Warwick and Stratford-on-Avon District Councils have been working together on a joint Climate Change Action Plan for the South Warwickshire area since November 2019. Both Districts have a large rural area which brings specific challenges and opportunities for a just transition to net zero.
In 2022, Warwick and Stratford-on-Avon District Councils, in partnership with WALC, successfully applied for funding to Local Climate Engagement Programme (LCE). Developed by Involve, the UK’s leading public participation charity, and three partner organisations, Shared Future, UK100 and Climate Outreach, the LCE programme provided local authorities with a package of training, mentoring, peer learning and hands-on support. Access to this funding helped the two Councils to realise their ambition of creating a self-sustaining infrastructure for rural engagement on climate change.
This local ambition had two aims:
- To support rural parish councils and/or local climate action groups to engage their local public on climate and the environment towards building place based capacity for climate action
- To engage rural publics on climate and the environment in order to understand the hopes, aspirations, barriers and support needs in rural communities, so that these can be incorporated within the district councils' climate change action planning
Assisted by WALC, a representative group of Council Officers, District Councillors, Town and Parish Clerks and community groups, was recruited to receive training on local climate engagement. This training helped to build a network of capacity, grow ideas, and forge new relations to contribute to the design and delivery success of the eventual project.
Resources from Climate Outreach included:
- Rural attitudes to climate change – equipping UK rural councillors to engage with their communities
- Towards a UK public engagement strategy on climate change
- #TalkingClimate Workshops
A Steering Group was formed in September 2022 and continues to operate. Chaired by the Programme Director for Climate Change and supported by Involve to make informed decisions on the development of the rural engagement infrastructure, the membership included District Council Officers, County Council Officers, District Councillors, Parish and Town Clerks, community group members, and a WALC support officer.
A database of rural communities, their assets, and their climate engagement and action structures was created in conjunction with Forum for the Future. This has created both a record keeping and decision making tool, and supported approaches to rural town and parish clerks.
Three pilot communities were identified and the planning stage began. A ‘shadowing group’ was formed around each pilot. By working with a shadowing group in developing each engagement event, district council officers, local councillors and clerks, and community group representatives were upskilled in practical engagement event planning in order to support the viability of the programme after the pilot phase.
Each shadowing group was overseen by an Engagement Lead from Involve who guided the development of the event while allowing the shadowing group to make informed decisions on engagement, and foreground local knowledge in logistics and reach. Each pilot area worked through the event planning logistics, marcomms, and facilitation design.
All events were planned to take a wide view of climate and biodiversity rather than focus on a single topic. This was important at this stage when the communities involved did not have a clear picture of local priorities, and when the events also had a dual aim to help inform the district’s climate change action planning by making visible the hopes, aspirations, barriers and support needs of rural communities.
In June, three Town and Parish Councils held events which generated community led local ideas, inspired community members to sign up, and helped the District Council understand how they can support this action.
- Marston Sicca
Marston Sicca Pop Up Stand was delivered on Saturday 10th June 2023 as part of the wider Marston Sicca Great Big Green Day event. Over 100 members of the public attended the event of which 26 engaged with the Pop Up Stand, generating future visions for Marston Sicca.
- Henley in Arden
Henley in Arden Pop Up Stand was delivered on Saturday 17th June 2023 on Henley in Arden High Street from 9am - 7pm. 122 members of the public were engaged.
104 members of the public voted on the local projects they think that the parish council should prioritise, 65 new ideas for a greener local future were generated, and 3 people signed up to join
the local climate action group.
Henley in Arden have already progressed with these outputs as of July 2023 having taken forward; planning for solar panels in schools with the local school after this project idea was given legitimacy on the stand; planned for the parish council to buy an infrared device to support local people to measure heat loss and plan for energy efficiency after a member of the parish council engaged with the stand; revitalised the Henley Climate Action Group who have met to plan next steps and take forward some of the ideas generated.
Alcester Climate CAFE (Climate Action for Everyone) was delivered on 24th June 2023, 22 attendees worked together at the 3.5 hour event and generated 9 new action ideas.
Action ideas on biodiversity for low mow and wildflowers have been prioritised by the Town Council who have since taken first steps towards implementation by commissioning an external agency to carry out biodiversity baseline measurements.
