Local Action For Our Environment podcast

The LGA have released a podcast series to provide advice and guidance for council officers and Members looking to engage their local communities on climate change.

Climate change hub

Across the United Kingdom, councils are taking urgent actions in their local areas with partners and their local communities to combat the negative impacts of climate change and to deliver net zero carbon by 2050. To help councils reach these targets, the LGA has recorded a new podcast series – Local Action For Our Environment.

This podcast is a training resource for council officers and Members, supporting councils on a local pathway to net zero and enabling them to fight climate change locally with the tools, techniques and know how.

The focus of this series is on the climate crisis and how councils can create meaningful engagement with communities on climate change, enabling local climate action, developing tangible evidence and plans for how they are tackling climate change in their areas.

Hearing from a variety of councils and experts across five episodes, council officers and Members can learn about a range of different techniques which can be deployed to engage with local communities, and how to overcome the challenges which may arise along the way.


Episodes

All episodes in this series are chaired by Councillor Liz Green, a Councillor in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and Vice-Chair of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board with lead responsibility for climate change.

You can listen to the episodes below.

Episode 1: The climate crisis

This first episode provides a foundation to inform senior council managers and councillors of the need to act and address the climate emergency. Our speakers discuss two main questions:

  1. Why should local government care about the climate crisis and why do they need to act now? 
  2. Why engage the public on climate change and the climate emergency?

Guest speakers:

  • Councillor Clyde Loakes, Deputy Leader of Waltham Forest Council.
  • Professor Andy Gouldson, Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Leeds, Chair of the Leeds Climate Commission and Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission. 

Listen via:

Show notes

Episode 2: Public engagement strategy and net zero

 

The Climate Change Committee called for a public engagement strategy on net zero which includes involving people in decision-making and providing trusted information.

This episode considers three different techniques which councils could use to engage their communities on the climate emergency in their local areas. We also hear about Camden’s Climate Assembly where Councillor Adam Harrison talks through the process, impact, and challenges, for councils to consider if using a similar approach.  

Guest speakers:

  • Chandrima Padmanabhan, Programme Lead - Climate, Centre for Public Impact Europe.
  • Cllr Adam Harrison, Cabinet Member for a Sustainable Camden, Camden Council.

Listen via:

Show notes

Centre for Public Impact:

Camden Council:

Episode 3: Public engagement opportunities – inform and educate

This episode is coming soon.

The Climate Change Committee said that the public needs access to trusted information about the decisions being made in the transition to net zero, the reasoning behind and impact of these decisions, and the choices available at critical decision points.

This episode will discuss where the current knowledge gap is, how we can fix it, and how Nottingham City Council have been successful in communicating about climate change effectively.

Guest speakers:

  • Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh, Director of the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations.
  • Chris Common, Carbon Neutral Policy Manager, Nottingham City Council.
Episode 4: Public engagement opportunities – collaboration

This episode is coming soon.

This episode will look at how the public can be involved in decision making on climate change, how councils can work with their residents and communities and discuss how to engage communities through these methods. Climate Assembly UK was a high-profile example of engaging the public in climate decision-making. Multiple local climate assemblies and juries have also received attention, such as Kendal’s Citizen’s Jury.

Guest speakers:

  • Sarah Allan, Director of Capacity Building and Standards, Involve.
  • Chris Bagshaw, Town Clerk, Kendal Town Council.
Episode 5: Engaging diverse audiences on climate change

This episode is coming soon.

Councils often have diverse local populations. But those who engage with council activities and with climate change often do not represent that full diversity.

In the last episode our guest speakers discuss the importance of engaging the full diversity of their local populations and what councils should think about before, during and after engagement processes to ensure they are accessible and inclusive. We also hear how Hampshire County Council are working with partners to deliver community projects.

Guest speakers:

  • Chitra Nadarajah, Strategic Manager – Climate Change, Hampshire County Council
  • Councillor Kaltum Rivers, Sheffield City Council
  • Jo Wall, Strategic Director – Climate Response, Local Partnerships

Podcast transcripts

Below are the transcripts for each episode of the podcast.

Episode 1 - The climate crisis (transcript)

(TC: 00:00:12) 

Councillor Liz Green: Hello and welcome to the local action for our environment podcast, a new podcast brought to you by the local government association to support councils on reaching their climate change reduction goals. I'm Councillor Liz Green, Vice Chair of the LGA's improvement and innovation board with lead responsibility for climate change. The LGA climate change sector support programme funded by the UK government helps councils to reach their local carbon reduction targets by adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change. This training series forms part of this support offer. As you may be aware, many councils across the UK have declared a climate emergency. I will be chairing this podcast series as we explore how councils can effectively engage with their communities on the climate emergency. In this first episode we'll be discussing the climate crisis, what this means for councils and why it's important to engage with our local communities. I'm delighted to be joined today by Councillor Clyde Loakes, who's the deputy leader of the London borough of Waltham Forest, and Professor Andy Gouldson, who's the professor for Environmental Policy at Leeds University, as well as the chair of Leeds Climate Commission, and Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission. Before we kick off, we will start these episodes with a few questions to get you thinking. From our guest speakers today I have two questions, firstly, do you know what percent of household waste can be recycled on the doorstep of a Waltham Forest household property?

And also, how much money do you think Leeds could save from its energy bill by adopting cost-effective low-carbon measures. Listen out for the answers during the episode and I'll check in with you again at the end. So Clyde, I'd like to start with you, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

(TC: 00:02:03) 

Councillor Clyde Loakes: Hi Liz, and thank you for inviting me along to this podcast today. So I'm the deputy leader in the London Borough Waltham Forest which is in north-east London. I've been deputy leader for around about eleven years now, but I've largely always held the, kind of, traditional environment brief in Waltham Forest, probably for around the last fifteen plus years. And I've been a Councillor for 22 years, so represented in the Leytonstone ward in the south of Waltham Forest, so just a kind of little bit of background.

(TC: 00:02:38) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thanks Clyde, good to have you with us. So basically what is climate change? Why is it a crisis and most importantly why do we need to act now?

(TC: 00:02:50) 

Councillor Clyde Loakes: Well, climate change is what we, you know, I would like to think now we're all noticing happening all around us, whether it's in the news from some of the extreme weather patterns that we're starting to see in Canada, or some of the flash floods that we had in London just this week, and other parts of the UK in July, huge downpours that cause flooding to businesses and properties. Or it's the fact that, you know, in December and January we don't have the snow that we used to have. Certainly when I was a kid you could always guarantee there would be some snow in December and January when I was a young child at school, and you'd have snow days at school where the schools were closed because it was just snowdrifts, you couldn't get into school. We just don't have those in the kind of way that we used to have them anymore. Autumn would always be an October occurrence, Autumn now starts in September and goes on through till December, you know, with the leaf fall which was a key indicator of what Autumn was about. So we're starting to see, you know, different changes in weather patterns, and that is because the planet is heating up. And the planet is heating up as a consequence of, kind of, human behaviours, human interventions, human deliberations, inventions, largely over the past 300 to 400 years in particular. And they have contributed to the planet warming up and we're now, kind of, very aware of that, how we've interacted with the planet and the difference that that is now making.

