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Supporting community action on climate change

With support from

NZN logo

Supporting community action on climate change

With support from

Welcome to the Net Zero Now self-led course!

Note that this page will be updated soon as the 2023 Net Zero Now Programme takes shape.

The 8-part, free, self-led training course below was developed in 2021 with support from South Cambridgeshire District Council as part of their Zero Carbon Communities Grant.

It is designed to enable everyone, regardless of knowledge, skills or experience to gain the tools to get started with community action on carbon reduction. This could be something as simple as setting up a new local clothes swap, or something as big as a community energy scheme.

This course is available as an online resource for anyone to undertake in their own time at home. There are many online sources of information and inspiration, and we have linked to a selection of these within the course resources.

So, you can decide whether to start at the top and work your way through or delve into the topic most useful to you.

If you would prefer to take part in our live programme, get in touch on our contact form here and we will let you know when the Winter 2023 Programme is open for applications.

Applications have been open throughout April for the 2023 Summer Programme. To find out more and apply to take part, head to the Net Zero Now homepage. Applications will close shortly so apply now before it's too late!
Now Open

How to use this page

Videos: within each topic there are one or two short videos for you to watch. These were recorded during sessions with participants taking part through the Zero Carbon Communities Grant in 2021. Use these to get an overview of the topic.

Worksheets: within each topic there are a number of worksheets. These are templates or information sheets related to the topic area. These can be downloaded and then filled in to help you put what you have learnt from the videos and other resources into context.

Reading lists: each topic has a list of ‘Essential reading’ and ‘Further reading’. These could be articles, guides, websites, blogs or video clips that will help to build your knowledge of the topic. Items on the ‘Essential reading’ lists are the most important, the ‘Further reading’ lists contain more resources to look at if there is a topic you’d like to delve into further. Note these resources take you to external pages not moderated or managed by Cambridge Carbon Footprint.

Slides: the slides are taken from the workshops run through the 2021 Zero Carbon Communities Grant and will help you to structure the topics. Slides will usually refer to the worksheets to help you see which order to complete them in.

Climate Change and Carbon Footprints

This session provides a broad overview of the context of climate change today. The session covers:

  • the cultural and political landscape and how climate change has been tackled internationally over the last few decades;
  • the basic science of climate change;
  • and an introduction to carbon footprints.
Note: there are no worksheets for this session.

The Cultural and Political Landscape of Climate Change

An Introduction to Carbon Footprints


Essential reading
Theme Title Type Time Details
Net Zero Now Net Zero Now Webpage 0:05:00 What is Net Zero Now and what can you expect over the next couple of months.
Net Zero Now Course outline Document 0:10:00 Find out more details of Net Zero Now and what we will cover in the different sessions.
Carbon Footprints Cambridge Climate Change Charter Calculator 0:15:00 Calculate your carbon footprint and find out about potential actions to reduce your personal emissions.
Carbon Footprints Climate Basics: Your carbon footprint explained Video clip 0:03:00 A short explanation of how carbon footprints are calculated.
Political Landscape The Climate Emergency in Cambridge Article 0:10:00 Find out more about the climate emergency declared by Cambridge City Council and what the local authority is doing.
Political Landscape 12 Important Moments in the History of Climate Action: In Photos Article 0:10:00 A conscise overview of the history of the climate change movement.
Course tool Quick introduction to Slack Document 0:03:00 A brief introduction to the Slack tool we will be using as part of this programme
Further reading
Theme Title Type Time Details
Carbon Footprints Learn Articles 0:15:00 More background information on carbon footprints and climate change.
Carbon Footprints Act Articles 0:15:00 More detailed information on the actions that you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.
Carbon Footprints Carbon Footprint: Exploring the UK's contribution to climate change Report 1:00:00 An examination of the UK's carbon footprint, and how it has changed between1990 and 2016.
Climate Change Plastic pollution: how humans are turning the world to plastic Video clip 0:10:00 Why plastic turned into a problem and what do we know about its dangers.
Climate Change We asked scientists to help answer your most pressing climate questions Article 0:10:00 Expert answers in simple english to a range of climate questions.
Climate Change Met Office Climate Glossary Glossary 0:05:00 A glossary of climate related terms.
Climate Change Explainer: how to read an IPCC report Article 0:05:00 An explainer on what an IPCC report is and how to understand it.
Climate Change Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report 1:00:00 The IPCC's reports on climate change. Dense, highly technical text for those wanting to delve very deeply into climate change research.
Climate Change Costing the Earth Podcast 0:30:00 BBC Radio programme exploring a range of environmental problems and solutions.
Climate Change Net Zero – The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming Report 1:00:00 The Committee on Climate Change's report on how the UK can get to Net Zero.
Political Landscape United Nations SDGs Webpage 0:05:00 An overview of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with links to further information and publications.
Political Landscape Who is responsible for climate change? Video clip 0:10:00 Looks at which countries emit the most CO2 now and historically and explores who can and should take the lead in reducing emissions.
Political Landscape What is the Paris Agreement Article and Video 0:10:00 An explainer on what the Paris Climate Agreement is and why it's important.
Political Landscape Glossary of Climate Change Acronyms and Terms, UNFCCC Glossary 0:05:00 A glossary of climate related terms courtesy of the United Nations Framework Convenetion on Climate Change.
Political Landscape Key Milestones in the Evolution of International Climate Policy Timeline 0:10:00 An interactive timeline of key milestones and achievements in international climate policy.

