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Building a more inclusive climate agenda in England

Climate change presents a huge risk, but, also an opportunity for communities on the edge.

Big Local areas have never been short of environmental initiatives; from riverbank clean ups, to campaigning on clean air, to initiatives to address fuel poverty, priorities have reflected the concerns and needs of local residents.  But, in some areas already facing significant physical, social and economic change, local priorities focused on the ’climate crisis’ haven’t yet appeared. This is starting to change, and we are seeing a shift from projects based on the local environment, such as green spaces, to the environment at large.

The climate crisis presents huge challenges for the communities in England that are already in survival mode, with research highlighting that extreme weather and changes to the economy could exacerbate existing inequalities. At the same time, there is an opportunity for communities to take a greater share of power and resources, to shape the response to the climate crisis; from community energy, to local food production and waste management, better housing and transport.  For Big Local residents, making a link between how solutions can also improve your quality of life, or save money is vital, for the responses to the climate crisis to feel inclusive.

At a recent learning event on climate and energy, representatives of 24 Big Local areas chose to share their concerns about the potential inequitable impacts of the climate crisis, through co-writing a letter to IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission, signed by 24 Big Local areas and counting.

Dear Commissioner, 

Twenty-four communities from across the United Kingdom have come together to discuss the climate change crisis and we are concerned about the impact this will have on deprived communities. 

At present these communities are in ‘survival mode’, struggling and left behind due to austerity measures, and we want to ensure that these communities do not incur further damage through climate change policy as it develops. We want to connect the climate crisis to helping them make improvements in their lives through a language they understand. These communities have the lowest carbon footprint yet are at high risk of being damaged by potential policy developments, we do not want to see the poverty gap grow through climate crisis provision. 

Many of us are already delivering projects in our areas focusing on creating positive changes and we think that you need to tap into our experience and expertise in community led decision making. You have an ideal opportunity to work with us to begin righting previous wrongs, but this approach does not come without some financial support. 

We have links to 150 unique areas that have all been tackling indicators of mass deprivation in their communities, with varying degrees of success. Through this program we have identified that one size does not fit all, and that approach must be applied to your climate change solutions, and we look forward to sharing our stories, solutions and ideas to create sustainable and credible change. 

Yours sincerely, 

Big Local Representatives 

In order to further support Big Local areas, Local Trust will be continuing to gain a better understanding of what areas need, provide support with ideas and initiatives for creating climate ready communities and amplify the experiences of communities addressing the climate crisis. Our current focused activities include:

  • Supporting areas in South Yorkshire to feed into IPPR’s Commission on Environmental Justice – one intervention framing the need for the future zero-carbon economy to be shaped from the bottom up, to avoid recreating the inequalities and injustices of the current economic system.
  • Continuing to work with, and finding further support partners to work with Big Local areas to develop climate ready communities.
  • Continuing to deliver and develop learning and networking events and opportunities to support and strengthen the existing work big local areas deliver.

In addition, last week Local Trust became one of 15 founding signatories of the Funders Commitment on Climate Change.  We did this, because Local Trust believes the crisis is of fundamental importance to communities and want to work to ensure that the transition to a post-carbon society is a just one.

At a time of rapid and uncertain change, local communities need to have the power and resources to shape their own futures. We need to ensure that already neglected communities are not pushed further down or excluded by responses to the climate crisis, and we invite you to work with us on this.

Whether you are a Big Local area wanting to respond to the climate crisis, or an organisation with the skills and energies to support Big Local areas, we want to hear from you. In the first instance please get in touch with Georgie at

By Becky Doran-Brown, Community development worker and resident of Blackpool Revoe Big Local and Georgie Burr,  Local Trust partnerships coordinator