Between the mini budget, energy crisis, near daily policy changes and the cost of living (which has added a new level of anxiety to which no individual or business is immune) – it feels as though we are in a sea of uncertainty and fear. And all this after two years of COVID anxiety. The truth is, the last three years has left us all tired and frayed, and this almost always (understandably) leads to people searching for someone to attribute blame.
But this storm we find ourselves battling, is for all intents and purposes, temporary. While we all wax and wane to the policy of the day, the world is still burning and there is a bigger storm brewing. Throwing our energy into the blame game distracts us from facing the issues, seeking solutions and takes the focus off the things we can’t lose sight of, such as climate change.
To get through these times we need strong leaders from all walks of life, with a clear vision of the future, who are prepared to be a port in a storm. Leaders who put people and communities at the heart of decision making and forge strong, meaningful partnerships with private sector companies that can deliver the bigger picture. But most importantly we need to stay positive and remain focussed on helping each other through these difficult times.
None of the major issues we currently face are mutually exclusive and every single one of them would benefit from a greener, more sustainable planet. By decarbonising homes and buildings, we not only reduce carbon, but we also create warmer homes, and we reduce energy bills. This supports the cost-of-living agenda and reduces the strain on the NHS. By thinking in systems, we save and harness time, money, and energy.
We have local authority partners all over the country that continue to take bold, decisive action and the Covid-19 pandemic, energy crisis and now cost of living hasn’t stopped those plans. It has fuelled their ambition to hit those net zero targets sooner and the private sector is able to provide enduring support to make it a success.
This is the kind of leadership that communities need, because one of the biggest threats to our net zero carbon goals is human behaviour.
A recent House of Lords report says a third of emissions savings must come from behaviour change – so we can’t just rely on decarbonising buildings, homes, and infrastructure. We need people to fundamentally buy into a new way of living and local leaders will be instrumental in this endeavour and will need to lead by example.
One of the recommendations from this report was to invest in information-based campaigns – similar to those used during lockdown, which presented science in an effort to change behaviours during the pandemic and were ultimately successful.
Whether this is derived from central or local government, an information driven campaign centred on climate change would surely be impactful.
We can’t just expect people to change and understand the science; and better education around decarbonisation would support local authorities that are pushing for low carbon technologies and behaviour change, but not getting the buy in from their communities.
If local authorities and their delivery partners can prioritise education and community engagement alongside practical measures to reduce carbon emissions, then it would set a strong precedent and would ultimately make all the low carbon solutions they are implementing more likely to succeed.
We need leaders. We need education. We need action. And I firmly believe the best of this lies at a local level.
If we stay positive and stick to our beliefs in a zero carbon future, that’s precipitated by local authority and private sector partnerships, then we are more likely to see that future arrive sooner.
This article originally featured in "the MJ".