The LGA have released a podcast series to provide advice and guidance for council officers and Members looking to engage their local communities on climate change.
Across the United Kingdom, councils are taking urgent actions in their local areas with partners and their local communities to combat the negative impacts of climate change and to deliver net zero carbon by 2050. To help councils reach these targets, the LGA has recorded a new podcast series – Local Action For Our Environment.
This podcast is a training resource for council officers and Members, supporting councils on a local pathway to net zero and enabling them to fight climate change locally with the tools, techniques and know how.
The focus of this series is on the climate crisis and how councils can create meaningful engagement with communities on climate change, enabling local climate action, developing tangible evidence and plans for how they are tackling climate change in their areas.
Hearing from a variety of councils and experts across five episodes, council officers and Members can learn about a range of different techniques which can be deployed to engage with local communities, and how to overcome the challenges which may arise along the way.
All episodes in this series are chaired by Councillor Liz Green, a Councillor in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and Vice-Chair of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board with lead responsibility for climate change.
- Episode 1: The climate crisis
This first episode provides a foundation to inform senior council managers and councillors of the need to act and address the climate emergency. Our speakers discuss two main questions:
- Why should local government care about the climate crisis and why do they need to act now?
- Why engage the public on climate change and the climate emergency?
- Councillor Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader of Waltham Forest Council.
- Professor Andy Gouldson, Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Leeds, Chair of the Leeds Climate Commission and Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission.
- Episode 2: Public engagement strategy and net zero
The Climate Change Committee called for a public engagement strategy on net zero which includes involving people in decision-making and providing trusted information.
This episode considers three different techniques which councils could use to engage their communities on the climate emergency in their local areas. We also hear about Camden’s Climate Assembly where Councillor Adam Harrison talks through the process, impact, and challenges, for councils to consider if using a similar approach.
- Chandrima Padmanabhan, Programme Lead - Climate, Centre for Public Impact Europe.
- Cllr Adam Harrison, Cabinet Member for a Sustainable Camden, Camden Council.
Centre for Public Impact:
- Engaging the public on climate change
- Engaging the public on climate change: what we’ve Learned
- Public engagement on climate change: a case study compendium
- Episode 3: Public engagement challenges – inform and educate
The Climate Change Committee said that the public needs access to trusted information about the decisions being made in the transition to net zero, the reasoning behind and impact of these decisions, and the choices available at critical decision points.
This episode will discuss where the current knowledge gap is, how we can fix it, and how Nottingham City Council have been successful in communicating about climate change effectively.
- Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, Director of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations.
- Chris Common, Carbon Neutral Policy Manager, Nottingham City Council.
- Episode 4: Public engagement challenges – collaboration
This episode will look at how the public can be involved in decision making on climate change, how councils can work with their residents and communities and discuss how to engage communities through these methods. Climate Assembly UK was a high-profile example of engaging the public in climate decision-making. Multiple local climate assemblies and juries have also received attention, such as Kendal’s Citizen’s Jury.
- Sarah Allan, Director of Capacity Building and Standards, Involve.
- Chris Bagshaw, Town Clerk, Kendal Town Council
- E-bulletin sign up
- Climate Assembly UK
- Our Zero Selby
- Kendal Climate Citizens' Jury
- Public Engagement and Net Zero: How government should involve citizens in climate policy making
- The climate commons: How communities can thrive in a climate changing world - IPPR
- Climate Assemblies and Juries: A people powered response to the climate emergency
- Transition Network.org
Case Studies on Citizens Assemblies and Juries:
- Episode 5: Engaging diverse audiences on climate change
This episode is coming soon.
Councils often have diverse local populations. But those who engage with council activities and with climate change often do not represent that full diversity.
In the last episode our guest speakers discuss the importance of engaging the full diversity of their local populations and what councils should think about before, during and after engagement processes to ensure they are accessible and inclusive. We also hear how Hampshire County Council are working with partners to deliver community projects.
- Chitra Nadarajah, Strategic Manager – Climate Change, Hampshire County Council
- Councillor Kaltum Rivers, Sheffield City Council
- Jo Wall, Strategic Director – Climate Response, Local Partnerships
Below are the transcripts for each episode of the podcast.
- Episode 1: The climate crisis (transcript)
Speaker 1: This is the local action for our environment podcast series, brought to you by the Local Government Association.
Councillor Liz Green: Hello and welcome to the local action for our environment podcast, a new podcast brought to you by the local government association to support councils on reaching their climate change reduction goals. I'm Councillor Liz Green, Vice Chair of the LGA's improvement and innovation board with lead responsibility for climate change. The LGA climate change sector support programme funded by the UK government helps councils to reach their local carbon reduction targets by adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change. This training series forms part of this support offer. As you may be aware, many councils across the UK have declared a climate emergency. I will be chairing this podcast series as we explore how councils can effectively engage with their communities on the climate emergency. In this first episode we'll be discussing the climate crisis, what this means for councils and why it's important to engage with our local communities. I'm delighted to be joined today by Councillor Clyde Loakes, who's the deputy leader of the London borough of Waltham Forest, and Professor Andy Gouldson, who's the professor for Environmental Policy at Leeds University, as well as the chair of Leeds Climate Commission, and Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission. Before we kick off, we will start these episodes with a few questions to get you thinking. From our guest speakers today I have two questions, firstly, do you know what percent of household waste can be recycled on the doorstep of a Waltham Forest household property?
And also, how much money do you think Leeds could save from its energy bill by adopting cost-effective low-carbon measures. Listen out for the answers during the episode and I'll check in with you again at the end. So Clyde, I'd like to start with you, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Councillor Clyde Loakes: Hi Liz, and thank you for inviting me along to this podcast today. So I'm the deputy leader in the London Borough Waltham Forest which is in north-east London. I've been deputy leader for around about eleven years now, but I've largely always held the, kind of, traditional environment brief in Waltham Forest, probably for around the last fifteen plus years. And I've been a Councillor for 22 years, so represented in the Leytonstone ward in the south of Waltham Forest, so just a kind of little bit of background.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks Clyde, good to have you with us. So basically what is climate change? Why is it a crisis and most importantly why do we need to act now?
Councillor Clyde Loakes: Well, climate change is what we, you know, I would like to think now we're all noticing happening all around us, whether it's in the news from some of the extreme weather patterns that we're starting to see in Canada, or some of the flash floods that we had in London just this week, and other parts of the UK in July, huge downpours that cause flooding to businesses and properties. Or it's the fact that, you know, in December and January we don't have the snow that we used to have. Certainly when I was a kid you could always guarantee there would be some snow in December and January when I was a young child at school, and you'd have snow days at school where the schools were closed because it was just snowdrifts, you couldn't get into school. We just don't have those in the kind of way that we used to have them anymore. Autumn would always be an October occurrence, Autumn now starts in September and goes on through till December, you know, with the leaf fall which was a key indicator of what Autumn was about. So we're starting to see, you know, different changes in weather patterns, and that is because the planet is heating up. And the planet is heating up as a consequence of, kind of, human behaviours, human interventions, human deliberations, inventions, largely over the past 300 to 400 years in particular. And they have contributed to the planet warming up and we're now, kind of, very aware of that, how we've interacted with the planet and the difference that that is now making.
And of course we are now desperate to try and change our behaviours, change our interactions with the planet and our surroundings, change our behaviours to, kind of, try and make a difference, try to stop the planet continuing to heat up, cool down, so we can start to get it back into a place where it's liveable, because if we don't the planet will continue to warm up, the ice caps will continue to melt and we will start to lose places that we live at a pace. And that then displaces populations and it creates all sorts of geopolitical, kind of, challenges for us going forward, and many of those are well documented. But the key here though, Liz, is we can all make a difference, we can all make a contribution, and we have to stop passing the buck to different organisations, to different businesses, to different tiers of government. We all have to take some responsibility and start making a difference ourselves.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, some frightening things happening at the moment, but what does this mean for local government, for those of us who are Members, or for the officers?
Councillor Clyde Loakes: So in local government we're in a prime place to start to provide, some very hands-on leadership of what we can all do, you know, whether as part of an organisation, and leading and facilitating change, or encouraging our residents, some of the things that they can do to make a difference because we are at the front line, so to speak. So, you know, we are really well-placed to start to build that, kind of, coalition of behaviour change to start to make a difference. And we can do that by, kind of, introducing some local policies, and it can be very basic stuff, and lots of people still don't like the fact that we hone in on things like the circular economy and the waste management and recycling stuff, but that's a basic interaction that we can have with our residents around something that they can do that can make a difference. You know, we can then start looking at how we manage our highways, for example, and start to put in sustainable urban drainage systems to kind of better deal with some of the flash flooding, the incidents that we now have on a more regular occurrence at different times of the year.
We can start to prioritise active travel and sustainable travel, which is one of the things that we've done in Waltham Forest, encouraging more people to walk and cycle those short journeys which they have traditionally taken by car, making it easier and safer and giving them the priority to do that means they get out of the car. Now of course we all know cars are one of the main contributors to why our planet is in the state that it is today. So, you know, we can all do things, and that's just in the traditional spaces, looking to a very traditional environmental lens. But we also know that practices of social workers, healthcare workers can change to make a positive difference. You know, our collective experiences over the past fifteen months with, kind of, working more remotely and using Teams and Zooms, and other platforms to interact has meant that we have cut down on some of the journeys that we've had to make, but we've still been able to connect with people, we've still been able to make decisions, we've still been able to make changes. You know, so it's about taking some of those, kind of, benefits, learnt some shared benefits from the past fifteen months and taking those forward so we don't all suddenly flock into big office buildings and all turn on the heating systems again, and leave the taps running, and etc, etc, we can start to invent some, kind of, key changes.
We can use that procurement to actually reach beyond our own organisations where we're procuring different services or different offers for our residents to insist in those parts of those processes that businesses who are bidding for those contracts change the way that they do things as well. So we can start to have a wider, kind of, reach, but we're at the front of this debate, of this call to action, Liz, we can really make a difference. And, you know, parliament will be the legislators of the big stuff, but we can already be making decisions, making an impact and helping our residents make some of those small changes on a day-to-day basis that collectively can start to have a massive impact on the future of our planet and our climate.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and obviously as we know in local government, we know our communities better than anybody else and what might work for them, but you touched on, you mentioned social workers and other areas. Climate change has been for a long time very much seen as the environment department at the council's responsibility. So how can we get across the whole council and to the wider residents and businesses in an area?
Councillor Clyde Loakes: I mean, that's a great question, Liz, and, you know, I do share this frustration that even now in the council when there's a question to do with the climate, the immediate, kind of, eyes come to me to provide the answer. But every cabinet member, it's almost like a corporate responsibility now, the climate emergency, just as much as, kind of, looking after and making sure our council tax payers money is well spent. The same, kind of, principle needs to be with the climate emergency, and that is social workers have just as much responsibility. You know, thankfully housing has started to come up, although it-, because I think there's a great recognition now of just, you know, how damaging some of our housing practices, building control practices have been over many, many years, and that whole agenda around retrofitting to make them more energy efficient, make them more sustainable, you know, recycling products that have been used in other waste streams, help make those, reduce the carbon footprint of those, and new housing schemes that are coming on stream. But, you know, it has to be a corporate response now, it can no longer be the environment silo solely responsible for the climate emergency.
And it's only when we, kind of, reach out and we make schools as interested, social workers as interested, procurement as interested, as our police and our other blue lights services just as interested in this debate, that we can actually really start reaching out to our communities, and then everyone can start making a real difference. Because everyone can change some basic behaviours and practices and can start to make a difference, but we have to provide that leadership, that guidance, you know, and that's really, really important. And that's why, you know, local government is really important in this because we're at the front-line with that kind of leadership, we are on the ground, we can demonstrate, we can lead.
Councillor Liz Green: I couldn't agree more, it's got to be everyone's responsibility, but how do we make that happen, Clyde? How do we ensure that people, you know, our social workers have been flat-out, some councils obviously if they're districts wouldn't have a social work department, or an education or some of the other areas that you mentioned, or housing. How do we make sure that everyone sees this responsibility in a more collective way? Do you have any tips that you can give us on that?
Councillor Clyde Loakes: So, we have to keep talking, and we have to keep talking to our staff, to our partners, to our contractors, you know, literally en masse. We have to keep telling them that this is a really, really important issue and here's how they can engage in it. So in Waltham Forest, in the Autumn we've been rolling out carbon literacy training to all of our staff and contractors, you know, saying, actually this is why windows need to be kept closed at certain times of the year, this is why the heating is now going off at certain times of the year, this is why the flush is as it is in the, kind of, town hall toilets at this certain time of the year. You know, this is what you can do when you go home and talk to your children and your family about why you need to recycle more and take up these opportunities, this is why you need to be walking. We need to constantly be having those conversations with people, because they are almost like the entry-level, kind of, conversations, you know, when you start to get people really understanding why it's important that their waste management is so much better than it is now, getting more people walking and cycling those short journeys to school, to the workplace, you know, those kind of entry-, then you can start to build on that foundation and start to talk about some of the bigger challenges, some of the bigger behaviour challenges that we're going to need to, kind of, introduce over the coming years.
