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We’re in a climate emergency – so what?

James Goodman, Director of Partnerships at Local Trust, on why the climate crisis matters

We’re in a climate emergency – so say half of the councils in England and counting, along with the UK parliament and a host of other organisations big and small, in the public and private sectors and across civil society. And so say the millions of people on the streets of towns and cities around the world today, demanding urgent and radical action. Decades after the science of climate change became clear, support for action is finally going mainstream.

The climate crisis matters deeply and urgently for local communities.

Extreme weather events like floods and sustained heatwaves damage local infrastructure and the built environment, and affects people’s health and financial security. Work by Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that poor communities are affected disproportionately.

The transition to a post-carbon economy could leave many communities exposed, especially where people are employed in high-carbon industries like transport, manufacturing and construction. Research by LSE’s Grantham Institute suggests that as many as 10% of jobs may be at risk, with certain areas like Yorkshire and the East Midlands particularly exposed.

At the same time, there are many, many opportunities for communities to shape the response to the climate crisis, from community energy, to local food production and waste management, shared resources and sustainable transport plans. This is particularly exciting, because it hints at how a far-sighted response to the climate crisis can also be a way forward for decreasing inequality and improving social justice. IPPR’s Commission on Environmental Justice is just one intervention that emphasises the need for the future post-carbon economy to be shaped from the bottom up, to avoid recreating the inequalities and injustices of the current economic system.

Support for communities to take action is beginning to build. The National Lottery Community Fund is putting £100m into a climate action fund to help communities decarbonise. It seems certain that more funding from others will quickly follow, and they will have a lot of communities to choose from. From Ashton Hayes in Cheshire, the famous pioneering ‘climate neutral village’, to the transition towns movement focused on ending dependence on fossil fuels, to Big Local’s Ambition Lawrence Weston with its solar farm and plans for a giant wind turbine, communities are taking up the climate challenge.

At Local Trust we know there are many people working in Big Local areas who feel passionately about the climate crisis, and we also know there are many who want to understand what the climate crisis means for them and their communities. That is why we are running an event on climate change and energy, on 18 October in Bristol, free for anyone who lives or works in a Big Local area. The event will be an opportunity to share views and experiences of the climate crisis, to hear from experts about the implications, and to have a practical conversation about the action that people and communities can take. It will answer the ‘so what?’ question of the climate emergency. So, come along! You can sign up here.