Empowering local politics


Money-strapped and resource-depleted councils may consider they’re powerless to act on climate change, even those that have formally declared a climate emergency, however the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) is aiming to alter that through recent guidance for local authorities.

Its recommendations are based on learnings from its Zero Carbon Britain Innovation Lab, which brings people together to share ideas and discuss sustainable solutions to attain net zero.

This text first appeared within the Resurgence & Ecologist magazine, out now.

CAT’s lab has to this point worked with around 150 local authorities. Typically, councils consider their essential barriers to be financial, says Anna Bullen, the lab’s manager. Nonetheless, though funds are “absolutely a difficulty”, the lab takes a more systems considering approach, she explains.


“We take a radical deep dive to try to understand what the barriers are throughout the entire system,” she says.

“Among the biggest barriers are political will and the behavioural elements – the beliefs and the mindsets. Through their work with us, councils can design effective and realistic interventions to handle those barriers and discover what’s going to have the best impact.

“Fundamentally, crucial thing is changing mindsets and beliefs, but there are a number of other things they will do, especially in the event that they work together.”

The lab recently held a series of workshops with ten Staffordshire councils, exploring the barriers to achieving net zero inside the current system, what a net zero Staffordshire could seem like, and potential interventions to attain it. Participants also explored priority areas for cross-council collaboration.


There was variation across Staffordshire by way of when councils aimed to succeed in net zero, with goal dates starting from 2030 to 2050.

There have been also differences within the scope of their ambition, as some councils were aiming to handle only their very own emissions, while others intended to incorporate emissions from across their locality.

Consequently of the workshops, Staffordshire councils now plan to work together to lower your expenses, work more efficiently and have a greater likelihood of constructing progress on the speed and scale needed.

Nearly all of participants have reported increased collaboration inside their councils and across all of the Staffordshire councils for the reason that workshops. One reported not only having more expertise, but additionally more kudos, especially with climate activists.

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The findings from the workshops have been used to create recommendations within the guidance to support other councils tackling the climate emergency.

These centre on improving governance structures, working more collaboratively across councils, reducing silos, and empowering people in any respect levels of the organisation.

“The old-school hierarchical systems just aren’t fit for purpose any more,” Bullen says. “There are some incredible people working in councils, but many don’t feel empowered to do anything, because they must undergo this archaic chain. Individuals ought to be empowered to be leaders in their very own right.”

As for community groups, she adds, they ought to be asking their councils what their climate motion plan is, and the plan for implementation, and offer to assist them deliver it.

Councils ought to be held to account with regard to acting on the climate emergency, and communities should demand this.

This Writer

Catherine Early is chief reporter for The Ecologist. This text first appeared within the lastest issue of the Resurgence & Ecologist magazine, out now.

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