Understanding Solutions and the Local Context

In this session you will learn:

  • why action to tackle climate change is needed at all levels, from individuals and communities all the way up to international bodies and coalitions;
  • about the local context of Cambridge and the breakdown of which local authorities are responsible for what;
  • and 10 ways you can get involved in your community.

Action at All Levels

Climate Action in South Cambridgeshire


Essential reading






Multi-level actionIndividual Action vs Collective Action and the Importance of the Swiss Cheese ModelArticle0:10:00Article discussing both individual and collective climate action
Multi-level actionLifestyle change and system change are two sides of the same coinBlog
Video clip
0:02:00Blog discussing the debate on lifestyle change vs system change
Multi-level actionLinking individual action and system change in climate advocacyReport0:10:00Relationship between individuals and systems in changing behaviour
Local ContextZero Carbon Communities GrantWebsite0:05:00Introduction to South Cambridgeshire District Council's Zero Carbon Communities Grant
Local ContextZero Carbon Communities ProjectsWebsite0:10:00Overview of Zero Carbon Communities projects in South Cambridgeshire
Local ContextLocal Transport LeadershipWebsite0:07:00An overview of the different local government bodies, with a particular focus on transport and changes since the recent elections
ToolGetting started with MiroTraining0:20:00An introduction to the collaboration tool Miro.
ToolCommunity Carbon CalculatorCalculator0:10:00Estimates carbon emissions at Parish level - useful tool to think of community action
Further reading
Theme Title Type Time Details
Effective Action Deforestation: What's wrong with planting new forests? Video clip 0:03:00 Video explaining the benefits and pitfalls of reforestation
Solutions 39 Ways to Save the Planet Podcast 0:15:00 BBC Radio Four, in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society, presents 39 ideas to relieve the stress that climate change is exerting on the planet.
Solutions Our ten bold ideas for climate action in the 2020s Report 0:15:00 By Possible. (formally 10:10 Climate Action) on their top 10 solutions to climate change
Solutions South Cambridgeshire District Council: Community Clear ups Website 0:05:00 SCDC supporting communities to run litter picking activities
Solutions Net Zero Climate: Tools Library Tool 0:10:00 A library of hundreds of free practical tools for businesses, policy makers and organisations of every size and across every sector to help organisations meet net zero targets
Solutions The Climate Crisis: Towards Zero Carbon Video clip 0:13:00 Cambridge University alumni Sir David Attenborough and Dr Jane Goodall DBE, and leading Cambridge University researchers, talk about the urgency of the climate crisis – and some of the solutions that will take us towards zero carbon.

Communicating Climate Change

This session explores:

  • how to develop a successful local initiative that is both effective and sustainable;
  • and how to communicate climate change, particularly to rural audiences.  

What Makes a Successful Initiative?

Communicating Climate Change


Essential reading
Behaviour changeCommunicating Lifestyle ChangeArticle0:45:00A report outlining the impact of lifestyle changes on greenhouse gas emissions and how to foster lifestyle changes through policies
Behaviour changeFive ways behavioural science can transform climate change actionArticle0:10:00A short blog piece that links behavioural science (how do we change our habits?) to climate change interventions
Behaviour changeCase studiesDocument1:00:00A document outlining the four case studies that we have selected to introduce behaviour change campaigns
Further reading
Behaviour changeBehaviour change, public engagement and Net ZeroReport1:00:00This extensive research paper by Imperial College London shows how behaviour change principles and public engagement can be used for working toward Net Zero goals. The executive summary and first chapter are particularly relevant to our course.
Behaviour changeCommunicating low-carbon lifestylesWebinar1:00:00This webinar summarises the findings of the Climate Outreach report linked in the essential reading above.
Behaviour changeLevers of Behaviour ChangeWebsite0:20:00An overview of six categories of intervention strategies that can help change behaviour.
Behaviour changeCriteria for Behaviour Change InterventionsReport0:30:00This report aims to provide a framework on how to assess how successful environmental interventions and projects have been.
Behaviour changeWaltham Forest Mini HollandWebsite0:15:00Enjoy Waltham Forest website, providing information about the programme
Behaviour changeRepair CafésWebsite0:15:00The original Repair Cafe website, outlining what it is and where they can be found.
Behaviour changeCarmarthenshire EnergyWebsite0:15:00The community energy scheme's own website.
Behaviour changePlastic Free CommunitiesWebsite0:15:00Surfers Against Sewage website outlining the framework and network.