Because unless we get the basics right, unless we get people hooked on the basics, then the bigger stuff, the bigger challenges, we aren't going to go nowhere on, and it is so, so, so important that we get people onboard and with us, whether they're a social worker, whether they're a finance accountant, you know, whether they're one of our, kind of, bin crews still, they all need to understand and they need to be on this journey with us together so that we can influence as many people as possible.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and you mentioned waste management there, that's obviously one of the things that people do recognise, it's one of our universal services, collection of waste and recycling. So, do enough people recycle enough in Waltham Forest?
Councillor Clyde Loakes: No they do not, Liz, no they do not. So, in Waltham Forest our recycling rate has been stuck around the early 30% for many, many years, yes, it's about 32% currently. However, however, you in Waltham Forest can come out of your front door and without going any further recycle 85% of your household waste, you know, and we're constantly expanding the things that you can recycle on your doorstep. Because the easier we make it, hopefully we get more and more people to, kind of, buy into it. So, you know, in Waltham Forest your batteries, your domestic batteries will be picked up weekly from the top of your bin, your textiles will be picked up from the top of your bin a weekly basis, your small electrical items will be picked up, you know, wires, redundant wires that you no longer need for your various iPhone and Android equipment and such like, all of that can be collected from your doorstep in Waltham Forest. And it's a real, real challenge, a real challenge to get people to do the right things there, even when you make it so, so simple, and it's just about reiterating, communicating with people just how important doing this right is.
And of course the more we recycle the more money we can actually take out from that service and put into other services, like helping retrofit more of our, kind of, council house stock, to make them fit the purpose and reduce fuel poverty but also make them more efficient so they're not having such a negative impact on the climate. You know, gas boilers, there's so many gas boilers in our properties now that we're going to have to take out if we're really serious about the climate emergency. So, you know, some big, big challenges, and we need to be identifying the easy things that people can do that also frees up cash and good for the climate, good for the bank balance, but then creates that pot of cash so we can some of the other big and more challenging issues that we need to address.
Councillor Liz Green: So thanks Clyde. And throughout this podcast series we will hear some of the tips from other guest speakers, we will talk about the best ways to engage the community and there will be some great things I know coming up about how to do that and get the communities to make that change that we want them to make. But lastly, Clyde, what would be your, sort of, top tip for another local authority that's maybe not quite as far down the route? I know Waltham Forest, particularly on the cycling and walking infrastructure is very well advanced, but what would be your top tip?
Councillor Clyde Loakes: Well, I think it's you've got to be bold, we've got to be bold and honest in these conversations with our residents, you know, change has to happen, there is no doubt about this. And the, kind of, perhaps the traditional ways, the very timid ways that the government has gone about delivering change in the past, consultation over consultation and lowest common denominator approaches, that's not going to work going forward, we don't have the time, we need pace on this agenda. So that's why we've got to be honest with our residents around the realities of what climate change means to them locally, because they can see it internationally, occasionally they can see it nationally, but they don't always recognise it when it's actually on their doorstep. And so, you know, we've got to connect them through that journey, say, 'Well actually this is happening in Canada, this could be happening here too.' You know, that the dramatic differences that we're seeing as a consequence of human interactions with the planet, and there are simple things we can do. So we have to identify that leadership that secures that behaviour change going forward, so it's a little bit about honest conversations, pace, and leadership.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks Clyde. And in one of the later podcasts I know there's a frightening statistic of something that could be more difficult to obtain that I think all of us would want, so you'll have to listen to the rest of the series to find out what that is. Coming over to you, Andy, so can you tell us, you have a myriad of roles as we heard, a little bit about what you do in those roles?
Professor Andy Gouldson: Yes, sure. So I'm chair of the Leeds Climate Commission which is an independent body which draws together the council itself, but also the main organisations and community groups, and businesses, and so on in the city to take shared responsibility for the climate challenge. We felt as a city that it was too much to leave it to, you know, one or two people in the environment department as you were talking to earlier, but it needed to be mainstreamed into all of the other areas of the council's activities into health, and transport, and housing, and education, and economic development and so on. But also that it needed to be shared across the city and that, you know, all of us individually, collectively, needed to step up. And the commission was an attempt to bring us all together to be positive and to guide, and track, and support climate action in the city. And my other role is now the director of the Yorkshire and Humber commission, which is a regional commission for the five and a half million people in Yorkshire and Humber, works across 22 local authorities and is doing the same thing basically, but operating at a larger scale with a hopefully, you know, bigger, broader opportunity for the impact.
Councillor Liz Green: Well that's great, and obviously climate change doesn't-, Waltham Forest or Leeds can do wonderful things but it doesn't respect the local government boundaries for some reason, and decide that, you know, it's only going to affect the wards that don't do so well. So great that Humber and Yorkshire are coming together for this. But Andy, why should your average UK resident care about climate change? You know, we've all got busy lives, we're in a pandemic, coming out of it hopefully, but we've all got things in our lives we need to be getting on with, why should we care about the climate crisis?
Professor Andy Gouldson: I think two reasons, and they're, kind of, the mirror image of each other. One is because it's a massive threat, you know, the science is really clear now that we are perilously close to the point where we're going to lose control of our own future, that once you cross over this threshold of about one and a half degrees of warming, which doesn't sound much, but, you know, it's behind all sorts of changes globally. You know, things happen like our forests dry out and then are more susceptible to burning, you know, or the ice caps melt and then the world absorbs more heat, you know, or the gulf stream weakens. And there are all these absolutely fundamental things which will change our food supply, our water supply, our weather systems, and, you know, some of those things will drive further climate change. So once we cross this threshold, you know, and the most common one is the melting of the permafrost and the release of massive amounts of methane which then drives further warming, which leads to further melting and then further climate change, and you know it becomes a vicious circle. And, you know, you look at the science and it's genuinely terrifying. I'm not a scientist but I do work on this and I have worked on it for years and years, and it's just getting more and more worrying. And, you know, maybe all of that seems a bit abstract from normal people's lives, but when it starts impacting on food supplies, and conflict, and stability, and migration, it will be fundamental in its impact on our children's lives if it's not already, to be honest.
But the flip-side of that is that it's a huge opportunity, and, you know, one of our key messages is that climate change and tackling climate change is a way of tackling all sorts of other agendas. It can help us to improve public health and reduce fuel poverty. You know, it can help us to improve connectivity and reduce congestion and enhance air quality. It can create good quality green jobs, you know, so it's a positive opportunity, including very much at the local level for cities or other authorities to, you know, to work towards the kind of future they want for their area and their residents. And I think we need to frame it in positive terms, and people need to be, kind of, excited about the kind of place that they can live in that is net zero, and is climate resilient, and is biodiversity friendly as well, and people think that's the future I want for me and my kids, that's the kind of place I want to live in, that's the job I want to do. And only, I think, by framing it in those, kind of, positive ways are people generally going to get on board. I think if it's all hair shirts, and sacrifice, and, you know, denial and so on, then I think we're going to face a much bigger struggle getting people on board, and building that social license for change, if you'd like.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, I'm really glad you mentioned the potential for positives coming out of it, because people don't like just being threatened, essentially, that it's all going to be bad, so we need to see those positives. Our audience here is Members and officers of local government, so you've talked a little bit about the working leads of the climate commission bring everybody together, but what specifically can councils do and how does that feed into that wider area that you were talking about?
Professor Andy Gouldson: I think councils are obviously central to this and, you know, it's really hard to imagine it happening at the local level without local authority leadership. But on the other hand, local authorities can't, and maybe shouldn't try and do everything, you know? And maybe sometimes there's a culture change needed to switch into more of a partnership or an enabling mode where they try and connect with their communities and with their businesses and say, you know, this is our collective ambition to become a net-zero climate resilient more broadly sustainable place, but we need you on board to do it. And, you know, as I said earlier, by getting on board you can develop your business, create new jobs, live in a more friendly, inclusive, vibrant area, and so on, and so on. So, you know, local authorities catalysing that broader change and that broader buy-in I think is absolutely crucial, yes.
Councillor Liz Green: Great, so it's our leadership of place role as councils that really can come to the fore in all of this. And how do you feel that that works in terms of engaging with our residents, our businesses, the other public sectors, how's the best way to be able to engage in your view?
Professor Andy Gouldson: Well, in Leeds, a couple of years ago, we ran a citizens jury, and that was run by the Climate Commission, and initially, honestly there was a little bit of wariness I think, in some areas of the council who thought that, you know, we're elected councillors, we know the public, we represent the public and we can speak for them, and why do you need a different form of democracy, a more deliberative approach to this? But we struggled to get all of our key constituencies to contribute to the climate debate, you know, maybe for good reasons, people are under pressure and it's not their top priority. And us climate folk need to understand that but sometimes I think we're a little bit tunnel-visioned on it. But the point of the citizens jury was to build a mini public to get people from every part of the city, from every part of the community, different age groups. Obviously the gender balance, and the ethnic balance as well, and the diversity of attitudes to climate change.
And we brought them together, they spent 30 hours deliberating, and, you know, driving the questions from their perspective, and at the end of it they came out really strongly and almost unanimously and said, 'A), we buy that this is a major issue, and B) we want really ambitious action.' And that was so crucial, and afterwards I think the council, or the parts of the council which were initially a little bit wary, were more convinced that, you know, this is a real issue. Even if it's one that they don't hear on the doorsteps or that's not in their mailbox on a regular basis, you know, that if people really engaged with it and heard about the detail of it and had a chance to really explore why it's such a big issue, they would want more climate action. So, you know, councils can convene those kinds of conversations, they can show leadership, they can empower and enable and create a framework for other actors to buy into this agenda. And I think that's increasingly crucial as I said earlier, councils are crucial but I don't think they can do this on their own.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and I'm sure that you'd agree with Clyde's comment earlier that it's about the whole of the council, not purely an environment section of the council to be able to show that leadership.
Professor Andy Gouldson: Absolutely, if we just leave it to the environment or sustainability folk, A) it's massive unfair on them, it's too big a challenge for anyone, or two people, in many authorities, to deal with. But B) it needs to be right in the middle of housing policy and transport policy, and so on, and so on. It needs to be mainstreamed and wired into all aspects of the city council and the city more broadly, you know, of their activities, otherwise we won't do it. It's not enough just to have a few environment people swimming against the tide of all the decisions taken elsewhere in the council or in the city more broadly, which are, kind of, washing us in the other direction.
Councillor Liz Green: And Clyde also mentioned, you know, it saves money for councils quite often. Have you got any examples in Leeds of where savings could be made?
Professor Andy Gouldson: Well, yes, so we prepared a net-zero roadmap for Leeds, and the key finding was if we did all the seeming no-brainer things that would pay for themselves and more over their lifetime then it would cut the city's energy bill by £650 million a year. One of our challenges to the city at large is to say, well what other opportunities are there at the moment to keep or to bring £650 million a year into the city? You know, that would create several thousand jobs. You know, if there was a major corporate that wanted to relocate to Leeds that would bring £650 million a year and create thousands of jobs, the city would absolutely fall over itself, it would pull out all of the stops to compete to get, you know, Microsoft to move from Seattle to Leeds, unlikely as that seems. And, you know, our challenge is that this is the same scale of opportunity, we want the same level of energy and ambition and mobilisation to unlock that opportunity, because it's absolutely real and it's right in front of us. But there are some real barriers, notably how do you raise the money to invest to unlock those kind of opportunities? But it's a massive opportunity, and let's be positive about it rather than, you know, feel overwhelmed by it, or feel that it's all about sacrifice as I said earlier.
Councillor Liz Green: That is a lot of money to bring into one of our core cities. And you're right, all councils would love to have that opportunity so we need to take it. Just want to touch on your other role which is in the wider region of Yorkshire and Humber, and how you feel that the councils there can work together more collectively, because, you know, working across councils is not always an easy task because we have competing demands. So have you got any thoughts on how that's working and how it can work cross councils?
Professor Andy Gouldson: Yes, so we have 22 local authorities, combined authorities across the region of Yorkshire and Humber. Some of them are able to do amazing things, and some of them are smaller and more challenged, and, you know, have struggled to make progress at the rate that we would hope. And, you know, that's understandable, but the idea of the regional commission is to bring us all together, to pool our scarce resources and our energy to support each other, to transfer good practice around, and to act collectively. And, you know, there is a scale issue here and we're already noticing that when we speak as a region, and that can be to Westminster and to government, it can be to business and finance investors, for example, or it could be just internally, the scale of our activity, and the credibility and the energy that comes from operating at a regional level is really crucial. And one of our aims is to promote a transition to net-zero and for climate resilience that doesn't leave anyone or anywhere behind. And, you know, that includes the areas and the people and the communities and the businesses, and if it's appropriate, the authorities that are struggling to act, perhaps, at the moment. And, you know, as I say, hopefully we're a force for good, and we're building our capacity to act collectively and pool our resources to deliver on this. Because it's a huge challenge, absolutely, no one's denying that. And I think we, you know, a lot of us climate folk operating in isolation really need some help, and some inspiration and other people to energise us at times, and hopefully the commission is doing that.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and obviously, each of those councils has its own challenges, but they have their own demographics, you know, they're all very different. And at the LGA we firmly believe that local government is the best place to make decisions because we know our communities best, and those councils will be able to do that, you know, your towns versus, and your cities versus your more rural areas. So I think it's great the way that that's coming together and giving you a greater power to your voice. So just to finish off, Andy, what would be your tips for councils, officers and Members, as I said to Clyde, who maybe aren't quite so far advanced, or to just, you know, move a bit further down the line of the work that they want to do?