“I have been involved with the SWCE project since the start and it was great to have the final pilot event in Alcester on 24th June. The Alcester Climate CAFÉ (Climate Action for Everyone) was very well received by all those who attended. Importantly from our point of view, it was attended by 10 of the Town Councillors who are all now inspired to put climate change at the top of the Council’s agenda. Members of the community attending the event produced some practical ideas which we hope to be able to action in Alcester in the near future”
- Vanessa Lowe, Town Clerk, Alcester Town Council
An online showcase event delivered as a follow up to the three pilot events was designed to attract local councils or community groups wanting to get started with or find inspiration for community level climate action. These could include Council projects related to biodiversity or reducing energy consumption (and bills!), district councillors who want to be best placed to support activity within their ward, or members of the public interested in setting up their own climate action group or encouraging their own parish or town councils to do more.
The event began with a presentation on the South Warwickshire Climate Engagement programme from Dave Barber, Programme Director for Climate Change at Warwick and Stratford-on-Avon District Councils.
Participants then broke into two groups. One heard about the two Pop Up Stands, then Alcester Climate CAFE, and the other in reverse. Participants had time to ask questions and facilitators prompted the presenters to go into more detail on various elements of the planning, design, and delivery. The session finished with a summary of the work done to date and a commitment to share resources and learning on a publicly accessible platform. Participants were encouraged to feed back their thoughts and to express their interest at email@example.com
As part of the sharing of learning, the resources for delivering similar climate engagement events has been made available to all Town and Parish Councils. The resources include templates for facilitation, risk assessments, community mapping, event planning, and activities, for both Cafe Style Events and Pop up Style Events. To inspire other communities, a case study was also created for each of the pilot events which includes a community profile, why the method was chosen, overview of the activities, and the outputs generated. Download the Climate Engagement Case Studies.
“The Parish Council and Henley Climate Action have benefited greatly from our climate pop up event. We are also incredibly grateful for the support from Involve in walking us through the process to set up this event and empower us to have the ability to do future events! Even our local climate action group have become re-enthused and we are meeting within a few weeks of our pop up event to work out our priorities going forward. Thank you again from Henley!"
- Cllr Bryn Turner, Henley in Arden Parish Council
The Steering Group has agreed unanimously to continue with the Programme. It has updated its Terms Of Reference to include Parish Councillors as members and to extend reach to cover Districts, not just rural communities. The benefits for Town and Parish Councils are summarised as follows:
- Parish and Town Councils are supported to lead on engagement with their communities on climate change
- Parish and Town Councils have identified and secured support for projects in line with their communities’ priorities
- Parish and Town Councils are empowered to identify and work with existing community groups on climate and nature action planning
- Parish and Town Councils can access a wider network of peers, both locally and nationally, through the Steering Group, WALC and NALC
As WALC and the LCE Programme engages further with Councils and communities across South Warwickshire and beyond, more best practice resources and case studies will be shared to help accelerate positive local climate and nature action and a just transition to net zero.
Further resources for Town and Parish Councils
Town and Parish Councils have a wide range of powers to address climate change. A template for a climate action plan and for a project appraisal is available from SLCC's Environmental Planning Guidance for Local Councils (working document, revised version 31st May 2023). A Climate Change Toolkit for TPCs is available from Northumberland County Council which references Hexham Town Council's Net Zero Action Plan.
An Environmental Policy has been developed for TPCs by Cornwall County Council.
Under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 there is a duty on public authorities in England to have regard to conserving biodiversity as part of their policy or decision making. Conserving biodiversity can include restoring or enhancing a population or habitat. South Gloucester Council has developed guidance about local nature action plans to support town and parish councils. It has also created local climate and nature action plan guidance for town and parish councils to create their own action plan and help reduce carbon emissions and improve biodiversity. There is also a local nature action plan field guide and business nature action plan to aid understanding of biodiversity and encourage action in both the community and business spheres.
Benefits to Rural Communities
In many OECD countries, including Chile, Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, rural regions have the highest emissions per capita. OECD Rural Agenda for Climate Action (OECD, 2021).
Benefits of climate change mitigation for the UK include improvements in public health, reduced NHS costs, greater energy security, growth in the low-carbon jobs market and a reduction in poverty and inequality. Imperial College London, Grantham Institute Briefing Paper No. 19 March 2019
At a more local level, actions taken by local authorities will have (non-climate) co-benefits that resonate with issues that rural communities are concerned about.
National Policy Recommendations