Local government is a powerful force for change

By Dominic Campbell | 12 February 2020

Last year, people across the UK called on the Government to take environmental action seriously. We witnessed a noticeable shift as local government responded – people and councils, coming together with a shared voice for change.

We have a vision beyond reducing carbon emissions to building strong, regenerative communities. But facing daunting climate statistics, exponential demand and seemingly immovable systems, we need to allow the climate emergency to spark within us the same passion we’ve learned from the internet disrupting the world.

For more than a decade, digital has been our inspiration, helping us embrace uncertainty and complexity; building within us and around us the drive, the people, capabilities and mindsets needed to accelerate movements of change. Together we can navigate the possibilities, applying completely different models to think creatively about the role of local government in building the future.

This is about thinking big and starting small, empowering and building on the passion of the community, something many councils are already doing. Oxford City Council and Camden LBC began citizens’ assemblies, involving citizens in decision making to develop climate crisis proposals – a replicable approach that Camden is using to explore opportunities in health. This is councils connecting the dots, enabling and drawing on local knowledge to build on the culture of a local place.

It will also take a new era of civic entrepreneurialism, where councils lead the vision and create the conditions for innovative solutions to thrive. Already bold movements are happening, like Nottingham City Council piloting the first net zero retrofits in the UK, Southwark LBC thinking about how to creatively use planning mechanisms like Section 106 agreements to fund climate actions and nature restoration projects. Or Hackney LBC, launching their own publicly-owned energy services company to generate clean energy and reduce carbon emissions across the borough.

These are big, ambitious ideas that see local government as a powerful force for change. As a Brummie, I think back to the achievements of people like Joseph Chamberlain in building a great city that has stood the test of time.

We need similar bold ambition to safeguard our futures and those of our citizens.

We’re building a community of people working in local government on all things climate emergency. If you’d like to join the Slack channel to share ideas, challenges and lessons learned, let us know on climate@wearefuturegov.com

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