The Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate website states that the commission
“was created by Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority in 2020, on the recommendation of the Combined Authority Board. The task of the Commission is to provide authoritative recommendations to help the region mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, enabling us to meet the commitment to eradicating net carbon emissions across the area by 2050.”
More about the commission can be found on their website including who the commission members are and more detail about what they hope to achieve. The commission have recently produced their initial recommendation report and the response to this can be found on the Combined Authority website.
This response from Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service (CCVS) addresses some issues about the process and the make up of the commission, and does not address the detailed recommendations that the report makes. We at CCVS are not qualified to speak about the ambition or impact of the recommendations, but we fully support the need to make a significant and radical difference to how we use energy in the short, medium and long term in order to reduce the impact of climate change. We believe that climate change poses a significant risk to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and the wider planet, and that we all need to look at what we can do to reduce this.
Individual and community action will be key
Whist it is essential that government at all levels brings in the necessary legislation and funding to make change happen, and whilst it is essential that business of all sizes makes changes to their energy use, a significant part of addressing the need to reduce non sustainable energy use will fall on individuals.
“The engagement of residents is particularly important: the Climate Change Committee estimates that almost 60% of the changes we need to reach net zero will involve people changing their behaviour to some extent and making positive decisions to support emissions reduction.”
The report is clear that
“In the CPCA area we have over 350,000 existing homes that will need to be converted to low carbon heating”
It also has a target that there will be a
“Reduction in car miles driven by 15% to 2030 relative to baseline”
The desire and ability of individuals and communities to make major changes to their lives to address climate issues has to be there or we will not reach the targets that have been set. These changes to lives have to be done in a way that does not increase the already considerable inequalities that exist across the county. The report recognises this but must do all it can to ensure that any changes are
“delivered through a just transition, that does not leave marginalised communities behind.”
Recommendation – Any changes, proposals or ideas have to be measured against an equality index to ensure that no one is disadvantaged.
Where is the community engagement?
My first issue with the commission is that the voice of the community and the community sector is not represented at the highest levels of the commission. If the last 18 months have shown us anything it is the ability of communities and community organisations to deliver real support and services based on local need and local knowledge. It was individuals and small charities that reacted quickest to the outbreak of the pandemic, it was communities and community organisations that found solutions to help those in need, it was these groups that marshalled and motivated an army of volunteers to deliver. All this was done before government at any level was able to start to help out. What then emerged was one of the most equal partnerships between communities and small organisations and local government that has been seen. This delivered the support to those that needed it.
Recommendation – That the commission invites a new member from the local community or charity sector to become a full member.
Recommendation – that a local network of other organisations and groups that have an interest is formed and resourced to feed views to the representative.
The report recognises that
“there are ways in which individuals, families and communities can contribute positively to this change”
The commission has to find a way to get a voice from this level heard at the highest level.
We need new community solutions
Radical change is needed if we want to avoid the impact of climate change. To achieve this we have to work in true partnership across all levels of community and government. Legislation and top-down solutions will only change so much. It is only through co-production that significant changes in how we live and work can be developed and become the new normal.
There have to be resources put in place to allow communities to identify how they can address issues; new ways of working have to be embraced and power has to be moved to the local level. The commission have to address this if they are to take individuals and communities on a shared journey to a shared destination.
Recommendation – that the Commission look at how power, resources and wealth can be given to, and retained by, communities to allow them to find local solutions that work.
Many people will have ideas and views on this, and as the report highlights this is a topic close to the hearts of many in the area.
“Residents responding to both surveys wanted to see council leadership on climate change, nature prioritised, improved education and information to support behaviour change and a leading role for the area nationally. A strong engagement and listening programme will be needed to ensure residents are both keen and able to make the changes needed.”
We need to make sure that there is wide engagement and that this is about more than listening, but about devolving power and resources. CCVS are not the experts and it is not for us to comment on the practical way forward. We will do all we can to play our part as an organisation and as a membership body. What we can, and will, do is to push for all voices to be heard, not just through consultations but also at the highest levels of the commission.
The solutions that local, regional and national government come up with have to be co-produced with communities and individuals if we want to see real change to how we live. A top-down approach will fail, and will also increase inequality and leave marginalised communities more impacted by climate change etc.