Torbay Council, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council: Joint Carbon Literacy Training

In an effort to embed the Climate Emergency across our organisations, Torbay, South Hams and West Devon joined forces to arrange Carbon Literacy Training for 48 key officers, senior leaders and key councillors across Torbay Council, South Hams District Council and West Devon Borough Council.


The challenge

Improving the carbon literacy and understanding of climate change amongst members and officers at Councils can make an important contribution to realising net zero targets. We knew that actions taken by just a few officers/members will not deliver carbon neutrality on their own, rather a new culture across organisations is needed.

South Hams District Council, West Devon Borough Council and Torbay Council were all considering ways to embed the Climate Emergency in their organisations and were having individual discussions with the Carbon Literacy Project about options for training at similar times.

We knew that we needed staff to understand how they can start to take action and feel empowered to do so. This would result in more staff embedding action across the council and working towards meeting carbon neutral priorities. We decided to allocate training slots to senior members of staff but because of this we knew diary availability would be a challenge.

Firstly, we had to understand what options for training were out there, these we largely:

  • climate change/climate emergency officers at each council to develop their own training using the Carbon Literacy Local Authority Toolkit
  • climate change/climate emergency officers at each council to develop their own bespoke training programme
  • use a training provider
  • how best to engage senior staff members and get them to sign up to sessions.

The first two options would result in a significant resource requirement for individual Climate officers to undertake, using a training provider on the other hand would require a range of cost implications.

The solution

Noting that officer time was constrained a training provider appeared to be the only option. However, after researching options, it appeared that arranging training for larger cohorts could be an attractive option, and Speak Carbon were chosen to deliver it. South Hams, West Devon and Torbay are well positioned, with Torbay and South Hams being neighbouring authorities and South Hams and West Devon sharing a staff base, so collaborating on Carbon Literacy Training would not only be cost effective, but mixing staff together could have the potential benefit of improving cross boundary working.

To encourage senior staff to sign up, Climate Officers presented the options to their leadership teams and cabinet member, help them understand the benefits of Carbon Literacy Training, this buy in from directors meant that it was easier to position the training as a priority.

The impact

  • 48 officers fully aware of the climate emergency and identifying ways to address it for their Council
  • 3 Cabinets fully aware of the climate emergency and identifying ways to address it for their Council and to show strong leadership
  • Greater cross directorate collaborations and new actions that will form part of the council’s carbon neutral actions plans/similar.
  • The arrangement has led tailored sessions where officers from all three councils were mixed together, creating a better understanding of the issues and opportunities for tackling climate change in our own areas, across authority boundaries and for the County as a whole.
  • Ability for climate officers to now use the Carbon Literacy Project toolkit and roll out further training to all staff across the councils.

All three councils are partners to the Devon Climate Emergency, so we were able to consider the County issues and targets as well, furthering our aims in working towards a net zero Devon and strengthening collaboration and partnerships.

Lessons learned

Dealing with a larger cohort of senior level staff meant that availability was the biggest issue, we learnt over time that it was better to run two separate doodle polls and use the combined data to create three, two-hour sessions. There have been drop outs over time due to diary and pressure conflicts but a way around this is to have mop up sessions at the end for those who missed out to participate. Word of mouth across the organisation has been good as trainees started their sessions resulting in better engagement from other members of staff.

Contact

Adam Williams, South Hams District Council, West Devon Borough Council:

adam.williams@swdevon.gov.uk

Jacqui Warren, Torbay Council:

Jacqui.Warren@torbay.gov.uk