And of course we are now desperate to try and change our behaviours, change our interactions with the planet and our surroundings, change our behaviours to, kind of, try and make a difference, try to stop the planet continuing to heat up, cool down, so we can start to get it back into a place where it's liveable, because if we don't the planet will continue to warm up, the ice caps will continue to melt and we will start to lose places that we live at a pace. And that then displaces populations and it creates all sorts of geopolitical, kind of, challenges for us going forward, and many of those are well documented. But the key here though, Liz, is we can all make a difference, we can all make a contribution, and we have to stop passing the buck to different organisations, to different businesses, to different tiers of government. We all have to take some responsibility and start making a difference ourselves.

(TC: 00:05:37) 

Councillor Liz Green: Yes, some frightening things happening at the moment, but what does this mean for local government, for those of us who are Members, or for the officers?

(TC: 00:05:48) 

Councillor Clyde Loakes: So in local government we're in a prime place to start to provide, some very hands-on leadership of what we can all do, you know, whether as part of an organisation, and leading and facilitating change, or encouraging our residents, some of the things that they can do to make a difference because we are at the front line, so to speak. So, you know, we are really well-placed to start to build that, kind of, coalition of behaviour change to start to make a difference. And we can do that by, kind of, introducing some local policies, and it can be very basic stuff, and lots of people still don't like the fact that we hone in on things like the circular economy and the waste management and recycling stuff, but that's a basic interaction that we can have with our residents around something that they can do that can make a difference. You know, we can then start looking at how we manage our highways, for example, and start to put in sustainable urban drainage systems to kind of better deal with some of the flash flooding, the incidents that we now have on a more regular occurrence at different times of the year.

We can start to prioritise active travel and sustainable travel, which is one of the things that we've done in Waltham Forest, encouraging more people to walk and cycle those short journeys which they have traditionally taken by car, making it easier and safer and giving them the priority to do that means they get out of the car. Now of course we all know cars are one of the main contributors to why our planet is in the state that it is today. So, you know, we can all do things, and that's just in the traditional spaces, looking to a very traditional environmental lens. But we also know that practices of social workers, healthcare workers can change to make a positive difference. You know, our collective experiences over the past fifteen months with, kind of, working more remotely and using Teams and Zooms, and other platforms to interact has meant that we have cut down on some of the journeys that we've had to make, but we've still been able to connect with people, we've still been able to make decisions, we've still been able to make changes. You know, so it's about taking some of those, kind of, benefits, learnt some shared benefits from the past fifteen months and taking those forward so we don't all suddenly flock into big office buildings and all turn on the heating systems again, and leave the taps running, and etc, etc, we can start to invent some, kind of, key changes.

We can use that procurement to actually reach beyond our own organisations where we're procuring different services or different offers for our residents to insist in those parts of those processes that businesses who are bidding for those contracts change the way that they do things as well. So we can start to have a wider, kind of, reach, but we're at the front of this debate, of this call to action, Liz, we can really make a difference. And, you know, parliament will be the legislators of the big stuff, but we can already be making decisions, making an impact and helping our residents make some of those small changes on a day-to-day basis that collectively can start to have a massive impact on the future of our planet and our climate.

(TC: 00:09:20) 

Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and obviously as we know in local government, we know our communities better than anybody else and what might work for them, but you touched on, you mentioned social workers and other areas. Climate change has been for a long time very much seen as the environment department at the council's responsibility. So how can we get across the whole council and to the wider residents and businesses in an area?

(TC: 00:09:51) 

Councillor Clyde Loakes: I mean, that's a great question, Liz, and, you know, I do share this frustration that even now in the council when there's a question to do with the climate, the immediate, kind of, eyes come to me to provide the answer. But every cabinet member, it's almost like a corporate responsibility now, the climate emergency, just as much as, kind of, looking after and making sure our council tax payers money is well spent. The same, kind of, principle needs to be with the climate emergency, and that is social workers have just as much responsibility. You know, thankfully housing has started to come up, although it-, because I think there's a great recognition now of just, you know, how damaging some of our housing practices, building control practices have been over many, many years, and that whole agenda around retrofitting to make them more energy efficient, make them more sustainable, you know, recycling products that have been used in other waste streams, help make those, reduce the carbon footprint of those, and new housing schemes that are coming on stream. But, you know, it has to be a corporate response now, it can no longer be the environment silo solely responsible for the climate emergency.

And it's only when we, kind of, reach out and we make schools as interested, social workers as interested, procurement as interested, as our police and our other blue lights services just as interested in this debate, that we can actually really start reaching out to our communities, and then everyone can start making a real difference. Because everyone can change some basic behaviours and practices and can start to make a difference, but we have to provide that leadership, that guidance, you know, and that's really, really important. And that's why, you know, local government is really important in this because we're at the front-line with that kind of leadership, we are on the ground, we can demonstrate, we can lead.

(TC: 00:11:50) 

Councillor Liz Green: I couldn't agree more, it's got to be everyone's responsibility, but how do we make that happen, Clyde? How do we ensure that people, you know, our social workers have been flat-out, some councils obviously if they're districts wouldn't have a social work department, or an education or some of the other areas that you mentioned, or housing. How do we make sure that everyone sees this responsibility in a more collective way? Do you have any tips that you can give us on that?

(TC: 00:12:22) 

Councillor Clyde Loakes: So, we have to keep talking, and we have to keep talking to our staff, to our partners, to our contractors, you know, literally en masse. We have to keep telling them that this is a really, really important issue and here's how they can engage in it. So in Waltham Forest, in the Autumn we've been rolling out carbon literacy training to all of our staff and contractors, you know, saying, actually this is why windows need to be kept closed at certain times of the year, this is why the heating is now going off at certain times of the year, this is why the flush is as it is in the, kind of, town hall toilets at this certain time of the year. You know, this is what you can do when you go home and talk to your children and your family about why you need to recycle more and take up these opportunities, this is why you need to be walking. We need to constantly be having those conversations with people, because they are almost like the entry-level, kind of, conversations, you know, when you start to get people really understanding why it's important that their waste management is so much better than it is now, getting more people walking and cycling those short journeys to school, to the workplace, you know, those kind of entry-, then you can start to build on that foundation and start to talk about some of the bigger challenges, some of the bigger behaviour challenges that we're going to need to, kind of, introduce over the coming years.

