the co-ambition of community building and empowerment. By working together, local stakeholders will hopefully be able to benefit from the economies of scale, ideas innovation, and skills and knowledge sharing that successful partnership working can deliver.
Although it is still in its early stages of development, the process of setting up the partnership so far has highlighted the importance of involving the community in key decision making processes in order to ensure they have agency over the partnership and that it is able to deliver in line with their needs and expectations. This is vital in order to ensure the partnership is independent from the Council, whilst still being largely supported by it initially. For example, when exploring options for how to structure the partnership, it became clear that there were several different ways that this could be done, each with their own merits and drawbacks. Rather than the Council making this decision, two online community workshops were held to facilitate discussion and deliberation around different options, with presentations about each option being given by three speakers.
Another challenge is reaching out to elements of the community that have to date been harder to reach with the climate emergency agenda, such as businesses and young people, rather than just the typical activist usually involved in environmental groups. Initial efforts have therefore focused on establishing strong relationships with the Forest Economic Partnership, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Local Enterprise Partnership, and local education providers such as Hartpury University and College.