Professor Andy Gouldson: I think the big one is to not see it solely as a massive challenge, but also see it as a huge opportunity, to deliver on all of your other objectives in housing, in public health, in equality and employment, and so on. And, you know repackaging it and re-framing it in that positive way I think brings on lots of other people on board into this, and you need their energy, and you need their resources, and you need their leverage, if you like. So that will be the first one. The second one would be to say, you know, don't try and do it all on your own, I know that at times local government wants to be the centre of things, and it is crucial, but it's not the only actor. And, you know, by operating in more of an enabling role and more of a partnership role we can bring in, you know all of the other businesses and the main organisations, and the social and community groups that you're going to need to do this. Without them I think it will grind to a halt, because, you know, we often say if people feel this is something that has been done to them rather than being done by them or for them then at some point they'll kick back. And instead of doing that, if you get into this partnership role and do it together, then I think you can take people with you and go much further and faster in the process.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks Andy, that gives us some real food for thought there, and that brings this episode to a close. At the beginning of the episode I asked whether you knew the percentage of household waste that can be recycled on the doorstep of a Waltham Forest household property. Amazingly, this is 85%. And Leeds could save a massive £650 million a year from, its energy bill by adopting cost-effective low-carbon measures. If you didn't manage to catch those answers during the episode, perhaps give it another listen. Thank you so much for listening today, this episode was presented by myself, Councillor Liz Green, and produced by the Local Government Association. Many thanks to our guest speakers, Councillor Clyde Loakes, and Professor Andy Gouldson. This podcast forms part of the LGA sector support programme available to councils to support their work in combatting climate change. To learn more about the climate crisis and the LGA sector support programme, resources and materials will be linked in our show notes. You can also find out more information on the support pages of the LGA website at local.gov.uk, and you can sign up for our free month climate change e-bulletin. Thank you again for listening, please do share this podcast with your friends and colleagues, and we look forward to welcome you again next time.
- Episode 2: Public engagement strategy and net zero (transcript)
Speaker 1: This is the local action for our environment podcast series, brought to you by the Local Government Association.
Councillor Liz Green: Hello, and welcome to this new Local Government Association podcast to support councils on reaching their climate change reduction goals. I'm Councillor Liz Green and I'm the vice-chair of the LGA's improvement and innovation board with lead responsibility for climate change. The LGA climate change sector support programme, which is funded by the government, helps councils to reach their local carbon reduction targets by adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change. This training series forms part of their support offer. As you may be aware, many councils across the UK have declared a climate emergency, and I'll be chairing this podcast series as we explore how councils can effectively engage with their communities on the climate emergency. In this second episode we'll be discussing public engagement strategies and how we can use these in achieving net-zero. Before we kick off I have two questions for you to think about while you're listening. Whilst Camden were the first local authority in the UK to held a citizens' assembly on the climate crisis, which was the first city council to do this? And also, where do you think public engagement on climate change currently falls short, and how can this be made more effective? See if you can find the answers and I'll check in with you again at the end. I'm delighted to be joined today by Chandrima Padmanabhan who is the programme lead for climate at the Centre for Public Impact Europe, and Councillor Adam Harrison, who's the cabinet member for a sustainable Camden at Camden council. Chandrima, we're going to start with you. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and the work you do at the Centre for Public Impact.
Chandrima Padmanabhan: Absolutely, and thank you so much for having me here today. The Centre for Public Impact is a global not-for-profit and we work closely with governments, with public servants and other organisations to reimagine and redesign public services and public management practice so that it works better for everyone. I lead the work that we do on public engagement on climate change at CPI Europe and our aim through that programme of work is to put communities at the heart of shaping a place-based transition to net-zero by 2050, and we do this in two ways. One is by experimenting with new and meaningful ways of involving communities in building a net zero future, and the second is by being a learning partner to governments and practitioners, and helping support them in meaningfully engaging people in climate decision-making and climate action.
Councillor Liz Green: Thank you. So, if you're a local council what are the different types of public engagement approaches that councils can deploy these days?
Chandrima Padmanabhan: I would say there are broadly three approaches to public engagement around climate change that we have identified through our work. So, the first is public engagement that is centred around communication, the second is focused on collaboration and the third is around intervention, and I'll take you through each of them, and I'll start with public engagement centred round communication. So, with this type of public engagement the intention is to drive awareness on climate change and also, more importantly, to build a public mandate for action. And the most effective ways that we've seen communication to the public done involves not just information provision, but also the development and the bringing together of community-centred and place-based narratives around climate change that really resonate, and speak to people and communities. The second approach, which is focused on collaboration, and there are two sub-types within this. The first is engagement that is focused on bringing people together to deliberate on climate issues and policy, and the outcomes of those deliberative sessions are then fed back into formal decision-making and resource-allocation processes. So, more traditionally this has taken the form of mini publics, so citizens juries, citizen assemblies, participatory budgeting. And citizen assemblies in particular have recently been set up and run by a number of local councils across the UK that have declared climate emergencies. We've also had a national-level Climate Assembly UK process that was very successfully run. So, this approach to public engagement, that is the formal, institutionally-led engagement process which brings people together so that they can deliberate and feedback into formal decision-making, is a relatively more familiar one here in the UK and also in Europe.
So, the questions that remained to be answered here is how that type of engagement can be a longer-term, iterative process with continual citizen feedback loops across the decision-making to delivery life cycle. The second sub-type under public engagement that is focused on collaboration is people-led, as opposed to institution-led like the previous sub-type. So, it's when people themselves come together to take collective action, and that action could be the co-governance of natural resources or it could be the delivery of public services by community groups themselves. We actually recently brought out a very in-depth case study report that covers different examples of community-led public engagement processes. But, to give you some examples, you have community energy programmes where people own and operate their own local renewable energy generation or energy demand reduction projects, you have community governance of forests or marine ecosystems, particularly when local livelihoods are dependent on those resources. And all of these examples require a very grassroots, community-led public engagement approach that grows out of community needs and community aspirations, and my only point here for local councils is to really identify how they can enable, support, and even draw on these public engagement efforts when delivering their own. And finally, the third approach is centred around intervention. And this is public engagement that is structured to incentivise the uptake of climate interventions after they have been identified. So, an intervention could be home energy retrofits, it could be walking and cycling infrastructure, and the uptake of those interventions could be dependent on incentives and disincentives that drive individual choice.
Or in other cases, and with different community groups, the uptake of interventions isn't just about choice because their ability to freely choose could be held back by social barriers like lack of access to resources, or lack of capacity, or just different priorities. And so, in keeping with that there are very specific public engagement processes that accompany the implementation or the delivery of those interventions, and this could be focused around running demos or raising awareness on one end, or on the other end it could be about offering training or capacity building, or it could even be about finding alternate interventions that really meet people where they are. So, to summarise on public engagement processes that councils can take, I would say, one, those that are focused on communication and finding place-based narratives that resonate with people. Two, approaches that are focuses on collaboration, so either led by institutions that feed back into formal decision-making or led by people themselves that councils can support or draw on. And third, engagement that is focussed around climate interventions that speak to individual choice and also to social barriers around choice.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks, Chandrima. I think it's very interesting what you're saying there about the three approaches because they're quite clearly interlinked, so any one of those approaches by itself is not going to change public opinion. So, I wonder if you could explain how you can link those together for the maximum effect because we know that it's not easy changing behaviour for the good. So, how would you inter-link those?
Chandrima Padmanabhan: So, this is such an important question, so thank you for bringing it up. The challenge, more often than not, is the fact that they do not interact with one another, although that very interrelatedness that you bring up is what we should be aiming for. So, there tend to be many isolated efforts at good public engagement practice that is focused on one or the other approach, and it's seen as a one-point-in-time, sort of, process, that is where it falls short. So, public engagement around climate change needs to be looked at holistically which involves effective communication, effective collaboration and effective engagement around interventions, and all of that needs to happen in an interlinked, iterative and sustained way that really puts people, and their needs and priorities at the heart of climate-related decision-making or climate-related action. And if we're working to achieve net-zero in the UK by 2050 there is also a need for a lot more coordination and collaboration on public engagement not just within a local authority, but also between them, between local and national government, and between other actors in the ecosystem. So, to your question, the interrelatedness and interactions between different approaches, between different actors is precisely the question that needs to be asked and that needs to be considered when we think about effective public engagement strategy.
Councillor Liz Green: So, it's as easy as that then. So, yes, there are obviously different elements that different places are doing well and some that are doing less well. So, I just wanted to ask what we know about those that are doing this well particularly concentrated around this interlinkedness, if that's a word, but the linking between the different types of approaches that you've outlined there.
Chandrima Padmanabhan: Great question and to start I'll just structure my response in the same way that I did earlier, so talking about each of the different types from communication, collaboration and intervention, and talking through what we've learned about how each of them can be done well with the caveat that it needs to be looked at in an integrated sort of manner. And I'll start with communication and offer two key reflections on what we know about doing this well. One is that effective communication on climate change involves recognising that people hold ideological, cultural, political beliefs and values, they have social, gender and ethnic identities and all of that defines how they respond to messaging. So, it's really important to draw on community and place-based knowledge, language and narratives when you're engaging the public if those messages are to really resonate with them. Secondly, there is a need for much greater diversity with respect to gender, class and race in the messengers that facilitate the conversations on climate change. So, it's very important for people to identify with or see themselves reflected in the messengers, and so it's important for councils to think about how they can reach beyond the usual set of actors if they want messaging to resonate with different groups. And that's on communication. On public engagement that is focused on collaboration, a couple of points there as well. Firstly, on the institutionally-led collaboration front, so the type where you're talking about citizens assemblies and the like, here it's really important to understand what it means to create legitimate spaces for deliberation, and by legitimate I mean that the process, the timelines, the outcomes are transparent, inclusive, accountable and there's a clear link between citizen recommendations and formal decision-making or resource allocation processes.
Second, on the community-led collaboration front it's really important for councils to engage with communities to identify what the opportunities and the barriers are that exist to successful community-led initiatives and identify how they can be supported, amplified and grown. And thirdly, I guess, and probably most importantly, it's very necessary to foreground inclusion in public-engagement exercises that centre collaboration. So, the key questions to keep in mind are, one, where is the engagement taking place? Two, who is taking part in them, who is not, and why? Three, who is being best served by the outcomes of this process? So, if you're putting together a citizen assembly, very important to question whether the recommendations that are coming out of the assembly process serve one group of people over the other, because you could have diversity in terms of representation but unless you're focused on the internal quality of deliberations it could still be the loudest group in the room that is being heard. And so, who is being best-served by the outcomes of this process is an extremely important question to keep asking. Which leads to the question how do we make this process more equitable? And those are the key points that have come up for us on public engagement that is centred on collaboration. And finally, to just talk through the ones that have come up on interventions and on how that can be done well.
One is for councils to see public engagement that happens alongside delivery and enforcement of climate interventions as critical, and it is an important way to sense check that the interventions that are being planned or being delivered are working for communities, and if they aren't it's a way to understand why they aren't, and build more iterative, citizen feedback-focused ways of thinking about rolling out interventions. And secondly, is thinking about the when of public engagement and how that is as important as thinking about the how. So, engaging the public at critical life moments when they have the capacity or the inclination for change, so when they're moving homes, when they're retiring, when they have a child can be very effective when considering engagement around climate interventions. And, yes, I'd just like to end by reiterating the earlier point that I made on the fact that it's not about doing well with one approach or the other, it's about doing well across the board and thinking about public engagement as encompassing communication, collaboration and engagement around interventions in a very ongoing and sustained way.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks, and interesting point about the messengers that you raised within the communications part, and maybe we can touch on that, Adam, when we talk about that, because we know councillors are not exactly, shall we put it, representative of their communities across the board. So, something around that I think for people to think about. Some places are doing very well on this but where is it in your three approaches and the interlinking of those that councils aren't necessarily doing as well? Which one or part of them are we falling short on and how can we do that better as a council?
Chandrima Padmanabhan: So, I would say one area where councils can do better is just ensuring that they're asking the right questions about what needs to be achieved through a public engagement process on climate change. So, if the goal is one directional and aimed at informing and educating the public, then I think it falls very short of the transformative, sort of, change that we need in order to achieve net-zero by 2050. Ideally, the goal of engaging the public on climate change has to be a two-way learning process, it has to be around enabling, amplifying and understanding community values and identities, and how that affects choices, how that affects risks, and costs, and priorities of different groups. And it has to come back to councils then thinking about what those learnings about people in communities hold for them, on how decisions are made, how resources are allocated, how procurement is thought about, and how success is defined overall. So, I would definitely say that would be one of the key areas where councils can definitely, probably do better.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and our communities are all very diverse, very different, you'll hear different issues coming up in rural as opposed to urban and different parts of the country will talk in different ways, and obviously you've spoken about working cross-boundaries. Just to finish, what would be your top tips for helping councils in their approaches to public engagement on climate change?