Because unless we get the basics right, unless we get people hooked on the basics, then the bigger stuff, the bigger challenges, we aren't going to go nowhere on, and it is so, so, so important that we get people onboard and with us, whether they're a social worker, whether they're a finance accountant, you know, whether they're one of our, kind of, bin crews still, they all need to understand and they need to be on this journey with us together so that we can influence as many people as possible.

(TC: 00:14:18) 

Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and you mentioned waste management there, that's obviously one of the things that people do recognise, it's one of our universal services, collection of waste and recycling. So, do enough people recycle enough in Waltham Forest?

(TC: 00:14:34) 

Councillor Clyde Loakes: No they do not, Liz, no they do not. So, in Waltham Forest our recycling rate has been stuck around the early 30% for many, many years, yes, it's about 32% currently. However, however, you in Waltham Forest can come out of your front door and without going any further recycle 85% of your household waste, you know, and we're constantly expanding the things that you can recycle on your doorstep. Because the easier we make it, hopefully we get more and more people to, kind of, buy into it. So, you know, in Waltham Forest your batteries, your domestic batteries will be picked up weekly from the top of your bin, your textiles will be picked up from the top of your bin a weekly basis, your small electrical items will be picked up, you know, wires, redundant wires that you no longer need for your various iPhone and Android equipment and such like, all of that can be collected from your doorstep in Waltham Forest. And it's a real, real challenge, a real challenge to get people to do the right things there, even when you make it so, so simple, and it's just about reiterating, communicating with people just how important doing this right is.

And of course the more we recycle the more money we can actually take out from that service and put into other services, like helping retrofit more of our, kind of, council house stock, to make them fit the purpose and reduce fuel poverty but also make them more efficient so they're not having such a negative impact on the climate. You know, gas boilers, there's so many gas boilers in our properties now that we're going to have to take out if we're really serious about the climate emergency. So, you know, some big, big challenges, and we need to be identifying the easy things that people can do that also frees up cash and good for the climate, good for the bank balance, but then creates that pot of cash so we can some of the other big and more challenging issues that we need to address.

(TC: 00:16:39) 

Councillor Liz Green: So thanks Clyde. And throughout this podcast series we will hear some of the tips from other guest speakers, we will talk about the best ways to engage the community and there will be some great things I know coming up about how to do that and get the communities to make that change that we want them to make. But lastly, Clyde, what would be your, sort of, top tip for another local authority that's maybe not quite as far down the route? I know Waltham Forest, particularly on the cycling and walking infrastructure is very well advanced, but what would be your top tip?

(TC: 00:17:17) 

Councillor Clyde Loakes: Well, I think it's you've got to be bold, we've got to be bold and honest in these conversations with our residents, you know, change has to happen, there is no doubt about this. And the, kind of, perhaps the traditional ways, the very timid ways that the government has gone about delivering change in the past, consultation over consultation and lowest common denominator approaches, that's not going to work going forward, we don't have the time, we need pace on this agenda. So that's why we've got to be honest with our residents around the realities of what climate change means to them locally, because they can see it internationally, occasionally they can see it nationally, but they don't always recognise it when it's actually on their doorstep. And so, you know, we've got to connect them through that journey, say, 'Well actually this is happening in Canada, this could be happening here too.' You know, that the dramatic differences that we're seeing as a consequence of human interactions with the planet, and there are simple things we can do. So we have to identify that leadership that secures that behaviour change going forward, so it's a little bit about honest conversations, pace, and leadership.

(TC: 00:18:41) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thanks Clyde. And in one of the later podcasts I know there's a frightening statistic of something that could be more difficult to obtain that I think all of us would want, so you'll have to listen to the rest of the series to find out what that is. Coming over to you, Andy, so can you tell us, you have a myriad of roles as we heard, a little bit about what you do in those roles?

(TC: 00:19:09) 

Professor Andy Gouldson: Yes, sure. So I'm chair of the Leeds Climate Commission which is an independent body which draws together the council itself, but also the main organisations and community groups, and businesses, and so on in the city to take shared responsibility for the climate challenge. We felt as a city that it was too much to leave it to, you know, one or two people in the environment department as you were talking to earlier, but it needed to be mainstreamed into all of the other areas of the council's activities into health, and transport, and housing, and education, and economic development and so on. But also that it needed to be shared across the city and that, you know, all of us individually, collectively, needed to step up. And the commission was an attempt to bring us all together to be positive and to guide, and track, and support climate action in the city. And my other role is now the director of the Yorkshire and Humber commission, which is a regional commission for the five and a half million people in Yorkshire and Humber, works across 22 local authorities and is doing the same thing basically, but operating at a larger scale with a hopefully, you know, bigger, broader opportunity for the impact.

(TC: 00:20:21) 

Councillor Liz Green: Well that's great, and obviously climate change doesn't-, Waltham Forest or Leeds can do wonderful things but it doesn't respect the local government boundaries for some reason, and decide that, you know, it's only going to affect the wards that don't do so well. So great that Humber and Yorkshire are coming together for this. But Andy, why should your average UK resident care about climate change? You know, we've all got busy lives, we're in a pandemic, coming out of it hopefully, but we've all got things in our lives we need to be getting on with, why should we care about the climate crisis?

(TC: 00:21:01) 

Professor Andy Gouldson: I think two reasons, and they're, kind of, the mirror image of each other. One is because it's a massive threat, you know, the science is really clear now that we are perilously close to the point where we're going to lose control of our own future, that once you cross over this threshold of about one and a half degrees of warming, which doesn't sound much, but, you know, it's behind all sorts of changes globally. You know, things happen like our forests dry out and then are more susceptible to burning, you know, or the ice caps melt and then the world absorbs more heat, you know, or the gulf stream weakens. And there are all these absolutely fundamental things which will change our food supply, our water supply, our weather systems, and, you know, some of those things will drive further climate change. So once we cross this threshold, you know, and the most common one is the melting of the permafrost and the release of massive amounts of methane which then drives further warming, which leads to further melting and then further climate change, and you know it becomes a vicious circle. And, you know, you look at the science and it's genuinely terrifying. I'm not a scientist but I do work on this and I have worked on it for years and years, and it's just getting more and more worrying. And, you know, maybe all of that seems a bit abstract from normal people's lives, but when it starts impacting on food supplies, and conflict, and stability, and migration, it will be fundamental in its impact on our children's lives if it's not already, to be honest.

