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Winchester City Council: Community and parish climate engagement

Winchester City Council has been working with Winchester Action on Climate Change (WinACC) and the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) to support the development of climate action hubs across the Winchester district.

The Winchester Climate Action Network (WeCAN) project aims to engage parish councils, community groups, and residents in the Winchester district and inspire them to take action against climate change.

WeCAN Explainer video

The challenge

In June 2019, Winchester City Council declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ and committed to the aim of getting the council carbon neutral by 2024, and the district of Winchester carbon neutral by 2030.

The council’s Carbon Neutrality Action Plan (CNAP) sets out a comprehensive list of actions that will help address nearly all our carbon emissions and contribute to reducing emissions district-wide. These actions focus on reducing carbon emissions across transport, energy, and property/housing, and offsetting the remaining carbon.

A key theme throughout the CNAP is that everyone across the district has a part to play - no single act or level of action is capable of achieving carbon neutrality alone.

Barriers preventing parishes and communities from being more fully engaged with CNAP include a lack of data on solid fuel usage at a parish level, climate literacy of residents, and the tools and support needed to enable engagement and change. Winchester City Council aims to address these barriers by developing and supporting projects that bring people together. The WeCAN project is one of the main ways that the council is supporting the development of local climate action hubs and networks across the Winchester district.

The solution

WeCAN started in February 2021 with a virtual meeting for anyone across the Winchester district. Almost 60 people shared news about their activities and plans, setting out the support they needed from the network.

In April 2021, surveys were sent to all parish councils and community climate groups to find out where climate emergency activity is already happening, and the support that communities need to respond to the climate emergency. To date, 60% (29 of the 48) of parish councils have responded to the surveys.

In June 2021, CSE produced a carbon footprint report for each parish and city ward within the Winchester district. These were created using CSE’s Impact Community Carbon Calculator tool. The carbon footprint reports were presented during a series of webinars hosted by WinACC and CSE towards the end of June.

Two virtual climate action planning workshops were hosted on the 1st and 9th October 2021 as part of the annual Winchester Green Week. The purpose of these workshops was to help attendees build upon the findings from the carbon footprint reports and develop plans for local climate action.

The impact

Each parish has been provided with a detailed breakdown of its carbon footprints. Following the publication of the carbon footprint reports, many parish councils and community groups have already identified and developed carbon reduction initiatives within their local areas.

The action planning workshops helped provide communities and parish councils in attendance with further expertise and support to develop their own climate change action plans. Parishes received guidance to help them review and consider their levels of influence and set relevant and impactful action plans.

WeCAN Case Study Video (Itchen Valley Parish Council)

How is the new approach being sustained?

Following the workshops, CSE is making freely available comms bundles to support parish councils’ and community groups’ communication campaigns around the Climate Emergency. Comms bundles will be provided each month and will contain various materials such as new stories, posters, social media post templates, and other supporting documents. The first comms bundle will be released towards the end of October and will be themed around COP26.

Winchester City Council is also providing grant funding for not-for-profit groups and charities in the Winchester district through the Greener Futures Fund. Match funding grants are available for projects that address issues such as transport, energy consumption or behavioural changes. Applications are being encouraged via the Crowdfunder platform for grants of up to 50% of project costs, up to a maximum of £2000.

Lessons learned

Winchester City Council has learned from working on this project with CSE and WinACC, that community-led action is a powerful force for change, and I must not underestimate the powerful role that parishes, communities, and individuals can play in tackling the climate emergency.

However, as parish councillors and many community groups operate voluntarily and do not have substantial funds available, there is a need for targeted support from councils to proactively build local networks and sustain community-led action on climate change. CSE brings a wealth of community engagement and communications experience and resources to support parishes and community groups that are already active to engage the broader community and to engage those parishes and communities who have to date been less engaged with the climate emergency agenda.


Levana Hayes, [email protected]

Alex Eburne, [email protected]

Links to relevant documents