Rebuilding our planet post-pandemic: communities and the climate crisis
Facing up to tackling climate change we know people and communities feel overwhelmed at the size of the challenge. Lifestyle changes are hard and reducing our carbon footprint feels impossible.
At The National Lottery Community Fund, the environment is one of our core themes - outlined in the 1993 National Lottery Act. We have a role helping communities combat the impact of climate change and have invested nearly half a billion pounds in addressing this. Our funding helps empower people and demonstrates how small steps can contribute to tackling this complex issue.
We know community-led climate action is integral to achieving the UK’s net-zero goals. Depp understanding of local challenges and opportunities means communities are best placed to develop solutions and ideas to combat climate change in their area.
Last month at our Communities Can Conference we were joined by some of our grantholders contributing to help the UK reach its net-zero target. They shared examples of how communities are taking control of the climate crisis and beginning to build back better post-pandemic.
In a panel session chaired by the Fund’s Head of Climate Action, Nick Gardner, we heard from Clover Hogan the founder and Executive director of Force of Nature, Roy Kareem a Black and Green Ambassador for Bristol, Dr Afsheen Rashid MBE Founding Director of Repowering London, Craig Leitch from Greener Kirkcaldy and Ian Thomas from Welcome to our Woods as they led the conversation.
If you missed it here’s what we learned:
Eco-anxiety and young people
Clover Hogan discussed the impact the climate crisis is having on young people’s mental health, specifically the rise of ‘eco-anxiety’. Clover set up Force of Nature to address the feelings of powerlessness caused by the perception the climate crisis has been inherited by young people, yet they are faced with the notion they are last generation who will be able to “save humanity”.
Eco-anxiety describes feelings of helplessness, anger, insomnia, panic and guilt toward the climate and ecological crisis. You can read more about eco anxiety in this Force of Nature report.
Clover discussed how ensuring young people become part of the solutions or raising awareness of steps they can take on an individual level to combat climate change can help to reduce their feelings of powerlessness.
Simple changes such as buying seasonal, locally sourced produce and buying fewer clothes, or avoiding fast-fashion brands are measures which can help to make a big difference in combatting the environmental crisis, and help young people feel motivated and in control.
Engaging communities: co-benefits, lifestyle changes and community-led solutions
Clover, and her work, sits at the intersection of the Fund’s support for young people, our funding mental health activity as well as the environment and highlights how these issues are not siloed.
Insight from our funding tells us by framing environmental action as easy and linking it to people’s individual beliefs and values, as well as appealing to their sense of community, can be extremely effective.Read our full insight report here.
Communicating to communities with low engagement or awareness around climate change that the benefits of reducing carbon emissions often go beyond creating a greener environment is important. Co-benefits of climate action cativity can include improving health and wellbeing, helping people save money on their energy bills, creating new employment opportunities, as well as connecting people and reducing loneliness.
Diversity and representation
Another way to engage those who are disengaged or feel powerless in the fight against climate change, is appealing to the values in different communities. We have seen how important it is to recognise the movement and contributions happening in diverse communities all over the country. Roy Kareem, Black and Green Ambassador for Bristol, discussed how they support ambassadors, representative of Bristol’s Black, African, Caribbean, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, to identify solutions and develop new projects to address environmental issues, tackle inequalities and increase awareness and understanding across these communities.
The Black and Green Ambassador project was set up to increase engagement in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities in Bristol. It aims to pay, train and support a new generation of environmental leaders as well as increase awareness within the mainstream environmental movement of the contribution and wealth of action being taken in diverse communities. Find out more about the Black and green Ambassador project here.
Insulating homes and saving money on energy bills
A significant co-benefit of community climate action is the impact insulating homes can have both on the environment and household finances. As a funder, we know through initiatives such as the Climate Action Top-Ups, even small amounts of funding for improving buildings and covering core costs can reduce energy and water consumption saving organisations money. Dr Afsheen Rashid MBE, Founding Director of Repowering London, shared how their project empowers communities by helping them develop their own clean energy co-operatives and raising awareness of how such measures can help to improve lives by reducing energy bills and making homes warmer.
Reducing food waste
Waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, and our grantholders are pioneering ways to reduce waste, particularly food waste. Craig Leitch from Greener Kirkcaldy talked about how their local work to combat the climate emergency, tackle fuel poverty and food insecurity is bringing people together for a more sustainable community. Among the variety of community-based workshops and events the organisation holds, Greener Kirkcaldy provides cooking classes aimed at helping people improve their cooking skills, reduce food waste and eat locally sourced, seasonal food.
There are well established links between the environment and physical and mental wellbeing by creating a sense of belonging and connection.Ian Thomas from Welcome to our Woods, a Climate Action Fund funded community partnership in South Wales discussed the difference they are making across their community. Ian shared that by giving the local people access to good quality green spaces the community could see improvements in physical and mental health by reducing physical inactivity and boosting social connectivity by building a strong community network.
Looking to the future
At The National Lottery Community Fund, we know when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Communities with lived experiences and a first-hand understanding of local opportunities and challenges are best placed to develop effective ideas to tackle the climate crisis. As we look ahead to COP26 later this year, it is important to celebrate the contributions made by communities and how community-led action can help the UK reach its net-zero target.