But the flip-side of that is that it's a huge opportunity, and, you know, one of our key messages is that climate change and tackling climate change is a way of tackling all sorts of other agendas. It can help us to improve public health and reduce fuel poverty. You know, it can help us to improve connectivity and reduce congestion and enhance air quality. It can create good quality green jobs, you know, so it's a positive opportunity, including very much at the local level for cities or other authorities to, you know, to work towards the kind of future they want for their area and their residents. And I think we need to frame it in positive terms, and people need to be, kind of, excited about the kind of place that they can live in that is net zero, and is climate resilient, and is biodiversity friendly as well, and people think that's the future I want for me and my kids, that's the kind of place I want to live in, that's the job I want to do. And only, I think, by framing it in those, kind of, positive ways are people generally going to get on board. I think if it's all hair shirts, and sacrifice, and, you know, denial and so on, then I think we're going to face a much bigger struggle getting people on board, and building that social license for change, if you'd like.

(TC: 00:23:43) 

Councillor Liz Green: Yes, I'm really glad you mentioned the potential for positives coming out of it, because people don't like just being threatened, essentially, that it's all going to be bad, so we need to see those positives. Our audience here is Members and officers of local government, so you've talked a little bit about the working leads of the climate commission bring everybody together, but what specifically can councils do and how does that feed into that wider area that you were talking about?

(TC: 00:24:17) 

Professor Andy Gouldson: I think councils are obviously central to this and, you know, it's really hard to imagine it happening at the local level without local authority leadership. But on the other hand, local authorities can't, and maybe shouldn't try and do everything, you know? And maybe sometimes there's a culture change needed to switch into more of a partnership or an enabling mode where they try and connect with their communities and with their businesses and say, you know, this is our collective ambition to become a net-zero climate resilient more broadly sustainable place, but we need you on board to do it. And, you know, as I said earlier, by getting on board you can develop your business, create new jobs, live in a more friendly, inclusive, vibrant area, and so on, and so on. So, you know, local authorities catalysing that broader change and that broader buy-in I think is absolutely crucial, yes.

(TC: 00:25:15) 

Councillor Liz Green: Great, so it's our leadership of place role as councils that really can come to the fore in all of this. And how do you feel that that works in terms of engaging with our residents, our businesses, the other public sectors, how's the best way to be able to engage in your view?

(TC: 00:25:38) 

Professor Andy Gouldson: Well, in Leeds, a couple of years ago, we ran a citizens jury, and that was run by the Climate Commission, and initially, honestly there was a little bit of wariness I think, in some areas of the council who thought that, you know, we're elected councillors, we know the public, we represent the public and we can speak for them, and why do you need a different form of democracy, a more deliberative approach to this? But we struggled to get all of our key constituencies to contribute to the climate debate, you know, maybe for good reasons, people are under pressure and it's not their top priority. And us climate folk need to understand that but sometimes I think we're a little bit tunnel-visioned on it. But the point of the citizens jury was to build a mini public to get people from every part of the city, from every part of the community, different age groups. Obviously the gender balance, and the ethnic balance as well, and the diversity of attitudes to climate change.

And we brought them together, they spent 30 hours deliberating, and, you know, driving the questions from their perspective, and at the end of it they came out really strongly and almost unanimously and said, 'A), we buy that this is a major issue, and B) we want really ambitious action.' And that was so crucial, and afterwards I think the council, or the parts of the council which were initially a little bit wary, were more convinced that, you know, this is a real issue. Even if it's one that they don't hear on the doorsteps or that's not in their mailbox on a regular basis, you know, that if people really engaged with it and heard about the detail of it and had a chance to really explore why it's such a big issue, they would want more climate action. So, you know, councils can convene those kinds of conversations, they can show leadership, they can empower and enable and create a framework for other actors to buy into this agenda. And I think that's increasingly crucial as I said earlier, councils are crucial but I don't think they can do this on their own.

(TC: 00:27:48) 

Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and I'm sure that you'd agree with Clyde's comment earlier that it's about the whole of the council, not purely an environment section of the council to be able to show that leadership.

(TC: 00:28:00) 

Professor Andy Gouldson: Absolutely, if we just leave it to the environment or sustainability folk, A) it's massive unfair on them, it's too big a challenge for anyone, or two people, in many authorities, to deal with. But B) it needs to be right in the middle of housing policy and transport policy, and so on, and so on. It needs to be mainstreamed and wired into all aspects of the city council and the city more broadly, you know, of their activities, otherwise we won't do it. It's not enough just to have a few environment people swimming against the tide of all the decisions taken elsewhere in the council or in the city more broadly, which are, kind of, washing us in the other direction.

(TC: 00:28:38) 

Councillor Liz Green: And Clyde also mentioned, you know, it saves money for councils quite often. Have you got any examples in Leeds of where savings could be made?

(TC: 00:28:49) 

Professor Andy Gouldson: Well, yes, so we prepared a net-zero roadmap for Leeds, and the key finding was if we did all the seeming no-brainer things that would pay for themselves and more over their lifetime then it would cut the city's energy bill by £650 million a year. One of our challenges to the city at large is to say, well what other opportunities are there at the moment to keep or to bring £650 million a year into the city? You know, that would create several thousand jobs. You know, if there was a major corporate that wanted to relocate to Leeds that would bring £650 million a year and create thousands of jobs, the city would absolutely fall over itself, it would pull out all of the stops to compete to get, you know, Microsoft to move from Seattle to Leeds, unlikely as that seems. And, you know, our challenge is that this is the same scale of opportunity, we want the same level of energy and ambition and mobilisation to unlock that opportunity, because it's absolutely real and it's right in front of us. But there are some real barriers, notably how do you raise the money to invest to unlock those kind of opportunities? But it's a massive opportunity, and let's be positive about it rather than, you know, feel overwhelmed by it, or feel that it's all about sacrifice as I said earlier.

(TC: 00:30:04) 

Councillor Liz Green: That is a lot of money to bring into one of our core cities. And you're right, all councils would love to have that opportunity so we need to take it. Just want to touch on your other role which is in the wider region of Yorkshire and Humber, and how you feel that the councils there can work together more collectively, because, you know, working across councils is not always an easy task because we have competing demands. So have you got any thoughts on how that's working and how it can work cross councils?

(TC: 00:30:41) 

Professor Andy Gouldson: Yes, so we have 22 local authorities, combined authorities across the region of Yorkshire and Humber. Some of them are able to do amazing things, and some of them are smaller and more challenged, and, you know, have struggled to make progress at the rate that we would hope. And, you know, that's understandable, but the idea of the regional commission is to bring us all together, to pool our scarce resources and our energy to support each other, to transfer good practice around, and to act collectively. And, you know, there is a scale issue here and we're already noticing that when we speak as a region, and that can be to Westminster and to government, it can be to business and finance investors, for example, or it could be just internally, the scale of our activity, and the credibility and the energy that comes from operating at a regional level is really crucial. And one of our aims is to promote a transition to net-zero and for climate resilience that doesn't leave anyone or anywhere behind. And, you know, that includes the areas and the people and the communities and the businesses, and if it's appropriate, the authorities that are struggling to act, perhaps, at the moment. And, you know, as I say, hopefully we're a force for good, and we're building our capacity to act collectively and pool our resources to deliver on this. Because it's a huge challenge, absolutely, no one's denying that. And I think we, you know, a lot of us climate folk operating in isolation really need some help, and some inspiration and other people to energise us at times, and hopefully the commission is doing that.

