COP26: Empowering communities to respond to climate change

By Alana Sinclair, Manager at Cambridge Carbon Footprint

I didn’t hear much about community at COP26, did you? I read headlines about the responsibilities of Government, the role of big business, and what individuals can and should do. But there was very little about small communities, villages and neighbourhoods. What are their roles and responsibilities in reducing emissions?

We saw the power of community during Covid-19 lockdowns. Community volunteers rallied, picking up food and prescriptions for those isolating, local food banks and food redistribution projects kicked into overdrive to respond to increased need, and neighbours checked in on neighbours and those isolated and living alone.

Reducing carbon emissions will mean change for all of us. The Committee on Climate Change estimates that 60% of the changes required to get to net zero emissions will require changes by individuals, households and small businesses. We’ll need to change the way that we heat our homes, what we eat, and how we travel and shop. Those changes require support from the Government, and mean businesses and communities will need to adapt.

The issue isn’t that we don’t care enough to change. In the UK 80% of people are very concerned or concerned about climate change. The problem is that we’re not sure what we can do, and need a bit of support and the right resources to get started.

Local community groups like Cambridge Carbon Footprint have the ability to channel concern about climate change into action. We’re able to take the good will and skills that exist in our communities and focus them, developing local climate projects that fit local needs.  

Through our Net Zero Now program we have begun training community leaders in climate leadership skills. This project, funded by the South Cambridgeshire Zero Carbon Communities grant scheme, has supported leaders in 12 communities to take action.

Since starting the course 2 communities have declared a climate emergency and are in the process in developing a plan of action, while others are organising events to help encourage and support individuals in their communities to action, providing advice and support to help reduce energy use at home, and eat more sustainably.

If COP26 has inspired you to take action Cambridge Carbon Footprint can help. Visit our website to find out more about how to reduce your personal carbon footprint with the Cambridge Climate Change Charter and how to help your community through Net Zero Now.

I believe in the power of communities and hope that Government plans to reduce the UK’s emissions following COP26 include plans to support local action. It’s amazing what a little support in the right place can achieve.

Article first appeared in the Cambridge Independent on the 17th of  November 2021.