CSE Climate Action days boost motivation of town and parish councils to reduce local emissions

30 June 2022

The Centre for Sustainable Energy works with town and parish councils across the UK to take practical action on climate in local communities and put climate emergency declarations into action. Our Climate Emergency Support team recently surveyed everyone we’ve been working with to understand what’s needed next …

Extensive change is needed to meet the UK government target to reduce carbon emissions by 2050. Town and parish councils are in a unique position to stimulate grassroots action, set a leadership example and provide a local, accountable focal point for practical action on the climate emergency.

Around 300 councils have declared a climate emergency. Now, many of them are looking to turn these words into action, to reduce their carbon emissions and work with local communities to tackle the causes of climate change happening in their area.

CSE works with parish and town councils across England on climate action and planning. We bring people together to build their understanding of local impacts on climate change, carbon footprinting and support with building a local climate action plan.

Our Town & Parish Climate Action Days are often the first step towards creating a practical climate action plan that’s relevant to a local area.  We gather town and parish councillors and clerks and in a collaborative way devise a plan to put climate change at the heart of activities and take practical and effective steps to make a real difference. We cover a range of topics geared towards understanding local needs and discovering the best actions to reduce local carbon, improve local biodiversity, increase community engagement and much more.

“We, as a parish council, have the power to make a difference,” said John, an attendee of a recent Town & Parish Climate Action Day. “The climate crisis seems distant and out of our control – and in many ways it is – but the impact we can have locally, on the ground, will be a huge to help to our communities.”

The impact of Town & Parish Climate Action Days

So far, we’ve held 14 Town & Parish Climate Action Days, supporting around 500 councillors and clerks across England.

We recently asked everyone who’s taken part what they learnt from their experience.

  • Most said developing their understanding of the scale and urgency of the climate emergency, while also boosting their motivation to do something about it was their main takeaway.
  • Lots of people said they had a better understanding of the role local councils can play in meaningful community climate action and the importance of connecting with other local councils to share learning.

Our survey revealed our Town & Parish Climate Action Days are supporting positive change. Many local councils that attended our training are now encouraging an internal dialogue on the need for action and bringing key stakeholders and members of the community together. Here’s some examples from our survey:

“I got to connect with lots of other environmental officers in other councils, and from this an Environmental Collaboration Group was set up by Salisbury City Council.”

“We established a networking group of eight local parish councils who share resources, best practice and projects for a coordinated approach. We’ve raised the profile of the climate emergency on our parish council's agenda by setting up Climate Change Task Groups and monthly reporting.”

“I wrote to every parish council in the district and invited them to a meeting to discuss how we might work together. From this, the Forest Climate Group was formed. We meet once a month to share ideas and projects. We now have a constituted climate and biodiversity committee at my parish council.”

Opportunities and next steps

The town and parish councils we spoke to told us a key barrier to taking action is a lack of expertise and knowledge about particularly technical topics. These included EV (Electric vehicle) infrastructure projects, community energy and renewable energy options and how to engage with councils.

Meanwhile, a key revelation has been the importance of building peer networks with neighbouring local councils and supportive relationships with higher tier authorities. Local councils don't feel fully supported by higher tier authorities and want to engage with them more in a mutually supportive way. Higher tier authorities often are responsible for decision-making that directly affects parishes.

Our survey showed us there is a huge appetite for more detailed and targeted support, and more networking and sharing across councils. Here at CSE we're busy developing our offering to respond to this feedback so watch this space for updates. If you want to talk to our team about developing an event now, get in touch at climateemergency@cse.org.uk or 0117 934 1400.

And here's a final word from another attendee of a Town & Parish Climate Action Day, Ann: “The CSE Climate Action Day was excellent! I was sceptical about the whole thing, but the message has moved on from when I last attended any seminar on this issue – now there is no domineering insistence on the need to calculate our ‘carbon footprint’, instead we have a much more rounded approach with tangible outcomes. The message has become easier to understand; it’s personal and effective and relevant to parish councils, as we can, and should, act as ambassadors and role models.”

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