(TC: 00:32:21) 

Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and obviously, each of those councils has its own challenges, but they have their own demographics, you know, they're all very different. And at the LGA we firmly believe that local government is the best place to make decisions because we know our communities best, and those councils will be able to do that, you know, your towns versus, and your cities versus your more rural areas. So I think it's great the way that that's coming together and giving you a greater power to your voice. So just to finish off, Andy, what would be your tips for councils, officers and Members, as I said to Clyde, who maybe aren't quite so far advanced, or to just, you know, move a bit further down the line of the work that they want to do?

(TC: 00:33:08) 

Professor Andy Gouldson: I think the big one is to not see it solely as a massive challenge, but also see it as a huge opportunity, to deliver on all of your other objectives in housing, in public health, in equality and employment, and so on. And, you know repackaging it and re-framing it in that positive way I think brings on lots of other people on board into this, and you need their energy, and you need their resources, and you need their leverage, if you like. So that will be the first one. The second one would be to say, you know, don't try and do it all on your own, I know that at times local government wants to be the centre of things, and it is crucial, but it's not the only actor. And, you know, by operating in more of an enabling role and more of a partnership role we can bring in, you know all of the other businesses and the main organisations, and the social and community groups that you're going to need to do this. Without them I think it will grind to a halt, because, you know, we often say if people feel this is something that has been done to them rather than being done by them or for them then at some point they'll kick back. And instead of doing that, if you get into this partnership role and do it together, then I think you can take people with you and go much further and faster in the process.

(TC: 00:34:24) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thanks Andy, that gives us some real food for thought there, and that brings this episode to a close. At the beginning of the episode I asked whether you knew the percentage of household waste that can be recycled on the doorstep of a Waltham Forest household property. Amazingly, this is 85%. And Leeds could save a massive £650 million a year from, its energy bill by adopting cost-effective low-carbon measures. If you didn't manage to catch those answers during the episode, perhaps give it another listen. Thank you so much for listening today, this episode was presented by myself, Councillor Liz Green, and produced by the Local Government Association. Many thanks to our guest speakers, Councillor Clyde Loakes, and Professor Andy Gouldson. This podcast forms part of the LGA sector support programme available to councils to support their work in combatting climate change. To learn more about the climate crisis and the LGA sector support programme, resources and materials will be linked in our show notes. You can also find out more information on the support pages of the LGA website at local.gov.uk, and you can sign up for our free month climate change e-bulletin. Thank you again for listening, please do share this podcast with your friends and colleagues, and we look forward to welcome you again next time.

Episode 2: Public engagement strategy and net zero (transcript)

(TC: 00:00:00) 

Speaker 1: This is the local action for our environment podcast series, brought to you by the Local Government Association.

(TC: 00:00:14) 

Councillor Liz Green: Hello, and welcome to this new Local Government Association podcast to support councils on reaching their climate change reduction goals. I'm Councillor Liz Green and I'm the vice-chair of the LGA's improvement and innovation board with lead responsibility for climate change. The LGA climate change sector support programme, which is funded by the government, helps councils to reach their local carbon reduction targets by adapting and mitigating the effects of climate change. This training series forms part of their support offer. As you may be aware, many councils across the UK have declared a climate emergency, and I'll be chairing this podcast series as we explore how councils can effectively engage with their communities on the climate emergency. In this second episode we'll be discussing public engagement strategies and how we can use these in achieving net-zero. Before we kick off I have two questions for you to think about while you're listening. Whilst Camden were the first local authority in the UK to held a citizens' assembly on the climate crisis, which was the first city council to do this? And also, where do you think public engagement on climate change currently falls short, and how can this be made more effective? See if you can find the answers and I'll check in with you again at the end. I'm delighted to be joined today by Chandrima Padmanabhan who is the programme lead for climate at the Centre for Public Impact Europe, and Councillor Adam Harrison, who's the cabinet member for a sustainable Camden at Camden council. Chandrima, we're going to start with you. Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and the work you do at the Centre for Public Impact.

(TC: 00:01:59) 

Chandrima Padmanabhan: Absolutely, and thank you so much for having me here today. The Centre for Public Impact is a global not-for-profit and we work closely with governments, with public servants and other organisations to reimagine and redesign public services and public management practice so that it works better for everyone. I lead the work that we do on public engagement on climate change at CPI Europe and our aim through that programme of work is to put communities at the heart of shaping a place-based transition to net-zero by 2050, and we do this in two ways. One is by experimenting with new and meaningful ways of involving communities in building a net zero future, and the second is by being a learning partner to governments and practitioners, and helping support them in meaningfully engaging people in climate decision-making and climate action.

(TC: 00:02:57) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thank you. So, if you're a local council what are the different types of public engagement approaches that councils can deploy these days?

(TC: 00:03:06) 

Chandrima Padmanabhan: I would say there are broadly three approaches to public engagement around climate change that we have identified through our work. So, the first is public engagement that is centred around communication, the second is focused on collaboration and the third is around intervention, and I'll take you through each of them, and I'll start with public engagement centred round communication. So, with this type of public engagement the intention is to drive awareness on climate change and also, more importantly, to build a public mandate for action. And the most effective ways that we've seen communication to the public done involves not just information provision, but also the development and the bringing together of community-centred and place-based narratives around climate change that really resonate, and speak to people and communities. The second approach, which is focused on collaboration, and there are two sub-types within this. The first is engagement that is focused on bringing people together to deliberate on climate issues and policy, and the outcomes of those deliberative sessions are then fed back into formal decision-making and resource-allocation processes. So, more traditionally this has taken the form of mini publics, so citizens juries, citizen assemblies, participatory budgeting. And citizen assemblies in particular have recently been set up and run by a number of local councils across the UK that have declared climate emergencies. We've also had a national-level Climate Assembly UK process that was very successfully run. So, this approach to public engagement, that is the formal, institutionally-led engagement process which brings people together so that they can deliberate and feedback into formal decision-making, is a relatively more familiar one here in the UK and also in Europe.