Behaviour Change

This session will look at:

  • what makes effective communicators;
  • and an introduction to behaviour change, behaviour change theory, why people switch to pro environmental behaviours and what this means when it comes to developing local climate projects.

Top Tips for Behaviour Change


Essential reading
Communicating climate changeLet's change how we talk about climate changeVideo clip0:13:00TED talk outlining five things that don't work when communicating climate change and four things that do.
Communicating climate changeHow to have a useful conversation about climate changeBlog0:06:00A psychology professor outlines eleven steps to having a useful conversation about climate change.
Communicating climate changeHow to step up in the face of the climate crisisVideo clip0:14:00Talk by youth climate campaigner, Clover Hogan, on how to communicate climate change positively to younger people and how to limit climate anxiety.
Communicating climate changeSustainababblePodcast0:01:00An informal, chatty and free climate change podcast: "A weekly podcast about the environment, for and by the confused. Your hosts Ol and Dave are supposed to be experts in how to save the planet. But why’s everything got to be so confusing? Each week they try to get a little bit closer to enlightenment. They may fail."
Communicating climate changeBritain Talks ClimateReport1:00:00Full report by Climate Outreach looking at engaging the British public on climate change.
Communicating climate changeAre the public ready for net zero?: Executive Summary and Next StepsReport0:30:00A Climate Outreach report looking at how to communicate the concept of net zero to the British public. Most relevant pages 1-5 and 17-32.
Communicating climate changeRural Attitudes to ClimatePresentation0:45:00A research document by Climate Outreach looking at how attitudes to climate change differ in rural areas.
Communicating climate changeClimate visuals: from photos to videoVideo clip0:10:00How do use images in environmental campaigns
Communicating climate changeEngaging the public on COP26Webinar1:00:00A Climate Outreach webinar looking at how to engage the public on COP26, the 2021 UN climate conference taking place in Glasgow.
Further reading
Effective ActionDeforestation: What's wrong with planting new forests?Video clip0:03:00Video explaining the benefits and pitfalls of reforestation
Solutions39 Ways to Save the PlanetPodcast0:15:00BBC Radio Four, in partnership with the Royal Geographical Society, presents 39 ideas to relieve the stress that climate change is exerting on the planet.
SolutionsOur ten bold ideas for climate action in the 2020sReport0:15:00By Possible. (formally 10:10 Climate Action) on their top 10 solutions to climate change
SolutionsSouth Cambridgeshire District Council: Community Clear upsWebsite0:05:00SCDC supporting communities to run litter picking activities
SolutionsNet Zero Climate: Tools LibraryTool0:10:00A library of hundreds of free practical tools for businesses, policy makers and organisations of every size and across every sector to help organisations meet net zero targets
SolutionsThe Climate Crisis: Towards Zero CarbonVideo clip0:13:00Cambridge University alumni Sir David Attenborough and Dr Jane Goodall DBE, and leading Cambridge University researchers, talk about the urgency of the climate crisis – and some of the solutions that will take us towards zero carbon.

Shaping your Initiatives

This session focuses on:

  • listening to your local community to understand the needs; and
  • thinking about the potential actions you could take in your community and which would be the most achievable.

Note: As this session was very interactive and consisted mainly of group discussions, there is no recording available.


