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A greener future: how community engagement can tackle climate change

Did you know that over 74% of local authorities have declared a climate emergency? If the UK is to reach its carbon net zero target by 2050, it’s going to take the combined efforts of individuals, businesses and the local communities to make that happen.

Last December, the government’s Climate Change Committee published their 6th Carbon budget report. In it they highlighted that for the UK to reach its net zero target by 2050, we need to have reduced emissions by 78% before 2035. A big ask, but one that local action over the next 10 to 20 years is going to have a strong hand in.

If you’ve spent any time on this blog, you know that local communities are desperate to get involved in planning decisions- including ones about being greener. So, what's the best way to let them have their say?

In the run up to COP26, we’re going to be sharing a whole range of climate conscious content, starting with this guide on using citizen engagement to create an effective climate strategy.

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Community engagement to reach net zero

Haringey Climate Change Action Plan

Why do we need to engage communities in climate plans at all? Put simply, people want the chance to get involved.

In our recent engagement survey, 76% of participants said they wanted to help with local planning processes and 71% of people wanted access to regular updates on local issues. Fighting climate change needs real and permanent behavioural changes which is why community engagement is so crucial. If people are ready to help, they should be aware of what the local authorities want their input on.

Engaging the community in climate action

One way to promote and implement your climate action plan is to make an online hub available for the public. You can tailor it to your project's needs and collect detailed feedback from the community. For example, you could create a survey to see what kind of green changes the local people have already made, use a heatmap to collect ideas pinned to locations and keep everyone in the loop by posting regular updates as your climate initiative progresses.

Climate case studies

So what can a community do to prevent climate change? We've seen that when they work together collectively, a lot! With 300 local authorities declaring a climate emergency, many have already stepped up and engaged the community to create greener strategies. If you want to see how a climate initiative can start through citizen engagement, check out some of our case studies below.

#InOurNature: Zero Carbon Manchester

Manchester zero carbon (smaller)-01

As the second biggest city in the UK, Manchester is already doing it’s part to try and reduce its carbon footprint. With a goal of reaching carbon net zero by 2038, Manchester Climate Change Agency have teamed up with Hubbub, Amity CIC, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research and Manchester City Council to create a greener and more connected city. 

Using the Commonplace News Feed feature, they’ve been promoting a number of green projects for the local citizens to get involved with, including opening community fridges and implementing a community nature takeover. The homepage also showcases the exact steps being taken by the council as well as what stage their initiative is currently in- showing that public participation and feedback is indeed helping. 

Their open survey lets the local citizens have their say on what they should do next while also collecting data about the green choices they’re already making. 

Check out their community engagement platform here.

Embracing Open: Greenwich

Greenwich map climate change

Greenwich’s campaign focussed on getting open opinions on their plan to install lamp post charging points. It's a simple setup and one that generated hundreds of contributions.

A heatmap let the community be completely open with the information collected, so everyone could see exactly what their friends and neighbours were writing. This created a sense of social proof which really helped drive more engagement with the project. By demonstrating that other people in the same area were commenting on the platform, it spurred on others to make sure their opinions were heard as well.

See Greenwich’s heatmap here.


Connecting Leeds

Leeds Active Travel

Leeds is one of the best examples of how letting the community speak openly helps generate mass engagement.

They set up an interactive consultation page and asked the public to share ideas about how to improve social distancing and active travel measures. Users could comment anything they wanted on their map, from current issues they felt were dangerous to new green ideas. It gave the local residents the chance to explain what their idea of a more eco-conscious Leeds would look like and showed that their local council was listening.

Not only did the consultation generate more than 26,000 contributions, but they learned that  69% of people supported measures to reduce traffic on residential streets permanently and 71% supported reducing traffic to keep those using active travel safe.

This helped create an actionable plan to add 100km of segregated cycle lanes, including a series of active travel neighbourhoods across the city.

Check out their environment engagement hub right here


Did you know that Commonplace has been selected for COP26's Tech for our Planet scheme? This programme is an initiative run by both Cabinet Office and PUBLIC to show how digital solutions can make a crucial contributions to the global climate effort. We're here to demonstrate just how much citizen engagement and preventing climate change really go hand in hand. As a member of the UK Business Climate Hub, we're ready to take action and help make a change. 

Ready to launch your own initiative? Whether you're looking to run an active travel scheme, hear the communities thoughts on climate change or spread news of green projects to reduce your carbon emissions, we'll show you exactly how to set up your own climate hub.

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Charlotte Cooper

Charlotte Cooper

Content Writer at Commonplace