Interview: The importance of place-based climate action

Environment Journal talks to Riccardo Casale, co-founder of Carbon Copy, the charity aiming to encourage collective local action on environmental and climate-related issues.

What led you to co-create Carbon Copy?

‘About 18 months ago I was working with my local community group to encourage our local council to declare a climate emergency.

‘When they did that, we suddenly had to reevaluate our relationship with them and think about how we were going to work together now that we were all on the same page.

‘Our relationship had changed overnight from one of advocacy to one of partnership and I quickly realised that we had no experience in this, but I alsorealised that there were many other individuals and community groups in a similar position to us, and so Carbon Copy came about in part because of this.

‘There are lots of amazing small scale projects happening all over the country and we wanted to create the opportunity to give them more visibility, we wanted to share real-world insights and experiences so that we can all learn from each other.

‘It’s really about creating some collective intelligence. When you see people moving ahead and making some real progress on the ground that gets people really excited about doing something similar, we want to inspire people.’

What kind of local projects are you talking about?

‘The majority of the projects are either directly addressing the environment and the climate crisis, or they do so as a consequence. Maybe their primary action is to build community resilience or it might be to improve the health of people in the area by addressing air pollution.

‘We focus on six broad areas – energy, buildings, circular economy, transport, nature and land use, and then for each of these areas we look for projects in different places geographically.

‘This means that when people come to Carbon Copy they can see examples of initiatives that are led by people who live close by to them, and hence it is more relatable and feels more accessible, we hope this will inspire people to copy or do something similar.’

Why do you think local community action is so important?

‘I think everybody would agree that the kind of change that we need requires change at every level. We have to change our individual lifestyles, we need top-down support from the government, but importantly there is also this middle layer.

‘This civic place-based action is something that I think has been overlooked, but I think it is a crucial component within the overall mix.’

What would you say to individuals who want to take action?

‘There are over 100 local authorities that have set net-zero targets of 2030, that’s 20 years ahead of the national government, and that’s incredibly exciting because for me it shows that there’s not only the will but also the ambition.

‘I think the ability for us as individuals to have an impact and work more collectively with each other and with local authorities is really exciting. The time is now.

‘If you think back five years or so ago it was relatively painless to reduce emissions because nationally we could just shut down coal-fired power stations and none of us would have to make any individual changes to the way we were living.

‘But all of those big, quick wins are pretty much over. We’re running out of coal-fired power stations to close, and so, the next stage of this decarbonisation process is very much place-based. We are going to see and feel those impacts and therefore we have to embrace them and own them.

‘It’s not something that can be done to people, it’s something that people will do within their local area because they believe it’s the right thing to do. The next stage of decarbonisation is going to be much more devolved and this will require a lot more people to embrace it and take the lead.’

What do you hope for the future of Carbon Copy?

‘We want to continue showcasing how can community groups, the local council, and some of the big local employers can work together to achieve the shared goals and targets within these climate action plans.

‘The wonderful thing about the sharing that goes on with Carbon Copy is it’s very open and honest, and the advice that people give around what’s working and what’s not working is really helpful.

‘We really want to learn from the people who have already been successful. People are hungry for insights because we’re all lined up eager to take this next step, but at the moment it’s unclear how we’re going to work together to get there.’

Photo Credit – Supplied

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