So, the questions that remained to be answered here is how that type of engagement can be a longer-term, iterative process with continual citizen feedback loops across the decision-making to delivery life cycle. The second sub-type under public engagement that is focused on collaboration is people-led, as opposed to institution-led like the previous sub-type. So, it's when people themselves come together to take collective action, and that action could be the co-governance of natural resources or it could be the delivery of public services by community groups themselves. We actually recently brought out a very in-depth case study report that covers different examples of community-led public engagement processes. But, to give you some examples, you have community energy programmes where people own and operate their own local renewable energy generation or energy demand reduction projects, you have community governance of forests or marine ecosystems, particularly when local livelihoods are dependent on those resources. And all of these examples require a very grassroots, community-led public engagement approach that grows out of community needs and community aspirations, and my only point here for local councils is to really identify how they can enable, support, and even draw on these public engagement efforts when delivering their own. And finally, the third approach is centred around intervention. And this is public engagement that is structured to incentivise the uptake of climate interventions after they have been identified. So, an intervention could be home energy retrofits, it could be walking and cycling infrastructure, and the uptake of those interventions could be dependent on incentives and disincentives that drive individual choice.

Or in other cases, and with different community groups, the uptake of interventions isn't just about choice because their ability to freely choose could be held back by social barriers like lack of access to resources, or lack of capacity, or just different priorities. And so, in keeping with that there are very specific public engagement processes that accompany the implementation or the delivery of those interventions, and this could be focused around running demos or raising awareness on one end, or on the other end it could be about offering training or capacity building, or it could even be about finding alternate interventions that really meet people where they are. So, to summarise on public engagement processes that councils can take, I would say, one, those that are focused on communication and finding place-based narratives that resonate with people. Two, approaches that are focuses on collaboration, so either led by institutions that feed back into formal decision-making or led by people themselves that councils can support or draw on. And third, engagement that is focussed around climate interventions that speak to individual choice and also to social barriers around choice.

(TC: 00:08:22) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thanks, Chandrima. I think it's very interesting what you're saying there about the three approaches because they're quite clearly interlinked, so any one of those approaches by itself is not going to change public opinion. So, I wonder if you could explain how you can link those together for the maximum effect because we know that it's not easy changing behaviour for the good. So, how would you inter-link those?

(TC: 00:08:56) 

Chandrima Padmanabhan: So, this is such an important question, so thank you for bringing it up. The challenge, more often than not, is the fact that they do not interact with one another, although that very interrelatedness that you bring up is what we should be aiming for. So, there tend to be many isolated efforts at good public engagement practice that is focused on one or the other approach, and it's seen as a one-point-in-time, sort of, process, that is where it falls short. So, public engagement around climate change needs to be looked at holistically which involves effective communication, effective collaboration and effective engagement around interventions, and all of that needs to happen in an interlinked, iterative and sustained way that really puts people, and their needs and priorities at the heart of climate-related decision-making or climate-related action. And if we're working to achieve net-zero in the UK by 2050 there is also a need for a lot more coordination and collaboration on public engagement not just within a local authority, but also between them, between local and national government, and between other actors in the ecosystem. So, to your question, the interrelatedness and interactions between different approaches, between different actors is precisely the question that needs to be asked and that needs to be considered when we think about effective public engagement strategy.

(TC: 00:10:32) 

Councillor Liz Green: So, it's as easy as that then. So, yes, there are obviously different elements that different places are doing well and some that are doing less well. So, I just wanted to ask what we know about those that are doing this well particularly concentrated around this interlinkedness, if that's a word, but the linking between the different types of approaches that you've outlined there.

(TC: 00:11:04) 

Chandrima Padmanabhan: Great question and to start I'll just structure my response in the same way that I did earlier, so talking about each of the different types from communication, collaboration and intervention, and talking through what we've learned about how each of them can be done well with the caveat that it needs to be looked at in an integrated sort of manner. And I'll start with communication and offer two key reflections on what we know about doing this well. One is that effective communication on climate change involves recognising that people hold ideological, cultural, political beliefs and values, they have social, gender and ethnic identities and all of that defines how they respond to messaging. So, it's really important to draw on community and place-based knowledge, language and narratives when you're engaging the public if those messages are to really resonate with them. Secondly, there is a need for much greater diversity with respect to gender, class and race in the messengers that facilitate the conversations on climate change. So, it's very important for people to identify with or see themselves reflected in the messengers, and so it's important for councils to think about how they can reach beyond the usual set of actors if they want messaging to resonate with different groups. And that's on communication. On public engagement that is focused on collaboration, a couple of points there as well. Firstly, on the institutionally-led collaboration front, so the type where you're talking about citizens assemblies and the like, here it's really important to understand what it means to create legitimate spaces for deliberation, and by legitimate I mean that the process, the timelines, the outcomes are transparent, inclusive, accountable and there's a clear link between citizen recommendations and formal decision-making or resource allocation processes.

Second, on the community-led collaboration front it's really important for councils to engage with communities to identify what the opportunities and the barriers are that exist to successful community-led initiatives and identify how they can be supported, amplified and grown. And thirdly, I guess, and probably most importantly, it's very necessary to foreground inclusion in public-engagement exercises that centre collaboration. So, the key questions to keep in mind are, one, where is the engagement taking place? Two, who is taking part in them, who is not, and why? Three, who is being best served by the outcomes of this process? So, if you're putting together a citizen assembly, very important to question whether the recommendations that are coming out of the assembly process serve one group of people over the other, because you could have diversity in terms of representation but unless you're focused on the internal quality of deliberations it could still be the loudest group in the room that is being heard. And so, who is being best-served by the outcomes of this process is an extremely important question to keep asking. Which leads to the question how do we make this process more equitable? And those are the key points that have come up for us on public engagement that is centred on collaboration. And finally, to just talk through the ones that have come up on interventions and on how that can be done well.

One is for councils to see public engagement that happens alongside delivery and enforcement of climate interventions as critical, and it is an important way to sense check that the interventions that are being planned or being delivered are working for communities, and if they aren't it's a way to understand why they aren't, and build more iterative, citizen feedback-focused ways of thinking about rolling out interventions. And secondly, is thinking about the when of public engagement and how that is as important as thinking about the how. So, engaging the public at critical life moments when they have the capacity or the inclination for change, so when they're moving homes, when they're retiring, when they have a child can be very effective when considering engagement around climate interventions. And, yes, I'd just like to end by reiterating the earlier point that I made on the fact that it's not about doing well with one approach or the other, it's about doing well across the board and thinking about public engagement as encompassing communication, collaboration and engagement around interventions in a very ongoing and sustained way.

(TC: 00:16:09) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thanks, and interesting point about the messengers that you raised within the communications part, and maybe we can touch on that, Adam, when we talk about that, because we know councillors are not exactly, shall we put it, representative of their communities across the board. So, something around that I think for people to think about. Some places are doing very well on this but where is it in your three approaches and the interlinking of those that councils aren't necessarily doing as well? Which one or part of them are we falling short on and how can we do that better as a council?

