Joseph Lewis
July 2021

Transformative Action & Local Knowledge: Six dynamic ways to fight climate change

Recognition of the current climate crisis and the challenge involved in addressing it has never been greater. Succeeding in the fight against climate change relies on effective action at every scale, from international agreements and national governments down to Local Authorities and communities.

Despite that, not enough has been done to transform strong ambitions for local climate outcomes into actions which align with pathways to a more sustainable society. The local scale is crucial to delivering on climate goals. Not only are many interconnected climate pressures significantly influenced by policy areas under the control of Local Authorities, climate decisions made locally also present a major opportunity to pilot policies which can then be scaled up to wider contexts. Importantly, given the extent of the challenge posed by the climate crisis, decisions at the local scale provide the opportunity to set out actions which are small and achievable but which can make a significant difference.

This report consolidates knowledge on local climate action, drawing on insights from across the environmental sciences, including on the natural systems which influence climate change and the social systems which determine whether or not climate action will be effective. The aim of the report is to share that consolidated knowledge with policymakers and decision makers, creating a positive vision where necessary changes can be viewed as the opportunities they are, rather than as risks.

To achieve this, the report recommends six dynamic changes in the ways Local Authorities operate to increase knowledge sharing between Authorities, improve monitoring and the measuring of success and progress, and to ensure wider recognition of the urgency of the climate emergency while also respecting the need for evidence-led action and appropriate governance. Crucially, it also recommends a culture of innovation which champions the use of ‘living labs’, pilot schemes, and the role of academia. The goal is not to instantly solve substantive climate issues, but to give Local Authorities and communities the tools to address these problems themselves.

The most important practical step would be to work towards the creation of a platform for knowledge sharing to encourage the distribution of best practice and to give Local Authorities a license to create and innovate. Whilst this kind of platform would benefit from resources and the support of national government, professional bodies like the IES can play a role in co-producing simplified knowledge sharing systems until more sophisticated ones develop.

Despite the extensive potential of Local Authorities and communities to support climate action, there are increasing fears of the risk of a ‘stale state’ within which Authorities would become unable to act as needed to meet ambitions. In order to move towards dynamic delivery on the climate agenda, there are a handful of intuitive changes which make a big difference.

If you work in Local Government and want to know how the IES can support knowledge sharing in your community, get in touch to learn about our TALK Board project.

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