How grassroots schemes across UK are tackling climate crisis

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Communities across the UK are tackling the climate crisis with hundreds of local schemes ranging from neighbourhood heating to food co-ops, community land ownership projects and flood defences, according to a report.

A study from the IPPR thinktank found that community projects, often set up with the primary aim of reducing poverty and improving people’s day-to-day lives, were also reducing emissions and restoring nature.

Luke Murphy, the lead author of the report, said: “Under the radar there are already flourishing and transformative community initiatives to pool resources and create shared low-carbon energy, housing and natural assets These groups have shown that they can increase community wealth and create thriving places while addressing the climate crisis.”

The report identifies hundreds of initiatives, including:

  • Social housing schemes such as the Goodwin development in Hull, which has renovated 60 abandoned houses to create affordable family eco homes that require little or no energy to heat or cool. The community has also brought a water recycling system into collective ownership, and the trust is developing 40 more social homes.

  • Reclaiming derelict land such as the Malls Mire woods on the south side of Glasgow, which was plagued by litter and fly-tipping. It has now been transformed into a thriving woodland and community gardens to grow vegetables and fruit, and hosts school clubs and holiday programmes.

  • Repair cafes that are popping up around the country. In Derbyshire alone there are 16 that offer a free meeting space, tools and materials to help people make repairs to clothes, furniture and electrical appliances, reducing their consumption of new products and therefore their emissions.

  • Renewable energy projects such as the Ambition Lawrence Weston community group, based in an area of Bristol with high levels of fuel poverty. It is establishing community-owned renewable energy projects, with a solar farm and plans for a giant wind turbine that, once complete, will power 3,850 homes, saving 1,965 tonnes of CO2 and return a profit to the community of between GBP50,000 and GBP400,000 a year.

Mark Pepper, the development manager of Ambition Lawrence Weston, said that although many people in the area would “not put climate change at the top of the list”, the group had realised it could meet the community’s needs “while simultaneously adding climate value through … energy-efficient new homes, sustainable public transport or setting up our own community-owned wind turbine”.

He said: “These are things our residents benefit from, while also ensuring a positive climate impact at the same time. Putting our community’s needs first empowers local people to engage and take action on climate change, rather than feeling like they’re being told what’s best for them.”

The report found that because many of these schemes were not being properly assessed and measured little was known about their collective environmental impact – which the authors say is likely to have been underestimated by policy makers for years.

IPPR is calling for widespread devolution to support and fund similar schemes, and says a third of new onshore green energy should be community-owned “to share benefits of net zero transition”.

It wants new legislation to make it easier for communities to set up, run, own and reap the benefits of these new “climate commons”, which should be supported through a new “thriving places” fund.

“These groups have shown that they can increase community wealth and create thriving places while addressing the climate crisis,” said Murphy. “Now the government needs to act to enable all communities to have meaningful control of how their area adapts and benefits from the transition to net zero.”

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