(TC: 00:16:55) 

Chandrima Padmanabhan: So, I would say one area where councils can do better is just ensuring that they're asking the right questions about what needs to be achieved through a public engagement process on climate change. So, if the goal is one directional and aimed at informing and educating the public, then I think it falls very short of the transformative, sort of, change that we need in order to achieve net-zero by 2050. Ideally, the goal of engaging the public on climate change has to be a two-way learning process, it has to be around enabling, amplifying and understanding community values and identities, and how that affects choices, how that affects risks, and costs, and priorities of different groups. And it has to come back to councils then thinking about what those learnings about people in communities hold for them, on how decisions are made, how resources are allocated, how procurement is thought about, and how success is defined overall. So, I would definitely say that would be one of the key areas where councils can definitely, probably do better.

(TC: 00:18:14) 

Councillor Liz Green: Yes, and our communities are all very diverse, very different, you'll hear different issues coming up in rural as opposed to urban and different parts of the country will talk in different ways, and obviously you've spoken about working cross-boundaries. Just to finish, what would be your top tips for helping councils in their approaches to public engagement on climate change?

(TC: 00:18:40) 

Chandrima Padmanabhan: So, top tip would be the point I just mentioned, I think. So, making sure public engagement around climate change is seen as a bi-directional learning process and making sure the right questions are being asked about what needs to be achieved through that public engagement. Second, building a comprehensive public engagement strategy that incorporates and interlinks communication, collaboration, engagement around climate interventions and moves away from designing and planning siloed, isolated public engagement activities. And within that public engagement strategy, looking to partner, looking to collaborate, looking to support and work together with other actors across the ecosystem that are engaging different communities, that would be my second point. My third would be to ensure that public engagement is a sustained and iterative process with regular feedback from people and communities over the long term. So, important to keep in mind that people's lived realities, their priorities, their socio-economic capacities are constantly changing. So, there is no recommendation that comes out of a participatory process that can be and end in itself. It should be seen as the start to an ongoing, sustained and iterative, sort of, conversation. And finally, to the most important point, I think, around foregrounding inclusion in every engagement opportunity. It is so important, especially as we build back with Covid-19, that those that are most effected by the decisions that are being made are being reached out to, that all voices are being represented and also heard equally. So, thinking outside of the usual actors when thinking about messengers, knowing that different groups see different actors as legitimate and trustworthy and making sure we keep asking the question, 'Who is being best served by the outcomes of this process and how do I make this process more equitable?' Yes, that would be the most important one.

(TC: 00:20:52) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thank you. I think you touch on a very key point. All councillors are very used to hearing, you know, the silent majority think one thing whereas the vocal minority think something else and how to make sure that we hear that silent majority as well can be quite a challenge for us. And some excellent tips in there for all councils. So, we'll move onto Councillors Harrison. Welcome to you. So, in Camden, what is your council's experience in Camden? We heard at the start that you were the first to hold a citizens' assembly which Chandrima has also mentioned in Camden on climate change but how does climate change relate within Camden as a London borough?

(TC: 00:21:47) 

Councillor Adam Harrison: Thanks, Liz, and thanks for having me on the podcast. I'd say in Camden climate change and environmental issues more broadly are a huge interest of our residents. They are things that our residents expect us to be taking action on and taking a lead on. Then over the last few years there's really been an increased interest and political drive at the council to be looking at new ways of engaging our residents and looking at participatory decision making. So, actually we ran our first citizens' assembly not on climate but on our broader strategy a number of years ago, but then the opportunity, you know, following the publication of the IPCC report and increased public concern came about to actually hold a citizens' assembly dedicated to the climate emergency. That fit in well for us for a number of reasons. One was there was grass roots pressure coming upwards from newly formed XR, from local political parties, but also the opportunity really as a council to run another citizens' assembly but on something, while it's very broad-ranging, it's also specific, it's also very crunchy if you like, huge in numbers of potential trade-offs that we wanted to have the opportunity to discuss with our residents, with our citizens in that forum. So, that was the origin of our citizens' assembly which we held in the summer of 2019 and as well as our residents being very concerned about the topic we have extremely, you know, knowledgable and committed residents and citizens in the borough whose knowledge and expertise we wanted to draw on as we look to the future.

(TC: 00:23:41) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thanks Adam. And obviously Camden is leading the way in many ways in this area along with other councils that are doing things. We've heard from Chandrima about the three approaches of which in collaboration the institute-led type citizens' assembly is one of them. What was your reasoning behind forming this approach towards the climate emergency so that you could have that climate focus? Why did you go down that route?

(TC: 00:24:19) 

Councillor Adam Harrison: Partly on the basis we’d already run one citizens' assembly, it was fairly worthwhile from our point of view doing that again. But also the assembly model with around 50 participants was broad-based enough to be able to make sure that we had a representative and a cross section from the community, which we were largely able to achieve. And I think in terms of public communications as well, saying that you were holding a citizens' assembly, there was already some public understanding about it, people knew what we meant when we said we were doing it. But also, for those who didn't necessarily, I think it's an understandable phrase anyway and was something that enabled our communication efforts around that time and since then.

(TC: 00:25:17) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thanks. And we also heard from Chandrima about the messengers, getting the right messengers, but also about that equality of voice being heard and obviously citizens' assembly take a cross-section of the population but by their very nature will be slightly self-selecting in that you have to say that you're prepared to do it. We can't force people, it's not jury service, we can't force them to attend, so how did you manage to make sure that that equity across Camden, which is a very diverse borough in terms of affluence, race, genders, everything else, how did you try and make sure that was all heard?

(TC: 00:26:00) 

Councillor Adam Harrison: A couple of ways. We're very fortunate in Camden to have some strong institutions such as UCL and we set up an advisory board involving UCL and our engineering firm based in the borough, we worked with Involve and The Democratic Society, so we've made sure we draw on some of that institutional knowledge and past experience from elsewhere. But we're also fortunate in Camden that we have an in-house team which we call the community researchers. We've had that team in place for many years and they do all sorts of things. They go out and do surveys on questions that we would like to find out residents' views on. They're very experienced, many of them, perhaps all, live in the borough and we've used our community researchers to actively recruit people to attend the assembly. So, they knew the borough inside out, they had the brief to ensure that this was a diverse make up at the assembly. It actually ended up being slightly over-representative of the non-white population, but broadly it was, among the 50 it was representative of Camden. I think we actually managed to get somebody from every ward as well, so the community researchers really managed to produce-, often a huge point of interest for lots of people, about which ward you're from and so on in council. So, the community researchers did a really great job on that. I would actually draw everybody's attention to the evaluation that UCL's evaluation unit, I think they're called, did for us after the citizens' assembly process. It's on the Camden website and it looks at the process from start to finish. I think it's a really interesting read for those who want to go further. It is warts and all, so it does point out the places where we could have done better as well.