Chandrima Padmanabhan: So, top tip would be the point I just mentioned, I think. So, making sure public engagement around climate change is seen as a bi-directional learning process and making sure the right questions are being asked about what needs to be achieved through that public engagement. Second, building a comprehensive public engagement strategy that incorporates and interlinks communication, collaboration, engagement around climate interventions and moves away from designing and planning siloed, isolated public engagement activities. And within that public engagement strategy, looking to partner, looking to collaborate, looking to support and work together with other actors across the ecosystem that are engaging different communities, that would be my second point. My third would be to ensure that public engagement is a sustained and iterative process with regular feedback from people and communities over the long term. So, important to keep in mind that people's lived realities, their priorities, their socio-economic capacities are constantly changing. So, there is no recommendation that comes out of a participatory process that can be and end in itself. It should be seen as the start to an ongoing, sustained and iterative, sort of, conversation. And finally, to the most important point, I think, around foregrounding inclusion in every engagement opportunity. It is so important, especially as we build back with Covid-19, that those that are most effected by the decisions that are being made are being reached out to, that all voices are being represented and also heard equally. So, thinking outside of the usual actors when thinking about messengers, knowing that different groups see different actors as legitimate and trustworthy and making sure we keep asking the question, 'Who is being best served by the outcomes of this process and how do I make this process more equitable?' Yes, that would be the most important one.
Councillor Liz Green: Thank you. I think you touch on a very key point. All councillors are very used to hearing, you know, the silent majority think one thing whereas the vocal minority think something else and how to make sure that we hear that silent majority as well can be quite a challenge for us. And some excellent tips in there for all councils. So, we'll move onto Councillors Harrison. Welcome to you. So, in Camden, what is your council's experience in Camden? We heard at the start that you were the first to hold a citizens' assembly which Chandrima has also mentioned in Camden on climate change but how does climate change relate within Camden as a London borough?
Councillor Adam Harrison: Thanks, Liz, and thanks for having me on the podcast. I'd say in Camden climate change and environmental issues more broadly are a huge interest of our residents. They are things that our residents expect us to be taking action on and taking a lead on. Then over the last few years there's really been an increased interest and political drive at the council to be looking at new ways of engaging our residents and looking at participatory decision making. So, actually we ran our first citizens' assembly not on climate but on our broader strategy a number of years ago, but then the opportunity, you know, following the publication of the IPCC report and increased public concern came about to actually hold a citizens' assembly dedicated to the climate emergency. That fit in well for us for a number of reasons. One was there was grass roots pressure coming upwards from newly formed XR, from local political parties, but also the opportunity really as a council to run another citizens' assembly but on something, while it's very broad-ranging, it's also specific, it's also very crunchy if you like, huge in numbers of potential trade-offs that we wanted to have the opportunity to discuss with our residents, with our citizens in that forum. So, that was the origin of our citizens' assembly which we held in the summer of 2019 and as well as our residents being very concerned about the topic we have extremely, you know, knowledgable and committed residents and citizens in the borough whose knowledge and expertise we wanted to draw on as we look to the future.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks Adam. And obviously Camden is leading the way in many ways in this area along with other councils that are doing things. We've heard from Chandrima about the three approaches of which in collaboration the institute-led type citizens' assembly is one of them. What was your reasoning behind forming this approach towards the climate emergency so that you could have that climate focus? Why did you go down that route?
Councillor Adam Harrison: Partly on the basis we’d already run one citizens' assembly, it was fairly worthwhile from our point of view doing that again. But also the assembly model with around 50 participants was broad-based enough to be able to make sure that we had a representative and a cross section from the community, which we were largely able to achieve. And I think in terms of public communications as well, saying that you were holding a citizens' assembly, there was already some public understanding about it, people knew what we meant when we said we were doing it. But also, for those who didn't necessarily, I think it's an understandable phrase anyway and was something that enabled our communication efforts around that time and since then.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks. And we also heard from Chandrima about the messengers, getting the right messengers, but also about that equality of voice being heard and obviously citizens' assembly take a cross-section of the population but by their very nature will be slightly self-selecting in that you have to say that you're prepared to do it. We can't force people, it's not jury service, we can't force them to attend, so how did you manage to make sure that that equity across Camden, which is a very diverse borough in terms of affluence, race, genders, everything else, how did you try and make sure that was all heard?
Councillor Adam Harrison: A couple of ways. We're very fortunate in Camden to have some strong institutions such as UCL and we set up an advisory board involving UCL and our engineering firm based in the borough, we worked with Involve and The Democratic Society, so we've made sure we draw on some of that institutional knowledge and past experience from elsewhere. But we're also fortunate in Camden that we have an in-house team which we call the community researchers. We've had that team in place for many years and they do all sorts of things. They go out and do surveys on questions that we would like to find out residents' views on. They're very experienced, many of them, perhaps all, live in the borough and we've used our community researchers to actively recruit people to attend the assembly. So, they knew the borough inside out, they had the brief to ensure that this was a diverse make up at the assembly. It actually ended up being slightly over-representative of the non-white population, but broadly it was, among the 50 it was representative of Camden. I think we actually managed to get somebody from every ward as well, so the community researchers really managed to produce-, often a huge point of interest for lots of people, about which ward you're from and so on in council. So, the community researchers did a really great job on that. I would actually draw everybody's attention to the evaluation that UCL's evaluation unit, I think they're called, did for us after the citizens' assembly process. It's on the Camden website and it looks at the process from start to finish. I think it's a really interesting read for those who want to go further. It is warts and all, so it does point out the places where we could have done better as well.
And actually, one of the points that was made in the feedback when UCL interviewed the citizens was while it was recognised that the assembly was diverse, those delivering some of the information particularity at the beginning to explain the climate crisis and its origin and so on, it felt there could have been greater diversity of voices there.
Councillor Liz Green: That's great because obviously, as we've heard, it's an iterative process and the climate assembly, citizens' assembly needs to be the starting point not the end point of it. So, what were the outcomes, what's worked well for you in Camden as a result of this and what would be your next steps?
Councillor Adam Harrison: The outcomes have been pretty diverse really. The whole experience was absolutely wonderful really. The citizens were so committed, there was a high retention rate. It was in the summer, it was getting close to the summer holidays, there were some hot evenings where people came along and sat in Swiss Cottage Library. And actually another finding was that I think among the citizens themselves 37 out of the 50 or so said they were interested to do more, so there was a change among them and they could act as advocates in the community. The citizens at the end of the assembly made seventeen recommendations for the council to take onboard and we actually then adopted all of those seventeen into our climate action plan, which we adopted the year after. So, after the summer we began redrafting our new climate plans. I should say by 2020 we're actually coming to the end of a ten-year carbon plan called Green Action for Change, so the assembly also coincided with our desire and need to update our climate polices. So, the seventeen recommendations are now in our climate plan which we're working away on. There was also the opportunity later that year to declare a climate emergency which we did after formally as a full council, that we did after the assembly in the October. In Camden we've begun, again as an effort to open up and also make sometimes a dry council meeting more interesting, our full council meetings which we have seven a year, they're called different things in different councils, I think assembly is confussingly sometimes. We now thematise our full council, so one might be on education but we dedicated this one to the climate crisis. Some of the citizens came along who participated in the assembly and they fed back, they had the opportunity to speak to the councillors and then to see the adoption of the climate emergency.
But alongside that we've been working away on the recommendations from the citizens. So, since then we've now got a really effective process of switching all our street lamps over to LED which in the last couple of years has saved about 20% in carbon as well as there being a financial saving. We've been really ramping up our work to implement retrofit of our buildings. We do own a large amount of housing and other stock in the borough but we’ve also, as well as securing some of that government funding, we're also planning ahead because some of the stock we have is challenging. And the most challenging recommendation from the citizens really was to switch over and to ensure all our building stock was zero carbon by 2030, but then we've also now also switched our corporate electricity over to fully green renewables and implemented this sustainable procurement policy across the council, 'We'll green our fleet,' which is also going pretty well. So, really it's a question of galvanising the council from top to bottom and sideways. I think that combination of political leadership starting, well, not entirely starting in 2019 but the citizens' assembly was a real inflection point to show that we mean business, the council means business. We have to really be taking this seriously now and looking out for every opportunity to de-carbonise our activities in the borough and encourage others to do so.
Councillor Liz Green: Great, so some outcomes already being seen, some reductions in carbon and others in the planning still. It's not cheap or easy to retrofit thousands and thousands of buildings but in the process working through your councils. So, obviously you're very pleased with where you've got to at the moment and the next steps that you're taking in terms of the outcomes of your citizens' assembly. What would be your tips for other councils in terms of what they might be able to take away and learn from Camden's experience to be able to improve their climate emergency response?
Councillor Adam Harrison: I think I would suggest also looking at what other models are available. So actually since the assembly we've set up a citizens' panel who are fifteen citizens who are going to keep a longer term view on what we're doing and that's a more detailed engagement, and they're also, you know, as representative as we could make from fifteen people. We actually also set up what we call think and do. So, immediately after the assembly, there was a real appetite for some social action, some immediate visibility, so there was a shop in Kentish Town, in the middle of the borough, where all sorts of activities sprung up and people were able to drop in and learn about retrofit or about plastics and that was community-led, and that is still developing. I'd say certainly with the UCL study of our assembly it's important to give the citizens time when they are deliberating to make sure they have the right information and there was actually a real appetite among them to know what the council was doing in the first place, which was something we admitted in the initial set up of the assembly. But there is that huge appetite and in a way that goes back to Chandrima's initial point about communications, I think, which in some ways can be the hardest to achieve. Not that the interventions aren't also difficult and costly and so on as well but councils do so many things and so many competing messages we're always trying to get out to our residents and we have our own channels, there can be competition within those.
I think the falling away in of local media in some parts of the country must also surely be a huge challenge as well because you're actually losing an effective way of communicating to people in a way that they would hopefully trust and that would reach them, because council communications are not always going to do the trick unfortunately. So, that is absolutely right and I think I'd certainly recommend every council now have a communications strategy on the climate because the other question to this is it's all getting really serious and we don't actually have that much time. So we have to strike that balance between the deliberation and collaboration but actually in some areas moving pretty quickly to decarbonise what we're doing.
Councillor Liz Green: Thank you Adam. And yes, the interventions are not always easy and I think Chandrima makes some really serious points about the lived experience and obviously in London, where I am also a councillor, we have lived experience on both sides of things like low traffic neighbourhoods and cycle lanes, which are an interesting part to live through, I think is the best way to put it. And finally Adam, who else has set up a citizens' assembly?
Councillor Adam Harrison: So Summer 2019 was an exciting time in lots of ways because there were lots of councils looking at how to do this, how to involve their citizens and I'm happy to say we just about beat Oxford City Council to have the first citizens' assembly, but they were the first city to do it. And I know they've done great work as well and I'm looking forward to going to Oxford actually to see the changes they've made on the street because they're really impressive and worth taking a look at.
Councillor Liz Green: Thank you Adam and thank you Chandrima. That brings this episode to a close. At the beginning of the episode I asked whether you knew which city was the first to hold a public assembly on the climate crisis. Hopefully you've noted that that was Oxford in 2019 just after Camden. I hope you also know where public engagement on climate change currently falls short and how it can be made more effective, but if not maybe give this podcast another listen. Thank you for listening today. This episode was presented by myself, Councillor Liz Green, and many thanks to our guest speakers Chandrima Padmanabhan and Councillor Adam Harrison. This podcast forms part of the LGA sector support programme available to councils to support their work on combating climate change. To learn more about the climate crisis and the LGA's sector led support programme, resources and materials will be linked in our show notes. You can also find out a lot more information on the LGA website if you go to the our support and climate change section, and there you can sign up for our free monthly climate change e-bulletin that contains a lot of details every month. Thank you again for listening and please do share this podcast with your friends and colleagues, and we look forward to welcoming you again next time.
- Episode 3: Public engagement challenges – inform and educate (transcript)
Speaker 1: This is the Local Action for our Environment podcast series, brought to you by the Local Government Association.
Councillor Liz Green: Hello and welcome to the Local Action for our Environment podcast, brought to you by the Local Government Association. I'm Councillor Liz Green, vice chair of the LGA's improvement and innovation board with lead responsibility for climate change. As you may be aware, many councils across the UK have declared a climate emergency. I'll be chairing this first training series as we delve into the climate emergency and explore how councils can effectively engage with their communities. In this episode, we'll be looking at the challenges to public engagement and how we can solve those by informing and educating our local communities. Before we kick off, do you know roughly what percentage of the measures required to meet net zero will involve at least some behavioural change? And how are you engaging, including business sector in your carbon neutral plans? While you listen to this episode, have a think about these questions and I'll check in with you again at the end. I'm very pleased today to welcome Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, Director for the Centre of Climate Change and Social Transformations, and Chris Common, the Carbon Neutral Policy Manager in Nottingham City Council. Lorraine, let's start with you, shall we? Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and your work?
Lorraine Whitmarsh: Yes, so I'm a professor of environmental psychology at the University of Bath and Director of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations. What we do in our centre is we look at the role that people play in tackling climate change. Particularly in mitigating it, so reducing emissions. And, we're really interested in the variety of roles that people play, from what they do in the home, how they travel and things they do in their private life through to things they might do in the workplace or as part of communities. Or, maybe as, kind of, leaders in various ways. So, we're interested in a whole range of different roles that people play in tackling climate change.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks, Lorraine. So, what do you think is the current climate change knowledge gap and how do we fill it? How do we educate people on what they actually need to do for themselves?