Essential reading
Local actionNicole's Ideas for Community Climate ActionGuidance0:07:00Recommendations for events and activities from Nicole Barton, Volunteer and Events Organiser at Cambridge Carbon Footprint
Local action31 Climate Actions for Local GovernmentsGuidance0:20:00An evidence-based list of the most effective actions councils can take on climate.
Local actionCarbon CopyGuidance0:20:00Sharing and celebrating real world examples of local climate solutions.
Local Action PlanLocal Authority Climate Plan ChecklistGuidance1:00:00A checklist for local authorities and community groups to draw up and assess climate and ecological emergency action plans.
Further reading
Local governmentA councillor’s workbook on the local pathway to net zeroGuidance0:40:00This workbook intended to provide councillors with insight and assistance on net zero and the role of local authorities in achieving it.
Local governmentZero Carbon BritainTraining-A list of training opportunities from the Centre for Alternative Technology and their Zero Carbon Britain team.
FootprintingImpactFootprinting tool0:10:00A tool providing a visual representation of your community’s carbon footprint, helping you spot the areas where your community climate change activities can make the biggest differences to reduce it.
Local governmentCCC - Local Authority and the Sixth BudgetReport1:00:00A report from the Committee on Climate Change on the role of local authorities in delivering the UK’s Net Zero ambition.
Local networkCambridge Resilience MapNetwork0:10:00A network map of environmental and social justice groups in Cambridge city. Useful for finding local like-minded organisations, seeing common connections and contributing to proactive collaboration across Cambridge.
Local actionZero Carbon BritainGuidance-Resources for councils, communities and other organisations on reaching net zero.
Local actionCollective for Climate ActionNetwork-A self-organised network of public sector employees working throughout the UK to build ambition in government on addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis.
Local actionLocal Government Case StudiesCase studies-Case studies of innovative council programmes.
Local Action PlanNeighbourhood planning in a climate emergencyReport0:45:00A guide to policy writing and community engagement for low-carbon neighbourhood plans
National schemesCentre for Sustainable EnergyCommunity energy saving charity-A wealth of information on local energy initiatives and the role they have to play in the transformation of the UK’s energy system.
Local actionLocal Energy Options – A Guidance Document for Local GovernmentGuidance-A guidance document outlining the options and opportunities for local energy.
Local actionClimate Emergency CentresNetwork-Support to establish self funding community climate hubs in disused buildings.



Community Project Management

Now that you have completed your ’Listening Campaign’ and the ‘Shaping your Initiative’ activity, it is time to review your short list of potential activities and prioritise them further.

This session will look at:

  • how to prioritise actions to find the most effective and achievable initiatives; and
  • the basics of planning a project.

Community Project Management


Essential reading
Developing a Project PlanVideoCoreBeginner0:04:00A short video for community groups on developing a project plan.
Project Planning for Beginners - Project Management TrainingVideoCoreBeginner0:06:00A short video breaking planning down to its basics.
Further reading
Managing a community projectVideoMediumBeginner0:12:00An overview of managing more complex community projects.
How To Create a Project Plan: the foolproof way to guarantee the success of any projectVideoMediumBeginner0:07:00A clear overview of how to go about creating a project plan.
How to get started with a project in your communityWebsiteMediumBeginner0:18:00Step by step guide on how to engage your local community, develop a project and make a plan for it.
How to set up a community group successfullyWebsiteMediumBeginner0:15:00Where to start and what to think about if you're setting up a new community group.
Community Hubs handbookPublicationLowBeginner1:00:00An informative and detailed handbook on setting up local community hubs.
Thrive Renewables Community Benefit ProgrammeGrantLowIntermediate0:06:00Grants for energy saving measures in community buildings
SalixGrantLowIntermediate0:02:00Government funding to the public sector to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and lower energy bills
The National Lottery Community FundGrantMediumIntermediate0:02:00National lottery funding for community climate projects.

Managing groups

In this session we will explore:

  • how to manage volunteers;
  • how to identify the volunteer roles your initiative needs; and
  • how to draft volunteer documents (e.g. adverts, policies etc.)

