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Reflections from LGC’s Net Zero conference

Olivia Bryan

The Local Government Chronicle’s (LGC) recent Net Zero conference provided a space to share and build upon practical things happening at a local level to accelerate the journey to net zero. A series of panel discussions and keynote speeches were held virtually over two days, and included speakers from within the sector, local politicians, central government policy makers, and influential organisations such as the Committee for Climate Change.

The agenda was vast, covering: what a local-led planning system should look like to deliver net zero; green recovery and green jobs creation; climate justice and how climate change impacts the most vulnerable in societies; rethinking transport and the different challenges and opportunities facing rural and urban communities, to name a few.

At IMPOWER, we have a Climate Change Practice Group to build our shared insight and delivery toolkit. Members from the group attended the conference to gain insight into how the sector is responding to the significant and complex challenges posed by climate change.

Though the panels and their speakers were varied, some common themes emerged:

1. Place-based leadership must be core to the transition to net zero

  • Councils must engage directly with communities to imagine a different future together and create energy and inspiration. Whilst areas can learn from one another, the challenges and opportunities vary (for example influencing a shift towards using public transport in urban vs rural areas could not be more different).
  • No organisation can do it alone – but councils are uniquely placed to enhance partnership working in their place to work in the ‘influenceable space’ to achieve net zero in their areas.
  • At IMPOWER, we often talk about the importance of ‘place’ in the context of Health, Adults and Children’s Social Care, and outcomes-based commissioning and financial planning. We believe that truly place-based, outcomes-focused working will be equally important on the journey to net zero.

2. Local approaches to ‘leadership’ need to evolve if we are to be successful at decarbonisation

  • Leaders must work across systems to empower communities and people. Communities must feel ownership over behaviour change and not be ‘done to’ by public organisations. This will require councils, and public sector partners, to work in a different way.
  • To be imaginative and agile, councils will need to take more risks. Good governance will be crucial, however, it will hold up key decision making if it is too complicated.
  • Core to good governance will be understanding the impact that public efforts and investments are having on the move to zero-carbon. There are substantial challenges associated with understanding the impact of initiatives on emissions. Organisations must be encouraged to take risks and fund climate change projects.

3. The journey to net zero provides an opportunity to positively impact on historically disadvantaged groups

  • Climate change and social justice are, rightfully, becoming increasingly aligned. Those most impacted by the negative effects of climate change are often those least able to engage in behaviour change and solutions. Councils need to ensure that climate change action does not bake in the deep inequalities that exist in our society, and goes even further to reverse and reduce the inequalities that are increasingly felt in local communities.

There is evidently a significant amount of thinking taking place within the sector to address the challenges posed by climate change and establish practical ways of driving towards net zero targets. But it must be done in a way that inspires communities and puts the right foundations in place for positive change.

At IMPOWER, we have worked hard over several years to develop and refine our EDGEWORK® approach, reliably delivering sustainable change in some of the most complex challenges facing our public sector clients. Using the same EDGEWORK® approach, we can help councils to reframe their ambition around the climate challenge, and deliver impact through our theory of change; moving quickly to action, expediting the impact of our work and building confidence in the council and local community in the direction of travel. If you would like to find out more, please get in touch.

Written by

Olivia Bryan

Manager, IMPOWER

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