Lorraine Whitmarsh: So, I think there is something of a knowledge gap still. I think what our surveys and other people's research show is that the public in general tend to underestimate the scale of the challenge ahead. I think there's still a bit of a pervasive view that we do need to change a few things and technologies might achieve a lot of the changes. But actually, what we know is that at least 60% of the changes required to get to net zero are going to involve at least some degree of behaviour change. That's according to the Committee on Climate Change's recent sixth carbon budget report. And, I think our work suggests it might even be higher than that, actually because that only really accounts for the sorts of behaviour changes of private citizens. So, things that you and I might do like, you know, buying a greener type of vehicle like an electric car or changing our diet a bit. But actually, there's also professional behaviour change, workplace behaviour change which probably accounts for an even higher proportion. So, it is most of what we need to get to net zero will require behaviour change, I don't think that that's widely understood. And, I think there are also a few specific misperceptions, so we also find that people tend to think that things like recycling and switching off lights that you're not using will actually have quite a big environmental benefit. Whereas, we know that, generally, they're not particularly effective. Things like changing our diets, so eating less red meat and dairy, travelling less by car, flying less, those things have a much, much bigger impact. And, people generally don't tend to be aware of quite how much of an impact those things have. So, I think there are some misperceptions we can address through information provision.
And, I think more generally as well, although information deficits aren't really the biggest barrier to behaviour change, for example, take retrofitting. So, we know that people's homes have to be better insulated to, sort of, reduce emissions and be more energy efficient. We do need to think about the wider barriers to behaviour change in cases like that. So, it isn't only that people know that they need to retrofit their home, they need to know who are the trusted tradespeople, who can they go to to install these sorts of measures, what might be the financial support available. But also, we need to make it easier and less disruptive for people to install these things. So, we know from our research for example, people, even when they're quite keen to do these things, they're, sort of, put off by the inevitable disruptions. So, we need to think about how can we make it easier for people, maybe when they're having change done on their home more widely, time it for those sorts of changes that they're making, make it cheaper and so on. So, I think there are definitely information barriers that people have but there are other barriers that you need to think about, too.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, lots of things to think about there, Lorraine, in terms of what people can do. But, we've got a finite time to change the direction that we're currently going in. So, whilst people need to understand these changes and we need to make it easier for them, how can we make this real for people, that this finite amount of time that we have?
Lorraine Whitmarsh: Yes, I think there is a challenge here, because I think it's about getting the balance right between highlighting the urgency of the situation, the fact that we really do need to change on quite a short timeframe, really just a matter of a few years. Versus, also showing it's not too late, we still have time to make a difference and, if we act, we really can tackle this. So, there's a balancing act to, sort of, trying to make people aware this is an emergency but not scaring them into apathy or just-, because, the risk is that, I think, if we give people big scary messages, they'll just switch off and think, 'This is too much for me to handle.' So, we know we have to, sort of, try and show people that we can still make a difference. And, part of that as well is, I think, about showing how climate change will impact what we care about. So, at the local level, for example, what might be the things that will change and, if we don't tackle climate change, how might this affect our family, friends, etc. Things that we care about and people that we care about. But also, really importantly, I think it's about showing the co benefits, the additional benefits of taking climate change action. So actually, probably the most effective way we can engage people is saying, 'Well, we need to tackle climate change but we also need to make our streets cleaner, the air cleaner, we need to make, you know, the roads safer.' We need to have healthier lifestyles, we need to make these sorts of products cheaper that will improve your life and, you know, wellbeing. And actually, talking about all those wider benefits to taking climate change action, and there are a lot of wider benefits. So, it's really about, I think, emphasising how our lives potentially could be a lot better if we take climate change action.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and you mentioned retrofitting homes. Obviously, warmer and cheaper to heat homes is a very positive step for a lot of people. Which has that dual benefit. So, it's quite difficult, though, to get this message across, as you've described. That, you know, the mix between not scaring people but getting them to take urgent action. So, do you know of any new engagement tactics or interesting research on this educational front which could help design and inform an information or education campaign to get this message across that you're talking about?
Lorraine Whitmarsh: Yes. I would definitely recommend looking at the Climate Outreach website. They are an engagement charity that specialises in how to effectively engage the public on climate change. They have loads of resources and materials there including visual resources. So, they have a whole, sort of, catalogue of images that they've found through research to be really engaging on climate change. And so, they're sorts of images which show people taking action. People like you and I actually making a difference, they're really positive images, they're really inspiring. And, they bring climate change home to people. So, that is a really great set of resources. A few years ago, Oxfam had a really interesting campaign called For The Love Of, and that did something interesting where you had to enter information on their website about something you cared about, and it could be anything from chocolate, to cricket, to your local area. And, it would say how climate change was going to impact on that thing. And so, I learnt, to my horror, that climate change is going to threaten chocolate supplies in this country. So, you know, it really brought it home that we really need to do something about climate change. So, again, it's about, kind of, making this real to people, showing why this is relevant. This isn't just an issue which is something for the future, something for people that live in other countries or other-, yes, other decision makers. It's actually something that is relevant to us and is going to be increasingly important to us. So, I think those sorts of examples, I would also maybe just flag, as well, some of the interesting deliberative engagement examples. So like, Climate Assembly UK, some of the local citizens' juries and citizens' assemblies that have been happening around climate change, there are some really great examples around engaging at the community level to actually explore the pros and cons of different policies to tackle climate change. Sometimes focusing on particular areas like transport or maybe flooding or other types of elements of climate change. But, bringing together people to actually actively engage in decision making about how to tackle the issue, and so there's some really great, deliberative examples out there, too.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks. And, we do cover citizens' assemblies in a different one of these podcasts with one of the councils that did it first. And, if it doesn't scare everybody that the chocolate supply may run out to get them to take action, I'm not quite sure what will. So, you've talked around a lot of the education and informing people and working with people, what would be your top three tips for any council to improve their education and information around climate change?
Lorraine Whitmarsh: I'd say, first of all, it's important to identify who your audiences are, because they are going to be pretty diverse across, you know, the city or the area that you're working in. From, you know, private citizens, and even those are going to be very diverse, from higher income groups, lower income groups, more urban, more rural. So, trying to understand the residential population and their needs and challenges that they have in terms of shifting their behaviour to be lower carbon. Obviously, there will be, kind of, business stakeholders as well and they will have different needs and values and things that they will need to mobilise them. So, understanding, identifying your audience and really understanding how to engage with them and what might be the different barriers that they will face to acting on climate change. And then, targeting information and other measures to address those things. And so, it might be that, through, sort of, doing some surveying or other work to understand your audiences, you realise that maybe a significant barrier to installing insulation in homes is the disruption. So, is there a measure that you could implement to actually potentially reduce the level of disruption, and I know some councils have looked into some of that, so Monmouthshire, for example, did some work around this. So, really understanding the barriers and then targeting measures to reduce those barriers and targeting information to resonate with what people care about, as well. So, it may be that people are really worried about the air pollution in their area, or maybe the number of accidents on the road and that the fact that there are, you know, children walking to schools in areas that are not safe. And so, you know, achieving reductions of road-, of car use in those areas will help address those concerns as well as reducing emissions. So, it's about looking for those co benefits, as well. And, as I've touched on as well, I think involving people as much as possible in decision making, so we know at the local level, things like low traffic neighbourhoods can be quite divisive.
And so, while we know that they do achieve a significant emission reduction, they also improve quality of life and, you know, air quality and reduce accidents and have business benefits and so on. They still can be very polarising amongst communities, and the best way in which we can, sort of, move past this political impasse between different groups and communities is to engage them at the earlier stage in how can we change the area to improve quality of life for you. As well as tackling the transport problems that we have in your area. So, early and consistent engagement using lots of different methods is a really key thing, I think, to do, as well.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks, Lorraine. And, we do talk about how to engage diverse populations on another one of these podcasts. So, to the listeners, you'll have to listen to the whole series to hear all of the information. But, I'm very interested in the way that you've said about the targeting of information, Lorraine. And, I just wondered if you could go into the impact, why that is so impactful compared to the general broadcasting?
Lorraine Whitmarsh: Yes, absolutely. So, what we know from, kind of, psychological studies is that people tend to gravitate towards information which reinforces their existing views and they tend to ignore information that challenges them. They have these, kind of, biases and these filters which something called confirmation bias, for example, we just look for information which confirms what we already think. And, we agree with people that are like us, as well. You know, we look for people that, sort of, share our values and that seem to be similar types of people. We listen to them and so, that means it can be quite difficult to, sort of, break out of the groups that we tend to listen to, and to listen to information which might be quite challenging. And so, we need to adapt our messaging our the messengers to be people who are maybe part of these groups that might be harder to engage with. But also, to adapt the message itself to be talking in ways that are more consistent with what that group of people might care about. And so, you know, for people that are concerned about air quality in the neighbourhood, that's probably quite easy to say, 'Hey, this climate change measure is going to significantly improve air quality for you and address your concerns about childhood asthma and whatever else it is that they're worried about.' So, as soon as you've got an understanding about what it is that that group cares about, you can potentially stop talking about climate change if they don't care about climate change and if they're, maybe, sceptical about climate change. You just talk about the thing that they care about that happens to also achieve emission reduction. So, it can sometimes be about not even mentioning climate change. But actually, talking about things that they really do care about so that you're on their wavelength, you're moving away from this, kind of, this filter that they otherwise have.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes, that makes absolute sense, what you're talking there, Lorraine. It's quite difficult to do, but thank you so much for all of that. So, we're going to move on to Chris. Chris, could you just tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do at Nottingham?
Chris Common: Okay. Hi, everyone. My name is Chris Common and I'm the Carbon Neutral Policy Manager at Nottingham City Council. I head up a smallish team at the moment that is dedicated to delivering the council's key policy, which is to become carbon neutral by 2028. Which, essentially, would make us the first city in the UK to do that if we can achieve it, so we're hugely ambitious. But, we've now got seven years to do this, so talk about accelerating things, we know that in spades in Nottingham. Personally, I'm born and bred in the city, so personally, it's a delight to be able to do something like this. To affect the city in which I was born and bred. So, I've been at the city council since 2013, working in all sorts of strategic and corporate management projects. So, this one's just a walk in the park compared to some of the other stuff I've done.
Councillor Liz Green: So, you can now tell us exactly how Nottingham have done it, as you've cracked the whole problem by the sound of it, Chris. But, seriously though, the councils obviously need to communicate about climate change and we've heard from Lorraine about how to make it effective and engaging. So, what is it that you're doing in Nottingham to help people make those informed decisions that we've heard from Lorraine, they needed to be making for the behavioural change that needs to happen?
Chris Common: Like the rest of the world, you know, we set our goal back in March, 2020. Just when the pandemic hit and, fortunately, we did a certain amount of public engagement and consultation prior to that to put our action plan together. The action plan to deliver the carbon neutral agenda. And, we had some really good responses from that and it was, as you'd suggested, Lorraine, about making sure that we got as many voices as possible so it wasn't about the established climate pressure groups, examples. But, it all from as many parts of the community as we could get. So, that was the initial consultation on our action plan. And, it did make some fairly major changes, one of the-, we didn't have a theme around, sort of, nature and biodiversity. I know that sounds strange, but there was certainly a cry from the public to strengthen that area, which we did. And, we do need to do some more work on that, of course. So, as the pandemic hit, we knew that face to face engagement was going to be difficult. We also knew that the city centre, if you remember back in that time, was practically deserted so it was very difficult to get, sort of, messages out that were confusing with, shall we say the distancing messages and things like that. So, we've relied fairly heavily on social media, on Twitter, Facebook predominantly. And, in August, we did a campaign which we called 28 for 28, which was essentially setting the community and public 28 different challenges which were very family oriented. So, it wasn't about, you mentioned before about hitting them hard with the scary stuff, it was about doing those small things that were family. It was about, for instance, collecting 28 different leaves in your local park or walking for 28 minutes. And, these were set by a variety of local groups, so for instance to Wildlife Trust or our healthcare trust did a thing about eating differently. So, there was that, sort of, level of engagement was aimed very much at the families and things like that. And, as we've moved on into that, we've replicated, that every 28th of every month we set another challenge and so on. You see that we play on the 28 quite a lot.
And, we've got all sorts of other things that we're doing as well, we're doing focus groups, we're working with Nottingham Trent University on developing a regular focus group process which looks at the different ranges in society. Say, the difference between what people of a different age think about climate change and things like that, so we're starting to unravel some of the issues that we have in the city. Or, difference of opinions that we have in the city. So, as you may or may not be aware, Nottingham, as most cities have, have got high levels of deprivation. So, we're looking at ways of how do we engage better with people who are in circumstances that are more challenging? And, as we know, some of the worst effects of climate change do tend to effect those people in those, sort of, vulnerable situations such as flood risk or heat or jobs or something like that. So, we're doing a lot of work to understand that, and I think that goes back to the point you made, Lorraine, about understanding our audience. We know a lot about the city. Not just our residents but our residents and our big organisations, two big universities with the best part of 40,000 students every year in the city. And so, we're trying, we are engaging and, as we come out of lockdown, whether that's for another day, I'm sure, but it's how do we get our messages out there that aren't, as you say, not scary, not-, they're meaningful to the way that people live their lives? And, that's one of the things we've been very strongly been doing in Nottingham. It's not just about getting a colourless, odourless gas out the atmosphere, it's about that direct effect on people's lives. What will Nottingham look like in 2028? And, one of our Nottingham Contemporary, which is an art gallery in the city, are doing a project exactly like that in, it looked like a bit more sci fi but there's a lot more, sort of, stuff around how the city could look in ten years' time. And predominantly, it looked like what it did when we had our first lockdown. You know, a lot less traffic, a lot more people walking, a lot more people, so, getting those messages across and saying what a nicer place Nottingham will be because we've reduced our carbon emissions.
