Why we’re researching local solutions to climate change

July 15, 2021  

Thinking of climate change through a local lens can help us find practical solutions, and stop searching for silver bullets. Luca Tiratelli on our new research project in partnership with Groundwork and Grosvenor.

Climate change is the defining issue of the 21st century. It will impact on our entire way of life. But policymaking in the UK hasn’t responded on this scale.

Pushed down the list of national priorities due to a never-ending succession of short-term crises, our response to global warming is characterised by a strange mix of complacency and fatalism.

One minute we are deluding ourselves that a technical fix or tinkering on the margins can solve the problem. The next we are handwringing about the scale of the crisis and our lack of capacity to act.

Read our longread on climate change mindsets.

Why is this? This pattern of thinking about climate change is driven by imagining the problem at the wrong scale.

By thinking of the climate crisis primarily as a planetary-level mega-problem, we lock ourselves into a framework where we are forced to search for silver bullet solutions through national and international policy.

This is why we flit between complacency and fatalism – one minute we think we’ve cracked it, the next we realise how far away we still are.

Thinking locally about climate change

What if we looked at climate change through a local prism? This can help us unlock clearer thinking and more impactful action.

Because while climate change is affecting the entire world, the specific challenges it creates – from flooding to ecosystem destruction – manifest locally.

And the activities that create the emissions, that drive the problem – they also happen locally.

If we can adopt a more locally focussed approach to climate change, then we can tackle problems as they emerge – at a more manageable and less terrifying scale. Helping connect the impact of what we do to change we can see.

Working on local causes and local impacts of climate change will allow us to use local knowledge, creating space for new ideas and innovations. Working locally also means reaching more people, and helping build communities’ resilience.

Our research on communities and climate change

How can we get started with a local approach to tackling climate change?

New Local is partnering with Groundwork and Grosvenor to launch a new research project to explore this question, including:

  • the potential of local areas to become a focus of climate policy
  • how communities can be empowered to take more of an active role in shaping climate policy
  • how councils can work differently to drive forward a community-powered climate change agenda

We hope that this research can be the start of a conversation about the role of the local in tackling climate change.

If you are interested in these ideas or are aware of any interesting and innovative local climate change initiatives, we would love to hear from you. Contact ltiratelli@newlocal.org.uk

Find out more in our long-read Local Actions for Global Problems.


Photo: John Barker

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