Decade Zero, Year Three


It’s a good thing we don’t have to depend on the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee for encouraging news! The CCC’s purpose is to report to Parliament on government progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in preparing for and adapting to the impacts of climate change. According to the CCC, here to hold the government to account, “Climate change has arrived, yet the country is still strikingly unprepared.

The contrast between the sense of urgency by the government to tackle the present climate and biodiversity crises on the one hand, and local government from city regions to parish councils on the other, could hardly be more striking. Several bills have been introduced to the UK parliament seeking declaration of a climate emergency; not one of them passed. In contrast, the majority of local councils in the UK (county and district, unitary authorities, metropolitan districts and London boroughs) declared a climate emergency during 2019-2020, and have since set net-zero targets of 2030 and published plans to achieve them.

The local picture is uplifting because we really do have the power to make progress, right now, even without the tailwinds of a more positive national policy environment.

This week, Carbon Copy celebrates the third year of our mission to help accelerate big-thinking local climate action in the UK. We launched the charity in May 2020, near the end of the first UK COVID lockdown. During that scary time, one of the most heartening experiences for all of us was the rediscovery of a fundamental sense of community and social care.

Faced with the existential threat of a pandemic, as a society we rose to the occasion. Can we tap a similar well of community cohesion, care and activism to tackle the related crises of climate, biodiversity loss, social injustice and poverty – at the same time as we seize opportunities to improve our health, supply of clean energy, food security and transport?

The answer is an emphatic ‘yes’! From reading over 1,000 inspiring stories published on our Carbon Copy hub, we have realised that, perhaps ironically, community power to tackle climate change doesn’t necessarily need a starting goal of tackling climate change. Instead, the community action people are telling us about is often driven by a motivation to improve places and the quality of life within them, implicitly linked to a better local environment.

For example, Glasgow Food Policy Partnership is a group of public, private and voluntary sector organisations who have come together to achieve one objective: working together, to create a fairer, healthier, more sustainable and resilient food system in Glasgow. And according to Sustain – the alliance of organisations and communities working together for a better system of food, farming and fishing –  there are around 80 similar food partnerships across the UK. Just think how big our collective impact is, when local happens everywhere!

We’re now three years already into Decade Zero, and we need to go much further and faster. Together, we have an opportunity to lead change locally. We have to push outside the ‘eco-bubble’ of informed and sustainability-focused activists, to a much wider group of people who would like to make change happen where they live, but may lack the confidence and some tools to get started. And to do so, we want to move the narrative on, evolving and widening the shorthand of ‘climate action’ beyond net-zero targets, to the many and various benefits of working together locally that are not limited to reducing emissions or halting biodiversity loss.

Carbon Copy has a lot of exciting, collaborative ideas on how to do this over the next year. But, please, don’t watch this space. Jump in!

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