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Understanding what communities need to fight the climate emergency

Hannah Goulding

At the Local Government Chronicle’s Net Zero 2022 conference, one panel discussion explored ‘climate justice’, a key consideration for councils when implementing their climate action plans. To ensure inequality isn’t baked into responses to the climate emergency, all communities need to be part of the action – but this is easier said than done. Some will be active in the global fight, adapting their day-to-day behaviours rapidly. Others might feel this is simply another issue on a long list of inequalities they already face which they cannot prioritise. Many will sit somewhere in between.

During the discussion the panel highlighted that it will be the most deprived communities who feel the greatest impacts of the crisis. Councils need to work now to ensure all communities are supported to effectively respond to the emergency in ways that recognise their circumstance and lived experience.

There are two key questions that councils should ask themselves in order to design inclusive programmes which support communities to act against the climate emergency:

  1. What levels of motivations and abilities exist within local communities to engage in the climate emergency?
  2. What behaviours need to change, and how can the council influence and facilitate this change?

To answer these questions, IMPOWER has developed a ‘Resident Segmentation Framework’ which identifies levels of motivation – ie the factors that determine whether someone will take climate focused action versus their capability to do so. Understanding the spectrum of communities within this framing will enable councils to identify what drives communities and what bespoke activities need to be designed to support different groups.

Once understood, councils can identify where climate focussed momentum exists. This could be with highly motivated communities who have the resources to act now. Or, this could be with communities who are behaving in ways that respond to the emergency without climate being their primary motivator – for example, using surplus food from supermarkets to cook community meals or ‘Car Club’ schemes, reducing the need for privately owned vehicles, and encouraging carpooling. Identifying where communities are already working in climate-minded ways, despite their motivations, will support councils to build on momentum across all types of community-led activity.

IMPOWER can support councils to identify the spaces in which disengaged communities can be influenced to act, where climate-minded approaches can be embedded through reframing conversations and working through key messengers. This work is essential to capture the involvement of those communities who due to circumstance may be left out of climate action.

Key to this is applied behavioural science, that responds to differing circumstance and motivators of communities. Generic solutions across whole places won’t work. IMPOWER can support councils to better understand the motivators and capabilities of communities and use our EDGEWORK® approach to design bespoke solutions to support all communities to act. Councils can take the global challenge of the emergency and make action tangible, demonstrating the impact local places can have on responding to the crisis.

What do you think is needed to support the communities in your place to fight the climate emergency? Please get in touch to find out more about how we can work with you.

Written by

Hannah Goulding

Senior Consultant, IMPOWER



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