So, it's definitely not about just having those, sort of, dry council meetings or having posters around the city. We're trying every possible, sort of, communications channel that we've got at our disposal and we are looking at interactive maps, as well. There's a system we can use that can develop where people can put their ideas about what could happen in the city on the map, just put a little dot on, like, a Google Maps and you tell us your idea about changing the road junction or a little pop up planter on the corner of the street. Or, something like that. And, that level of stuff, that level of engagement we find is really, really important. As well as all the big stuff, you know, building things, putting solar panels in, electric vehicle charging points, that's all well and good but I think, as I think the tone of the discussion is around changing people's attitudes and behaviours, and that's absolutely predominantly our focus. And, let all the infrastructure stuff happen as well.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes. As a councillor, I have to say I'm absolutely shocked that people don't want to come and sit in our council meetings and hear us waffle on for hours on end. So yes, I'll have to change my opinion on that. So, you've got these campaigns playing on the number 28 to keep that in people's minds. But, what's been their reaction to it, have they engaged with it? Have there been some groups that have engaged more than others? And, how are you learning to adapt it over the time, this tagline of 28 for 28?
Chris Common: Yes, we had a fantastic response to the targeted campaign. What we wanted to see was people's engagement as well, to give proof, if you like, they were doing it. So, we were delighted to get, sort of, I mentioned about the leaf collection, we got people sending in photos, they've put it into collages. Another of the challenges was with a song, we wanted people to compose a song. And, one of our local music studios edited it and put a backing track to it. We had a poem, that was a competition, and yes, the response was fantastic. So, that actually spurred us on to the 28th, the monthly 28 day challenge. And also as well, we did a repeat of it at Christmas, called Christmas Greenings. That had a very similar thing, I think we know we can do more but it was around being circumstantial to the situation of the country and the world we're in at the time. But, having people on that, I think you used to expression, Lorraine, about keeping it real. And, I think that's what we're trying to do, we, sort of, know that we're just going to frighten people to death. I know it's scary, this stuff, that if we don't get this right, but I think to get people engaged, there was really strong support for what we were doing, Liz. But, I think we can do more, I know we can, but you know, for instance, we've got a Twitter feed and we've got over 3000 followers on it. Which, I know doesn't sound a lot out of a city of 300,000, but 3000 people who are following what we do and contributing actively as well, so.
Councillor Liz Green: I mean, that's great. What would you say were the lessons that you have learnt from it? Obviously, this is an ongoing campaign, you will be adapting it and changing it. And, I'm particularly interested in the different people that you've got in Nottingham and how they're reacting. Is there a better take up for your campaigns and education from one particular grouping and another one you're still struggling to get the message over to? Those diverse communities that Lorraine was talking about that you'll have, you know, throughout Nottingham. So, can you just go through a little bit on that?
Chris Common: Sure. Obviously, one of the downsides of Twitter is you don't know who those people are, there's no way of knowing what their, you know, demographic, economic situation is. So, we wouldn't be able to tell who was particularly engaging with us, the only way-, let's say there was photographic evidence, but that's fairly anecdotal, of course. So, we are trying to understand better, we haven't quite got there yet, Liz, in terms of knowing those different demands or interests from the different parts of our community. One of our councillors has set up an Asian Climate Action Group in his particular ward, and that seems very active as well, and I'm in conversations to see how we can use that spread to the rest of the city. So, I think it's really important to understand those differences and the engagement levels are different, but I would say that, at the moment, that's a work in progress because I don't think we're fully aware of what it is. We know we're targeting young people, because there's not surprise, those young people will be the grown ups of the future, certainly by 2028, ten year olds will be eighteen. We are doing some work with our schools, we're doing lots of, sort of, targeted work around how do we get under the skin of schools, bearing in mind a lot of our schools are academies. I'm sure they are in your area as well, so that makes a slightly different consideration. But, getting to young people is absolutely key, I think, in this city. And, we're quite a young city demographically, as well. A lot of students that have said that young people are the answer. I know that sounds hugely cliché, but it really is in this case. But, we need to do more with our young people, but we've only been-, actually, our action plan only started a year ago, so we're only actually a year into this even though it seems like we've been doing it a lifetime, really.
Councillor Liz Green: No, I was going to say. I mean, I think part of the problem is that we're all towards the beginning of our action plans. So, Chris, can you, sort of, give us any inkling on the results of this? Because, you know, this is about public engagement, but what we need is a result at the end of it. You know, Nottingham wants to be carbon neutral by 28, we all want to reduce our carbon and carbon outputs. So, how's that actually going?
Chris Common: To actually define the impact of these things, which is relatively short scale, isn't straightforward. We do rely on, for instance, the Government figures on emissions that are produced annually, and they're only just produced a few weeks ago or a couple of weeks ago. And, we've seen average reductions in carbon emissions in Nottingham compared to the rest of the city, we're not seeing any great shift yet, I suppose. I put the emphasis on yet because those figures, as you probably know, are from 2019, so they're not even, you know, they're not current to the time that we're in now. So, this is, if you like, those figures that are, those official figures for the city emissions are before we started the more intensive work on our carbon emissions reduction and offsetting work. So, next year will be 2020 figures, if you see what I mean, and we would hope that we would start to see some quite significant acceleration. But, what we're seeing is average declines, so around about 3.5% reductions, but that's the same for the rest of the country. But, Nottingham is a core city, I don't know if you know that Nottingham is a core city. Nottingham is showing the highest per capita reductions of any core city. But, that's historical as well, so we're not getting to carried away that that's, you know, that we're, traditionally as a city, we've been pretty good at this. But, we need to get an awful lot better. And, one of the stats which is a little bit alarming is that, to reach our 28 neutral position, we need to be reducing our carbon emissions by the best part of twenty, 22, 23% a year. So, 3% reductions aren't going to get us anywhere near it, so you can see the acceleration we need to make is quite significant. So, that's an overall, sort of, measure of the changes that we're making. And, as I say, as yet, it's about Twitter followers, it's about Facebook followers, it's about numbers of people that will come to our focus groups. So, as yet, getting a nice, neat measure of our impact isn't easy to do.
We're going to be doing a survey later in the year so we're going to be asking people about, you know, what do you know about carbon neutral? And then, do the survey again next year and compare the percentages. So, we would hope that, by 2022, there's a significant more percentage of the people and demographically, we'll look at those figures, break them down to see if, is that the same for a particular community or is it different? So, we're not quite there yet but we will have some better data on the differences. At least, that's what we're trying to.
Councillor Liz Green: No, that's really interesting and thank you, Chris, for that. So, Chris, we've talked about the resident population of Nottingham and how you're reaching out to different groups. What about the businesses?
Chris Common: Sure. Again, hugely important part of the city, both independent sector and nationals and multinationals are in the city. At the last count, there's roughly 10,000 businesses that exist, we've got some major employers such as Boots, Experian, Capital One, and some large employers of the civil service with the HMRC based on the city, I think, two or three thousand people. We've also got the fifth largest hospital trust in the country as well. So, the NHS being our biggest employer in the city, as most places are. And, engaging with them is hugely important. And, what we've done, Liz, is we've engaged with some of the business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, we've got other, sort of, targeted groups, there's a city centre businesses group called Nottingham Bid. And, we've got all sorts of marketing, sort of, things and we've engaged with those about the best way to do this. And, we came up with a relatively simple campaign called We Support CN28. And, that's essentially, we ask a business to pledge to contribute to the reductions in carbon by fairly, sort of, generally saying, 'Well, what sort of things are you doing?' You know, we're encouraging our staff to be lift share or we put solar panels on our roof or something like that. And, for that, we then can start using a simple logo that we've devised. And, that logo, they can use in shops, on, you know, a sticker on the window in a shop or it could be on the letterhead in the business or in an email signature. But, to get that, sort of, resonance that they're all part of a bigger thing. That, from the small solicitors and street corner who's probably just got two or three staff right up to, as I say, Boots with two or three thousand staff. So, it's getting that involvement right across. And, visible involvement, that they're part of the community of the city.
Councillor Liz Green: That's great. Lorraine, have you got any thoughts on the business work that they're doing?
Lorraine Whitmarsh: Yes. I just wanted to say I think this is a really powerful way of creating a sense that things are changing. That actually, norms are shifting, so one of the things that we know is that, actually, a really powerful influence on people's behaviour is what other people are doing. So, we just look around, ask them things like, 'What's the right thing to do, what's the normal thing?', and sort of try and fit in. And, it's all very subconscious, so we don't like to think that we're sheep but we sort of are. We're all a little bit sheepy in our behaviour. And so, we know that one of the best ways we can change behaviour is to use and harness social norms. And so, I think what Chris is describing is really exciting, is that actually, the more you can very visibly show that there is a movement here, that all of the, you know, the high street is gradually changing, employers are changing. Residents are changing, you know, whether it's with stickers or with just actually seeing people act in different ways. The more we can create this sense that this is the new normal, actually. That low carbon behaviour is normal and this is how we do things now. So, I think that, just to, sort of, say, I think this is a really great thing that we need to do more of.
Councillor Liz Green: That's great. Thanks for that, and you're right. We all do like to not necessarily stand out of the crowd for the wrong reasons, only for the right reasons. So, Chris, what would be your top tips to help the other councils that are maybe slightly behind where Nottingham is?
Chris Common: At the risk of sounding lazy, I think what Lorraine said was absolutely spot on about knowing your audience and targeting your engagement activities to your particular communities. But also, I think it is about creating that sense of togetherness, I think it is about-, we've said this and I get bored of saying it, this isn't a council agenda, this is a city agenda. So, for us to agenda that right across the whole spectrum of the city is where we want to be. And, if it's helped by having a simple but a consistent logo, that it's not a council logo, it's a city logo. So, I think it's about, predominantly it is about that, generating that movement across the city where it becomes, 'Oh yes, we're-, and be proud of it. Nottingham's always done things slightly differently from the rest of the country and we're playing on that a little bit. You know, we've had Brian Clough and we've had, sort of, Alan Sillitoe and all these rebels. And, we want to do that, we want to, sort of, be proud of what we're doing. Be innovative, be creative. But, at the same time, realistic as well. But, inclusive and making sure that it's-, it's not got by everybody, we know that, but if people stopped to look over their shoulders and go, 'Well, they're doing that,' or, 'That business is-, they've signed up to that, I want a piece of that.' And also, that in itself creates a pressure I think, Lorraine, you were alluding to in terms of that, sort of, peer challenge that'll start to come about. As somebody goes into a shop and goes, 'Oh, I see that you're part of this We Support campaign but the shop next door isn't,' you know, that sort of thing might start to spur some sort of marketing benefits and business benefits as well as some personal benefits, that I'm proud to come from Nottingham because we're going to go for this sort of thing. So, I think engendering that, and I know councils are really good at that, sort of, developing their own communities and spurring them on. So, that is probably my top tip, is to make it that it's about a community, not just about the council. But, I know some targets are just about the council. But, as I say, Nottingham, we're going to go for it, so.
Councillor Liz Green: Great tips there, and that at the LGA, we are firm believers in the different places for-, different solutions for different places.
Chris Common: Absolutely.
Councillor Liz Green: All council areas are different and have different challenges. But, that we can learn from each other and adapt elements of what Nottingham or other councils are doing in our own areas. Thank you, and this brings this episode to a close. At the beginning of the episode, I asked whether you knew roughly what percentage of the measures required to meet net zero will involve at least some behavioural change. I hope you picked up that this would be around 60%. Throughout the episode, we have been talking about residents and their engagement but also how we engage and include our business sector in your carbon neutral plans. And, that you've picked up on some of the tips on this. But, if not, maybe give the podcast another listen. Thank you so much for listening to the Local Action for Our Environment podcast. This episode was presented by myself, councillor Liz Green, and produced by the Local Government Association. Many thanks to our guest speaks today, Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh and Chris Common. This podcast forms of the LGA sector support programme available to councils to support their work on combatting climate change. To learn more about the climate crisis and the LGA's sector support programme, resources and materials will be linked in our show notes. You can also find out more on the support pages of the LGA website at Local.gov.uk. And, by signing up to our free monthly climate change ebulletin. Thank you again for listening, please do share this podcast with your friends and colleagues and we look forward to welcoming you again next time.
- Episode 4: Public engagement challenges – collaboration (transcript)
Introduction: This is the Local Action for Our Environment podcast series brought to you by the Local Government Association.
Councillor Liz Green: Hello and welcome to the Local Action for our Environment podcast brought to you by the Local Government Association. I'm Counsellor Liz Green Vice Chair of the LGA's improvement and innovation board with lead responsibility for climate change. As you may be aware many councils across the UK have declared a climate emergency and in this podcast we delve into the climate emergency and explore how council's can effectively engage with their communities. In the last episode we discussed the challenges of informing and educating our local communities. Today we'll be looking at another challenge to effective public engagement, collaboration. With my guest speakers we will be discussing how the public can be involved in decision making on climate change, how council's can work with residents and communities and how to engage communities through these methods. Before we get started I just wanted to ask, do you know what types of input from the community might be useful to the councils in developing their climate action plans, and how did Kendal Town Council reward and incentivise their jury members. While you're listening to this episode see if you can find the answers and I'll check in with you again the end. For this episode I'm delighted to be joined today by Sarah Allen director of capacity building and standards at Involve and Chris Bagshaw Town Clerk for Kendal Town Council. Sarah I'd like to start with you, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your work at Involve?
