People are prepared to do whatever it takes to help address the climate emergency as part of the economic recovery from Covid-19. How can this grassroots commitment be leveraged to achieve lasting positive change?
With air pollution plummeting, carbon emissions fall and a slower pace of life that prevailed during the pandemic, there has been a growing call for society to resist going back to the way things were before the pandemic.
A poll in the UK found that 79 per cent of people support a “green recovery” from the pandemic and were prepared to continue with many of the lifestyle changes imposed on them by the coronavirus, including cycling and working. from home.
With so much uncertainty about the future, how can you lead people to economic recovery so that they really have a say in what society is like?
A survey found that 79 per cent of people in the UK want a ‘green recovery’ from Covid. Image: Beeline Navigation
A place at the table: deliberative democracy
The Climate Assembly UK is a group of 108 UK citizens chosen to represent the country and help shape policy to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The group was created by Involve, a public participation charity.
Sarah Allan, the charity’s head of engagement, says they have “a vision for democracy” that puts people at the center of decision-making.
“The changes necessary to get to zero, obviously, will change people’s lives, so they must have a voice,” he explains. “There is also a growing appreciation that some of the challenges we face right now will not be solved in the traditional top-down way and that we are going to need to engage people to solve them.”
Some of the challenges we face right now will not be solved in the traditional top-down way.
Another organization that aims to help nurture this type of political participation is mySociety. Charity is responsible for They work for you, a platform that allows people to control the voting records of politicians.
Demystifying parliament, the charity argues, empowers ordinary people to participate in politics and gives them more confidence to hold MPs accountable.
“I think all the big global events that are happening right now, not just Covid and not just the weather, but Black Lives Matter as well, have shown that there are things that people can do to make their voice heard,” says Myf Nixon, a spokesperson for the charity.
Organizations like mySociety and Involve demystify politics and encourage public participation. Image: Sean Martin
Rebuild, green: collective investment
Another way to help people feel involved is to “ask them to put their money where their mouth is,” as Ross Mackinnon, a West Berkshire Council member, puts it.
The local authority recently benefited from the UK’s first local government green bond, a new model for raising money to finance sustainable local developments, which it closed after hitting its £ 1 million target in October.
The Municipal Community Investment (CMI) is an investment opportunity offered to the public by a local authority, through the crowdfunding platform Abundance, and is linked to specific green and social projects.
By investing as little as £ 5, locals can help support a project important to the future of their area, which may not otherwise be funded by underfunded councils, while receiving a long-term, low-risk return. IMCs also help investors feel more connected to their communities at a time when most of us spend more time at home.
“Our local investors feel good when they walk by and see a solar panel installed or a tree planted, so it really enhances the sense of community,” Mackinnon says. “They also get an economic return. It is beneficial for them and for us as a local authority. “
Local investors feel good when they walk by and see a solar panel installed or a tree planted; This enhances the sense of community.
Newbury resident Helen Wright invested £ 1,000 in West Berkshire CMI, which helped fund solar panels on the roofs of local schools. She says the idea appealed to her because “it felt good to invest in something local that would have real benefits for the local population.”
He adds: “We need more solar energy to move away from fossil fuels and this would also help local schools.”
Bruce Davis, Founder and Managing Director of Abundance, hopes all local authorities will take advantage as the Warrington council has just closed its CMI; Leeds City Council is next in line, and West Berkshire is already considering its next bond offering.
“If all local authorities in the UK issued a green bond to create jobs and assets in the community that strengthen the economy but also generate zero, then everyone will benefit from this mobilization to recover from the impact of Covid and be better prepared for the next impact of the climate emergency ”, he says.
By investing as little as £ 5, local people can help support green projects in their area. Image: Abundance
Jobs with a future: meaningful green jobs
Another way to ensure a green recovery is to pump cash to create jobs. Tree planting and wetland restoration have been proposed as ways to create employment. For the millions of people who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, learning “low-carbon skills” could be a way to get back to work.
But after the government’s widely mocked career questionnaire, how can this change be significant? The Resolution Foundation, which estimates that more than 600,000 young people could be unemployed this year due to the coronavirus, says the UK lacks experience in guiding workers through career changes. It advocates for supporting young people in the form of apprenticeships and higher education, as well as investing in job-related training programs in sectors such as social assistance and green energy.
Davis agrees: “The economic recovery must create more jobs and, at the same time, we must ensure that we do not fall behind schedule to get to zero.”
And he adds: “However, the recovery should not be about large flagship projects. It should be about investments in every community in the UK, otherwise some people will benefit from this transition and others will not. “
Lead Image: Noah Buscher