And actually, one of the points that was made in the feedback when UCL interviewed the citizens was while it was recognised that the assembly was diverse, those delivering some of the information particularity at the beginning to explain the climate crisis and its origin and so on, it felt there could have been greater diversity of voices there.

(TC: 00:28:21) 

Councillor Liz Green: That's great because obviously, as we've heard, it's an iterative process and the climate assembly, citizens' assembly needs to be the starting point not the end point of it. So, what were the outcomes, what's worked well for you in Camden as a result of this and what would be your next steps?

(TC: 00:28:44) 

Councillor Adam Harrison: The outcomes have been pretty diverse really. The whole experience was absolutely wonderful really. The citizens were so committed, there was a high retention rate. It was in the summer, it was getting close to the summer holidays, there were some hot evenings where people came along and sat in Swiss Cottage Library. And actually another finding was that I think among the citizens themselves 37 out of the 50 or so said they were interested to do more, so there was a change among them and they could act as advocates in the community. The citizens at the end of the assembly made seventeen recommendations for the council to take onboard and we actually then adopted all of those seventeen into our climate action plan, which we adopted the year after. So, after the summer we began redrafting our new climate plans. I should say by 2020 we're actually coming to the end of a ten-year carbon plan called Green Action for Change, so the assembly also coincided with our desire and need to update our climate polices. So, the seventeen recommendations are now in our climate plan which we're working away on. There was also the opportunity later that year to declare a climate emergency which we did after formally as a full council, that we did after the assembly in the October. In Camden we've begun, again as an effort to open up and also make sometimes a dry council meeting more interesting, our full council meetings which we have seven a year, they're called different things in different councils, I think assembly is confussingly sometimes. We now thematise our full council, so one might be on education but we dedicated this one to the climate crisis. Some of the citizens came along who participated in the assembly and they fed back, they had the opportunity to speak to the councillors and then to see the adoption of the climate emergency.

But alongside that we've been working away on the recommendations from the citizens. So, since then we've now got a really effective process of switching all our street lamps over to LED which in the last couple of years has saved about 20% in carbon as well as there being a financial saving. We've been really ramping up our work to implement retrofit of our buildings. We do own a large amount of housing and other stock in the borough but we’ve also, as well as securing some of that government funding, we're also planning ahead because some of the stock we have is challenging. And the most challenging recommendation from the citizens really was to switch over and to ensure all our building stock was zero carbon by 2030, but then we've also now also switched our corporate electricity over to fully green renewables and implemented this sustainable procurement policy across the council, 'We'll green our fleet,' which is also going pretty well. So, really it's a question of galvanising the council from top to bottom and sideways. I think that combination of political leadership starting, well, not entirely starting in 2019 but the citizens' assembly was a real inflection point to show that we mean business, the council means business. We have to really be taking this seriously now and looking out for every opportunity to de-carbonise our activities in the borough and encourage others to do so.

(TC: 00:32:18) 

Councillor Liz Green: Great, so some outcomes already being seen, some reductions in carbon and others in the planning still. It's not cheap or easy to retrofit thousands and thousands of buildings but in the process working through your councils. So, obviously you're very pleased with where you've got to at the moment and the next steps that you're taking in terms of the outcomes of your citizens' assembly. What would be your tips for other councils in terms of what they might be able to take away and learn from Camden's experience to be able to improve their climate emergency response?

(TC: 00:33:01) 

Councillor Adam Harrison: I think I would suggest also looking at what other models are available. So actually since the assembly we've set up a citizens' panel who are fifteen citizens who are going to keep a longer term view on what we're doing and that's a more detailed engagement, and they're also, you know, as representative as we could make from fifteen people. We actually also set up what we call think and do. So, immediately after the assembly, there was a real appetite for some social action, some immediate visibility, so there was a shop in Kentish Town, in the middle of the borough, where all sorts of activities sprung up and people were able to drop in and learn about retrofit or about plastics and that was community-led, and that is still developing. I'd say certainly with the UCL study of our assembly it's important to give the citizens time when they are deliberating to make sure they have the right information and there was actually a real appetite among them to know what the council was doing in the first place, which was something we admitted in the initial set up of the assembly. But there is that huge appetite and in a way that goes back to Chandrima's initial point about communications, I think, which in some ways can be the hardest to achieve. Not that the interventions aren't also difficult and costly and so on as well but councils do so many things and so many competing messages we're always trying to get out to our residents and we have our own channels, there can be competition within those.

I think the falling away in of local media in some parts of the country must also surely be a huge challenge as well because you're actually losing an effective way of communicating to people in a way that they would hopefully trust and that would reach them, because council communications are not always going to do the trick unfortunately. So, that is absolutely right and I think I'd certainly recommend every council now have a communications strategy on the climate because the other question to this is it's all getting really serious and we don't actually have that much time. So we have to strike that balance between the deliberation and collaboration but actually in some areas moving pretty quickly to decarbonise what we're doing.

(TC: 00:35:17) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thank you Adam. And yes, the interventions are not always easy and I think Chandrima makes some really serious points about the lived experience and obviously in London, where I am also a councillor, we have lived experience on both sides of things like low traffic neighbourhoods and cycle lanes, which are an interesting part to live through, I think is the best way to put it. And finally Adam, who else has set up a citizens' assembly?

(TC: 00:35:48) 

Councillor Adam Harrison: So Summer 2019 was an exciting time in lots of ways because there were lots of councils looking at how to do this, how to involve their citizens and I'm happy to say we just about beat Oxford City Council to have the first citizens' assembly, but they were the first city to do it. And I know they've done great work as well and I'm looking forward to going to Oxford actually to see the changes they've made on the street because they're really impressive and worth taking a look at.

(TC: 00:36:15) 

Councillor Liz Green: Thank you Adam and thank you Chandrima. That brings this episode to a close. At the beginning of the episode I asked whether you knew which city was the first to hold a public assembly on the climate crisis. Hopefully you've noted that that was Oxford in 2019 just after Camden. I hope you also know where public engagement on climate change currently falls short and how it can be made more effective, but if not maybe give this podcast another listen. Thank you for listening today. This episode was presented by myself, Councillor Liz Green, and many thanks to our guest speakers Chandrima Padmanabhan and Councillor Adam Harrison. This podcast forms part of the LGA sector support programme available to councils to support their work on combating climate change. To learn more about the climate crisis and the LGA's sector led support programme, resources and materials will be linked in our show notes. You can also find out a lot more information on the LGA website if you go to the our support and climate change section, and there you can sign up for our free monthly climate change e-bulletin that contains a lot of details every month. Thank you again for listening and please do share this podcast with your friends and colleagues, and we look forward to welcoming you again next time.

If you would like to find out more, please email climate@local.gov.uk.