Sarah Allen: Yes sure so Involve's a public participation charity and we have a vision of a vibrant democracy with people at the heart of decision making. Now what that means we do in practice is that we develop, support and advocate for new ways of involving people in the decisions that effect their lives. Over the years and we were founded in 2003 we've worked on many different issues using many different engagement methods for many different people. So national government, parliament, local government, public sector bodies and community groups as well. And our work on climate change does range from the big national citizens assembly so Climate Assembly UK and Scotland's Climate Assembly to some of the local climate assemblies in Camden, Bristol, Jersey for example to community led work on what community led just transition would look like for example our work in Selby at the moment. So my own work's covered both ends of that scale. I lead the delivery of Climate Assembly UK for the UK parliament and I'm now leading Involve's work on Our Zero Selby which is a project on community lead just transition with forum for the future in Selby district ABS.
Councillor Liz Green: So how can council's work with their communities to ensure that residents have their decision making power over the action plans for climate emergency, and are even accountable for it's delivery?
Sarah Allen: That's a huge question so I'm going to start with three points. So the first thing to say is I think I'm interested in the framing of your question is about residents having decision making power over the climate action plan. Public participation and decision making I mean can involve giving residents decision making power final decision making power. So if you have things like participatory budgeting and people are voting on what projects should be funded for example then they do have that final decision making say but more often it's about understanding resident's preferences in an advisory way or tapping into their ideas, their creativity, their energy, their lived experience to inform decision making and to inform plans. So that's the first point.
The second is I think when council's are thinking about engaging their community it's important to think about what community is so I think there's probably two different levels on which councils could engage in a community around the climate action plan. So one is about engaging individual residents and thinking about how to do that, and the other is thinking about how to engaged collectives so how to engage community groups, local businesses and others to inform the plan as well. And I think it's important to look at both.
And the last point that I think I'll start with is that whichever of those you're doing whether engaging individual residents or you're engaging collectives it's important that councils think through for themselves before they start some key questions about the engagement. And this is what we call taking a design approach, so for example thinking about what the purpose of the engagement is really clearly, who they want to reach, what level of involvement they're offering people. So are they offering people that final decision making say, is it advisory, or is it about co-production where you're kind of working out what the question is together and solutions to it and potentially delivering together, and how is what they hear going to feed back into that decision making process, do the timings work for that, what are the internal mechanisms and the processes for that to feed back in and be really useful.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks for that and how do we make the council accountable for it's delivery of the climate action plan, is that something that you're involved in?
Sarah Allen: A little bit. I think that's a newer area of engagement so if we're talking about the community holding the council to account for what it does then what we're beginning to see is people experimenting with permanent citizens assemblies or permanent citizens juries or structures that kind of repeat every year so we've got Newham for example looking at how to do this now in the UK and there's quite a lot of examples from abroad. So you could see a situation where particularly, I guess whether it's about preferences or ideas where you've got an initial set of engagement, the council says what it's going to do off the back of that engagement and then you reconvene those people, you reconvene a similar set of people say a year on and the council reports back on what it's done and residents sort of feed back on how they see that as how it's going and what they'd like to see more or differently going forwards. So there are ways to do but I'd say it's less developed than the initial input at the moment.
Councillor Liz Green: You touched on the types of inputs from the community that might be useful to councils in developing their plans. Have you got more than you can give us on that?
Sarah Allen: Yes I have and I think it's an area that isn't often thought through as clearly as it could be and which is really interesting to explore. So broadly speaking I think there are at least three different types of input that councils could seek from the community to inform their climate action plan. So the first sort of input is around understanding preferences and perhaps particularly individual residents preferences to help inform the plan. So when we hear about the kind of climate assemblies and climate juries that are happening at the moment it's often about this so it's areas, you know, policy areas where there are choices about the way forward, trade offs to be made, thinking about how to get to a particular goal, choices about how to do that. And it's about understanding what residents would support and why they'd support it and they really explore that, those preferences in quite a lot of depth at assemblies and juries, so that's one thing but it's not the only thing that you could be looking for input on. So the next thing that type of input that can be useful is insight and ideas to help inform the plan and I think people often underestimate the capacity of individual residents and also kind of community groups and collectives in their area to come up with really useful ideas and new ways of thinking.
So you will get some of that from citizens assemblies and juries and definitely give you insight into why people think what they do but there are other methods that are as good or better here. So crowdsourcing for ideas for example online or offline and particularly here around involving the collective so make sure you're going out to community groups and businesses, understanding what barriers they're facing to doing more themselves on climate. Understanding what they see as the opportunities, where they've got appetite for what they'd like to do more and making sure that all those ideas and insights really from the local area are feeding into the plan. And then the other sort of input you kind of asked me about it earlier and I didn't really address it and answer in the last question is about involvement in delivery itself. So those collective groups, the community groups, businesses and so on can take on some of the delivery potentially for councils and some of that might come from how you've done your engagement. So if you've done something like create develop a pot of seed funding for small amounts of money for local groups to take forward ideas or if you've done participatory budgeting where people then vote on those ideas and what should get funded you've automatically got groups looking to deliver with you.
There's also co-production where you're kind of developing solutions with people, you know, defining the problem and developing solutions with them and potentially delivering with them. And then they're kind of even more kind of joint ventures I suppose so IPPR recently published a report called Climate Commons and one of their recommendations in that is that local authorities establish joint ventures with community enterprises, develop community owned green assets. So that's kind of another dimension to it and that's a really good report if you're interested in that kind of community owned and shared ownership idea that Climate Commons report has quite a few ideas for what councils could do to share delivery with other people.
Councillor Liz Green: That's great and that will be put the link to that in our show notes as well so plenty for people to be able to read. We're about to hear from Chris at Kendal Town Council and obviously we have different tiers of local government but how can town councils, parishes, and even if we don't have those local residents associations play a role in enabling this resident decision making or influence?
Sarah Allen: There are a number of things they can do. So, first of all they can seek that input into their own decisions so the responsibility that they do have whether that's about understanding preferences, crowdsourcing ideas, making sure they're really understanding barriers and opportunities within the bit of the community that they serve. So that's one thing they can do. The other thing they can do is to support residents and groups in their areas to get involved in opportunities to implement decisions being made by others. So that might be decisions being made by other levels of local government, by service providers, by community initiatives. So that might be about them making sure they have really good connections within the local area, I'm sure most of them do, to allow them to do that really easily. It might be about them running their own events as part of wider initiatives or helping to amplify the voices of local residents and groups with those other decision makers. So for example with the work on Our Zero Selby there'll be stuff about that online quite shortly, we don't have a link at the moment, but we're working with the county council and the district council but also looking to collaborate with the parish councils in the area to make sure that they're fully involved both as bodies themselves but that they're helping us connect into the communities that they serve.
Councillor Liz Green: Thanks for that Sarah and some fascinating stuff in there and Climate Assembly UK was a high profile example of engaging with the public in climate decision making but there are multiple local climate assemblies and juries that have also received attention and I'm delighted to be joined by Chris Bagshaw because I believe that you've been involved in Kendal's climate change citizens jury. Can you tell us a little bit about that, your role and your job?
Chris Bagshaw: Yes sure, thanks Liz. I'm the town clerk at Kendal Town Council and the important thing to point out is that I was the town clerk appointed just last October so my predecessor actually was involved in the establishment of the climate jury. But one of the strengths of the system was that that wasn't a problem and the process that we adopted was able to deal with a number of staff and personnel changes, the officer who's actually allotted to this task went on maternity leave almost as soon as it started and then we leapt straight into a pandemic. The whole process was actually almost invented as it went along in a quite, well in the end a very successful way of meeting with a jury. So the town council got in to this process by the sort of hory old route that a lot of people were considering in 2018, 2019, by declaring a climate emergency. The climate emergency declarations by councils up and down the country was one of the means that people were drawing the attention to the climate crisis but I think a lot of people shared a certain cynicism that said it's very easy for councils to pass resolutions in council, it's a lot harder to do anything about it to establish structures and to establish any mechanism for dealing with what is being said is a terrible thing that's happened, you know, it's a bit like council's declaring an end to child poverty rubbing their hands and then going to the pub after the meeting saying what a terrible thing it is.
The establishment of the climate jury was an interesting thing because no town council, and we're the parish authority here in Kendal in currently we're still a three tier authority area, no town council had ever done this for a town itself and we started with that basic premise. How would we respond, how should Kendal respond to this climate emergency, how would we do it, and the jury process offered a way of almost fast tracking the publicity exercise and also a market research exercise. So the climate jury establishment itself we were very helped in this process by Shared Future who had done a number of projects in Leeds and Lancaster and other places. They helped us select a jury from the town, four thousand people were invited to consider whether they wanted to take part and from the responses we got we got a representative sample of twenty good citizens of the town representing right across the age and economic structure of the town which is quite varied, we've got thirty thousand people. So, you know, we represent as a market town in the Lake District, a snapshot if you like of English society as it is at the moment, and we got twenty people and said 'well what do you think we should do?' and with our colleagues at Shared Future we worked through ten sessions because we'd dropped into the pandemic Shared Future invented a new methodology for doing those, the whole exercise which used to involve flip charts and sticky notes and things like that was done online which was really quite impressive to turn that around. And that process evolved.
The council funded it a little bit but we also put out a crowd funder request because we didn't think that it was a task the town council had only got a budget of £5,000 and we reckoned the whole lot would cost us about £20,000. So we asked the general public to contribute and they did. And we got some also contributions from the district council and the country council which was very helpful. So that process emerged and the whole sort of governance arrangement if you like was done by an oversight committee which sort of kept an eye on how things were going and whether we were doing the right thing. And the oversight panel was a really interesting exercise in cross party support, that was more of the appointees but it was a really done, so we had the NFU and Extinction Rebellion represented on the oversight panel and I'm really proud of the way that we managed to keep everybody on board with that all the way through the process so that it became a joint ownership from the sort of political class as well as the citizen group. So it worked on both levels and as I say I'm very proud of the way we managed to do that and continue to do that because the end of the process we came up with a recommendation list, nice long list, here's 71 things that Kendal Town Council as just the parish tier authority can do but also dragging in all the other tiers of government and of interest groups and all the way up to government recognising that we're starting very small just in our streets in Kendal.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes can we take a step back Chris, I just want to understand, there's a range of techniques that you as the parish level authority could have taken to engage residents and undoubtedly you do in other areas of work, so what made you pick having a citizens jury over an above some of the other engagement methods that you will have done more traditionally to engage with your residents?
Chris Bagshaw: I think there was a presentation to a council meeting by Shared Future which was quite persuasive. The town council being a fairly well based in it's local community organisation, you know, we had newsletters, we've had forums and things like that in the past, we have open meetings blahdy blahdy blah. We're quite well experienced of dealing with the local community but we also have some quite divisive issues and town council was quite keen to step away from being the sole arbiter of what is and what isn't important and that idea seemed to impress counsellors. A much better idea to almost pass the baton of deciding what's important to a third party, to a group that has a real justification for it's existence and a real motive for action. So yes in the end it came down to a council meeting, nice presentation, two counsellors sponsored it, and the rest of the council recognised that actually this was what we were looking for, this was a way of converting that theory of climate emergency into a practice 'practical something, something must be done, what should be done, this'. This is a starting point. And then we've got a list of actions which somebody else has come up, don't blame us, this is what the other people came up with.
Councillor Liz Green: And how did you persuade people that they wanted to take part in this citizen's jury?
Chris Bagshaw: Well surprisingly people were very keen to take part but we didn't think that it was, it's quite an onerous task. I mean if you imagine we had ten sessions and the sessions were sort of two hours each so that's twenty hours of activity just on the, it's quite a labour intensive process of considering everything. So we did incentivise it, we looked at what our options were and we looked at our budgets and reckoned we could probably pay from our twenty members of the jury we could probably pay them in vouchers, we wanted to keep the money locally so we used local shop vouchers and they went up to about £200 in local shop vouchers, £20 a session per jury member. So there was a reward process but I wouldn't say anybody got in it for acunary reasons. I think that was more of a token than anything else. But it did soften the blow should we say.
Councillor Liz Green: So has the citizen's jury in Kendal been a success, and what's come out of it since?
Chris Bagshaw: It's early to say. Ask me in ten year's time when we're looking at maybe citizen's juries and the imperatives that our citizen's jury have considered to be the most important when that's spread right across the country and everybody's working in the same direction. I think, you know, ten fifteen year's time we might know. The incentive for this really comes from our own experience of the impact of climate change, 2015 Kendal was flooded in a way that Kendal had never been flooded before. We're a town in the Lake District, we know a thing a two about water, but Storm Desmond delivered more water into the streets of Kendal than had ever been seen in living memory and beyond and we now know that extreme weather events are one of the consequences of climate change and that's something, those of us who live in the Lake District and those of us who live near big rivers have to come to terms with that these things are actually happening. It isn't just some sort of view of what's happening, the external factors, this is actually real for our town. We've got some microtasks, the jury came up with a long list of recommendations so how do we know we're succeeding? Well they gave us some easy wins, we need to expand allotment provision because more people need to know where they're food is coming from and need to re-negotiate their own relationship with food production.