Finding and Keeping People


Essential reading
Title Type Time Details
Coordinating volunteers Website 0:05:00 Very basic guidance from NCVO to coordinating volunteers.
Recruiting volunteers Website 0:10:00 A NCVO page with advice for finding, appointment and refusal of volunteers.
NCVO: Supporting and Managing Volunteers Website 0:30:00 Guidance from NCVO. Including how to support, supervise and get feedback, how to keep volunteers engaged, solving volunteer problems and dismissing a volunteer.
Choosing the right organisational structure for your group Article 0:08:00 Article from Some of the links are broken but it's a useful overview on type of organisation you might want to form and how to decide.
How to keep volunteers happy and engaged Booklet 0:15:00 Booklet from Semble. Uses 6 Cs as a strategy for engagement: connection, communication, coordination, care, celebration, co-creation.
Safeguarding and volunteers Website 0:10:00
A NCVO page introducing safeguarding for volunteers and outlining some key principles. Also including links to Covid-19 guidelines.
Getting volunteer insurance Website 0:10:00
A NCVO page introducing different types of insurances that might be relevant to your organisation and how to get it.
Writing volunteer role descriptions Website 0:10:00 A NCVO page with advice for writing a volunteer role description.
Further reading
McClelland's Achievement-Based Motivational Theory and ModelsArticle10:00A technical read on motivation theory for those wanting more of a deep dive into the psychology behind motivation.
Maslow's Hierarchy of NeedsArticle10:00A background and overview of Maslow's research and theory into human behaviour and motivation for those wanting more of a deep dive into the psychology behind motivation.
NCVO: Involving VolunteersWebsite00:05-1:00Practical and step by step guidance from NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) to help you manage volunteers and the process of volunteering well. NCVO is a well-respected organisation that provides training, support and advice to the voluntary sector as well as both helping to connect organisations together and representing the voluntary sector to government.
My CommunityWebsite00:05-1:00A hub with lots of resources on things relating to communities. Find resources on funding, help creating partnerships, marketing, engaging communities, business and finances, governance and organisational structure, and staff and volunteer management.
Time well spent: A national survey on the volunteer experienceReport00:10:00-01:00:00A report of a survey into the reasons why people volunteer. Study from 2019 (pre-COVID).
NCVO: Understanding VolunteeringWebsite00:05-1:00Guidance from NCVO. Including what is volunteering, why involve volunteers, writing a volunteer strategy and equity, diversity and inclusion in volunteering.
Bang the TableTool00:05-1:00An online platform for engaging community and stakeholders in decision making.
New LocalNetwork00:05-1:00An independent think tank and network of councils, with a mission to transform public services and unlock community power.
Writing a volunteer strategyWebsite0:20:00A NCVO page with advice for writing a volunteering strategy featuring some useful examples.
Writing a volunteer policyWebsite0:10:00A NCVO page with advice for writing a volunteer strategy.
NCVO: Recruiting and welcoming volunteersWebsite00:05:00-01:00:00Guidance from NCVO. Including how to recruit volunteers, writing a volunteer agreement and running a volunteer induction.
NCVO: Motivation and engagementWebsite0:10:00Article from NCVO on motivating and engaging staff. This mainly focuses on employees but there is some useful advice in here on motivating teams in general, for example finding out about people's motivations and what their needs are in a role.
From Conflict to Co-operationBooklet00:30:00-01:00:005 booklets from Co-operatives UK Limited on how to manage conflict in an organisation. Booklets are as follows:
Booklet 1: Conflict - where it comes from and how to deal with it
Booklet 2: Communication skills
Booklet 3: Meetings and decision-making
Booklet 4: Organisational growth and development
Booklet 5: Role and responsibilities of the board

Communications and Events

In our final session we:

  • look at how to create a communications plan for your community action; 
  • offer tips on creating effective communications (e.g. posters, social media posts, websites); and
  • delve in deeper with some event dos and don’ts.

Creating a Communications Plan

Event Dos and Don'ts


Essential reading
Britain Talks ClimateToolkit1:00If you haven't looked through this already in Part 1 of this course, this is a key toolkit to look through in preparation for Session 8. An evidence-based toolkit from Climate Outreach looking specifically at the British population and how they can be engaged in climate issues.
Listen, learn, adapt: Engaging your community in a meaningful wayToolkit1:00A detailed toolkit by Locality that gives details of different ways you can reach communities. These include tips on reaching through events, posters, newsletters and local radio as well as the benefits and challenges to different digital tools (e.g. Mailchimp, Youtube, SurveyMonkey, Canva etc.). This toolkit provides a number of case studies of different projects and has a more in-depth section specifically on neighbourhood planning. The first 37 pages are core reading for this course


Further reading
Five tips from the front lines of talking about climate changeArticle0:05World Economic Forum article with communication tips about climate change. Most relevent is number 5 - giving people meaningful agency.
Understanding digital communications, campaigns and contentArticle0:15An article providing a very basic introduction to digital communications, campaigns and content. The focus is on the charity sector but there are a lot of crossovers to other organisations. Useful for those with little existing knowledge of social media and other digital platforms.
How to create a social media strategy in 8 stepsArticle0:20An article by Hootsuite providing a step by step guide to support businesses to market their products. While this is focused towards businesses, these steps can be used to raise awareness of projects or campaigns in your community.
Beginning Graphic Design: The FundamentalsVideo0:06A brief introduction on the use of lines, shapes, form and texture when designing graphics. Useful starting place for anyone needing to know the basics of design to create posters, social media graphics, leaflets etc.
How to use Canva for beginnersVideo0:10A tutorial for using the free design software Canva. Useful for designing social media graphics, posters, leaflets etc.
New Conversations: LGA guide to engagementToolkit1:00A toolkit from the Local Government Association for councillors and officers working to build a stronger dialogue between council and community. The focus is on local authorities but there are cross overs with community groups and engagement.