Making The Money Work Harder

Group of people talking

Building Back Better is a slogan that’s been painted onto the sides of a pretty diverse collection of wagons, but they’re all on the same trail, and have a similar destination. In essence, it’s about recovering from disaster in a way that increases the resilience of nations and local communities to cope with future disasters.

Governments in every country are squaring up to spend eye-watering sums of money on protecting their national economies from collapse as a result of the pandemic. Six months ago, national and local budgets were all ear-marked for other purposes, including the looming cost of tackling climate change. And these are not the only challenges.

In Carbon Copy’s first webinar event, #BuildBackBetter: Accelerating Collaborative Local Climate Action, all of the panellists talk about creating the resilience we need as a systemic issue that goes even wider than disease and climate disaster. As Jake Woodier, COP26 Campaign Manager for The Climate Coalition, makes clear: “The system that’s given rise to all of the environment and climate ills is exactly the same one that’s created all of the social and structural inequalities in our societies.”

Because the causes and impacts of these global disasters are deeply intertwined, the approach to tackling them can, and indeed must, be too. Cara Jenkinson, Cities Manager at Ashden, suggests: “If we can get policy makers to think about the co-benefits of targeting climate action with other issues, like health, then we can use existing funding in a smarter way. The pandemic has exposed serious health inequalities across the country. Climate action, on cold homes, air pollution and many other issues will have huge health benefits, and will reduce costs.”

We can’t afford to get this wrong. Chris Church, Director of Community Environment Associates warns: “The COVID-19 crisis has been a real earthquake, but the climate crisis is like an avalanche rolling towards us, and is just as serious, if not more so.”

“Build Back Better means doing stuff differently,” he suggests. “Let’s learn from lockdown. We’ve lived in a really different way, so let’s encourage people to reflect on the positive changes which they’ve achieved, in the midst of all the suffering and uncertainty. Eighty percent of the public are really worried about the climate crisis. Most people want a green response to our current situation. The doors are open. This isn’t an environmental issue any more, this is a civic issue.”

And that is the real point. It’s a civic issue. National governments can provide the budgets – and they must – but smart spending, and the impetus for intelligent change, can best be achieved at local level.

Says Cara Jenkinson: “The ask to national government is about empowering local government, working with local unions, local enterprise partnerships and communities, to do what they are best placed to do. Organisations like Ashden and Carbon Copy that share what is working locally can help to speed up the change.

“We need to take a place-based approach to climate action. Because there are different issues and different solutions depending on where you live, local authorities and communities are best placed to decide how the green recovery can be delivered.”

Rakesh Prashara, Deputy chair of Greens of Colour, offers an important caution: “We need to stop talking down to people, telling them they should be involved. We need to encourage and enable communities to come together, but the initiative to work together has to come from them.”

It’s up to all of us, where we live. We need to think big, locally.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

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