One of the things I'm most proud of is that we kept both, as I say Extinction Rebellion on one hand and the National Farmer's Union on side on this because both of them came together over the same issue. Food production, local food production cuts down climate miles, cuts down carbon and all those things so it's a win win for both sides and yet usually those two groups are not groups that sit easily side by side and yet in September through the climate jury we've organised a farm visit to a local farm and you'll get all sorts of strange people turning up on a local farm to find out how local farmers are addressing the issue of climate change. And I think that's a symbol of how successful this process was of keeping people on board and making this not a nakedly political thing. We understand there is a political context to everything we do. As a town council we're bottom feeders in the political process, my counsellors are always walking the streets, walk door to door canvassing for their next council election always. And I'm sure yours are Liz too. They know what's coming and they know where the battle lines are drawn. But in this process we've achieved a consensus which actually defies anybody to challenge whether this isn't what we should be doing. It's great to be in a process when people are going of course we're going to do that. What else are we going to do? Yes we can fight round the edges but actually the general view is now that the climate is a real problem and needs addressing and I think finding that general consensus and supporting that general consensus has been a real triumph for us as a council organisation.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes and it's really good to hear and as you say climate change is not a here and now straight away you've cracked it. It's obviously a long term programme that you're just setting off on in Kendal. What could we the other councils both at parish and town level but also at the top tier learn from what you've done in Kendal?
Chris Bagshaw: I think one of the most important lessons we've learned is that consensus approach. This isn't about party political point scoring. It has to be based on consensus and so you have to be talking to a broach church. You have to go across parties, you have to get everybody involved and speak to everybody and keep it at a higher level than political point scoring because if you descend into political point scoring we will lose. We will lose the fight against climate change and, you know, towns like Kendal will suffer as a consequence. Towns like London will suffer as a consequence because, you know, I've seen you've got quite a big river and I know it has a tendency to get a bit uppity at times. Just those little things like water, you're a bit short of it on occasions, we've got too much of it. Those things will really, really take control of the way we live and we'll end up fighting in the way they are doing in California now against the climate rather than doing anything about it and it'll become more important. So, working towards a consensus, making sure that we keep it civil, keep it everybody working in the same direction, everybody working towards the same aim I think is a real learning for us. Plus the fact that, you know, the usual little things spot some small wins, know that you've got bigger ones, don't try and do everything at once but know that there are things you can do and actually try and do something about them.
It is a no brainer to say that, you know, one time use water bottles should be phased out from council meetings or from staff areas, you know, staff can be gently encouraged not to use one time use plastic bottles. That's quite simple and we can incentivise that right across the town, you know, there are lots of little things we can do that contribute to. One of the things that the jury implored us to do was show leadership, you know, show some actual leadership and one of those things in that leadership includes working in a consensus manner and doing the little things.
Councillor Liz Green: Yes fascinating Chris and the idea that you're showing that leadership of place which is so important role for all levels of council and being able to, you know, walk the walk and not just talk the talk I think it vitally important. So would they be your top tips for council, the collaborating side of things or anything else that comes to mind that would a real top tip for councils that maybe haven't embarked quite as strongly as you have yet on the climate action plan?
Chris Bagshaw: They would. I think the jury process allowed us to show or to demonstrate that we were acting on behalf of our citizens that was really quite an important thing so that's a imperative in itself. How do you know, it was always a question that's thrown at new parish clerks when they're learning their trade. How do you that what your council does is what the people the council serves want? And the climate jury process is a really good way of doing that, it's a really quite impressive way of demonstrating that you've got a degree of popular support or you've actually tried to engage with people with things that they want. It isn't just about, you know, lining up surveys and asking questions that you wanted to get the answers that you had already prepared. It was actually getting somebody else to challenge us, to reflect on what it was that we were doing and challenging us in the every day organisation of our existence if you like of our council structures. Everything that we do as a challenge related to climate change and we have to work through all those. So yes if I had a top tip working in that consensus way but also the jury models a really good way of bringing out almost a third party justification for action and a good way of cutting through of some of the political baggage that hangs around some of these issues and saying it's not just about political point scoring there is an imperative that is above that.
Councillor Liz Green: So I'm going to bring you back in Sarah because we were talking about the leadership of place element, so when it comes to public engagement on climate change obviously councils can't do everything and they have a role to play in creating the space for and sometimes stepping out of the way of community action. But just wanted to ask really both of you what community engagement, community action on climate change is already happening. You've given us some examples but whether there's any more that you can tell us about?
Sarah Allen: There's lots and covering many different sections as well so you have local groups working on local food production, on renewable energy, on low carbon housing, on community transport, on active travel and I think, you know, there are some good sources for people who are looking at the kind of detailed case studies I'd have a look at the IPPR report that we said we'd link to you in the show notes. So they have examples of shared low carbon assets so if people who've done community owned renewables and food cooperatives, community land traffic for example. There's also the Transition Network that support like a wide range of local groups who are active in many different parts of the climate, the kind of different sectors effected by climate change. There's also the National Lottery's climate action fund who are support a wide range of groups. So I'd say the good news for councils is there's lots of action already happening in communities across the country from this area that they can tap into and as you say not have to do everything themselves.
Chris Bagshaw: One of the methods that I say one of our imperatives was to show some leadership in this and one of the things we've developed and we've got a lot of help from LGA and the Design Council to work through this idea is that we're in the presence of establishing a climate change hub an online facility where you look at a map of the town and go here's a load of initiatives that are meeting some of the issues of climate change. So whether there's a heating system, or whether there's a solar system, or whether there's new forestry being planned, or whether there's a repair and renewal hub for clothing and furniture and things like that and all those things we're logging in a website hub that's mapped so that you can just ping on the thing and it'll tell you about what that initiative is and that's as I say one of the ways that we're attempting to show some genuine leadership and say there's a lot going on out there get on board. It works for our town, if you don't know what the renewable heat issues are that are going on at the moment then, you know, ping on this and this'll take you into that direction. So that's one way that we started developing already this idea of a climate hub, what's going on, what can I do, what's going on locally, come on to our website and have a look. I was going to say we're also taking that out, we're renowned for our festivals in Kendal, we've got some fantastic array of festivals from mountain festival through to walking festivals and music festivals and we're taking a stand out to the festivals that people can interact with so they can learn about the issues while they're enjoying our festivals.
Councillor Liz Green: That's great and Chris you did touch on the district and the county because you're a two tier system at the moment up in Cumbria.
Chris Bagshaw: Three.
Councillor Liz Green: Three tier apologies, with town and parish. London counsellor we just have one.
Chris Bagshaw: First tier if you will. First tier is the town and parish.
Councillor Liz Green: But I just wanted to ask how you were working with them, you touched on it slightly because obviously a lot of the people listen to this will be from town or unitary or district or county, so how you worked with them so that everybody got the best out of it.
Chris Bagshaw: Well again going back to that consensus thing roping in councils and volunteers one thing all of us who work in the three tier structures especially in town council's know is that there's no such thing as a person representing only one tier. Lift any rock and you'll find a dual hatted counsellor in some shape or form. But actually working together with across the tiers and working with colleagues in the different local authorities so, you know, I and my colleague Helen who's my project manager we work quite closely with South Leighton District Council and officers of Cumbria County Council to pursue our aims if you like. And we've also co-opted some of the larger initiatives so the local cycling and walking improvement plan we've just co-opted into the battle against climate change because that's going on at the moment and the government is very keen to support and fund initiatives that promote cycling and walking and we're very keen to support cycling and walking for our reasons. So in that respect we've got involved in initiatives that are coming from county council who are our highway authority and our transport authority but also through the district council parks and open spaces and things like that developing initiatives on biodiversity and, you know, even down to one of the things that parish councils excel in is In Bloom.
Britain in Bloom, Cumbria in Bloom is our local thing, Kendal in Bloom, you know, this is the super hyper local thing that the parishes do spectacularly well. Co-opting that into the climate change issue and making sure that that works on all levels to support the same end again we work in partnership with our district council who do grounds maintenance in the town so working with district council's ground maintenance officers to ensure that biodiversity becomes an issue for them and that we are not not pursuing some of the old practices, the green deserts of the past, that caused some of the problems that we currently face. Working with highway planners to ensure that sub-schemes are always considered to be highest priority because managing rain water run off is a huge priority. So, you know, we have to work across the tiers, we have to be able to accept that the tiers only work together when they work together and if we are silo driven then, you know, their stuffed.
Councillor Liz Green: Indeed. Indeed. So we're nearly out of time, Sarah I just wondered if you can give a final couple of tips on how councils can create the space for this community engagement, for it to thrive and do really well. And if you've got any things that really we shouldn't be doing to encourage community action on climate? So top tip to allow community engagement to thrive and if there is anything what should we not be doing.
Sarah Allen: Okay so quick top tips then so I think what Chris has talked about with the hub and making sure that you're publicising what's going on locally so that people can see it I think that's a great thing to do. I also think how councils frame issues is really important, so what people working on climate often see is the co-benefits of climate action so productions in food or fuel poverty, the health benefits of it, are actually often the benefits from the perspective of community groups and residents so thinking about how you're going, what you're talking to people about, how you're framing that issue can help create more engagement. The third tip so communication at framing, the third tip would be to talk to groups to understand the situation as well as you can in the local area is tap in to all that resource, that energy, that creativity. So talk to groups who are already active on climate and related issues, talk to groups who aren't but are maybe active on this areas of co-benefits and understand from their perspective what they see is the barriers facing them, what ideas they'd love to do but they just need a bit of help from the council with for example so that you can really maximise, help them to maximise what they're able to do. And then fourthly if you have the capacity to do it a little bit of like a challenge fund or small amounts of seed funding. It's amazing what that can do for people just to, you know, get people to think about what they can do, come up with the ideas and provide them with a little bit of the means to do, like you can go to full scale participatory budgeting which is then getting people to vote on those ideas but even if you don't a little bit of funding just to get people going locally can be a really useful thing to do if you have the ability to do it. So there's some quick things to do.
I guess what not to do is kind of the opposite of those to work in splendid isolation, to ignore what's happening at not engage with existing groups and kind of miss out on all of that energy and the resources that they have. To be closed about the challenges the council's facing rather than open about them, so if you go to groups and say 'look we've got this problem we want to work with you to solve it' then you'll get all of that input to it whereas if you're not open about the challenges you're facing then, you know, people aren't going to help you solve it because they don't know it exists and they can just get cross with you for not doing anything about problems that they've noticed.
And I think the other final point I'll make is to focus too much on the change required on individuals and miss out on the importance of what community groups and business groups and kind of other collectives, you know, we hear a lot about the need for individual behaviour change but if you just focus on engaging individuals in the local area you miss out on so much capacity that you could be harnessing.
Chris Bagshaw: I think Sarah touched on something there which is impact on individuals and going back to that collaboration thing accepting that one of the things we would suffer if we did too much has become sort of preachy holier than thou type of approach without accepting that individuals are either financially disadvantaged by some climate change proposals or just their liberties are being affronted, you know, we're trying to reduce the impact of traffic in Kendal. There are a lot of people who really really like driving around and think that it's a vital part.
Councillor Liz Green: In London as well.
Chris Bagshaw: So yes sorry I'm by nature parochial. But the issue is the same which is unless you address that why it is that people are reliant on saying 'you know, I'm reliant on my diesel car, why am I reliant on my diesel car because there's no buses. There isn't a bus, there isn't actual a physical bus that I could catch that would take me to work' 'well why isn't there?' Well maybe it's because we're geographically isolated and we suffer that as a county. We've been kind of geographically isolated for a long time, we used to have buses, why don't we have buses now, one of the factors why do I have to sacrifice something for some greater good that I can't identify. We have to come back to that what's in it for me issue because that's what motivates people and so accepting that there will be people who are utterly utterly against what it is that you're trying to suggest and say okay that's fine, you know, we need to accept that there are reasons for our behaviour but not getting too preachy about it and saying that this is a moral imperative I think is really important. It's a really difficult balancing act and I don't pretend to have the answers for that.
Councillor Liz Green: Thank you and that's just about all we have time for in this episode. At the beginning of the episode I asked about the reward incentive for jury members in Kendal, did you spot the answer? It's local shop vouchers to reward their time and effort while keeping the money local, although it wasn't their only reason for taking part. We also asked what type of input from the local community might be useful for councils developing their climate action plans, Sarah's given us a lot of information but in summary preferences, ideas and support with delivery are key.
Thank you for listening to the Local Action for our Environment podcast. This episode was presented by myself counsellor Liz Green and produced by the Local Government Association. Many thanks to our guest speakers today Sarah Allen and Chris Bagshaw. This podcast forms part of the LGA sector support programme available to councils to support their work on combatting climate change. To learn more about the climate crisis and the LGA sector support programme resources and materials will linked in the episode show notes. You can also find out more information on the support pages of the LGA website at local.gov.uk and by signing up to our free monthly climate change e-bulletin. Thank you again for listening, please do share this podcast with your friends and colleagues and we look forward to welcoming you again next time.
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