1. Climate Scorecards: helping keep Scotland accountable

    A broad range of organisations and individuals are active on climate — and our services can help them to be more effective, from grassroots movements right up to institutional authorities.

    Here’s an example of the latter: the Council Climate Plan Scorecards site, for which mySociety provides technical support, was cited in oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament Committee by the Accounts Commission for Scotland.

    Commission Member Andrew Burns used data from the site as evidence of inconsistencies across councils in the UK, supporting the Commission’s view that Scottish local councils need to work together more effectively – as reported in the committee transcript (page 9).

    Impartial accountability

    The Accounts Commission holds councils and other local government bodies in Scotland to account, and helps them improve, by reporting to the public on their performance.

    As the need for cutting emissions becomes ever more pressing, it’s vital that the public can keep an eye on how resources are being allocated and whether authorities are fulfilling their pledges. In November 2021, the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee of the Scottish Parliament launched an inquiry into the role of local government and its partners in financing and delivering a net zero Scotland.

    The inquiry aims to seek out the main barriers at a local level to Scotland reaching its target of being net zero in emissions by 2045. It will consider what practical steps councils are taking to break them down, in partnership with business, the voluntary sector, and local communities.

    It is also considering what role the Scottish Government and its agencies can play in both supporting and, where necessary, challenging local government to work well with its partners to deliver net zero; and how local government can play its part in ensuring a ‘just transition’ to net zero, ie one that is economically and socially fair.

    A source of climate data

    And that’s how the Scorecards came in useful for the Accounts Commission. They first discovered the website when collating evidence for their publication Scotland’s councils’ approach to addressing climate change.

    “The Scorecards Project gave us a specific comparison across many UK local authorities, including some councils in Scotland, as regards their approach to climate action and achieving Net Zero”, said Andrew. “The variation seen in the scorecards confirmed the need for Scotland’s councils’ targets and plans to be scrutinised further.

    “Our interest in this area is ongoing, as is the work of the Scottish Parliamentary Committee”.

    The Scorecards site and its sister site CAPE show at a glance that there are big differences in the targets that councils have set and their timescales for reaching net zero. With further scrutiny, the Accounts Commission arrived at the conclusion that increased collaboration across councils and with key partners and local communities is needed.

    Across Scotland, the Accounts Commission found that 28 councils had declared a climate emergency at the time of the report, with 81% setting a target for the council’s own emissions and 53% a more ambitious target to cover emissions for the whole area. The Accounts Commission report also clearly sets out which years the different councils are aiming to reach net zero by.

    And will the next version of the Scorecards, which aims to measure concrete action from councils, be useful as they progress?

    Andrew has no doubt: “Absolutely yes, it will be”.

    We thought so too! After all, this is an ongoing process for councils everywhere, and the bodies that keep them accountable. We’ll go on putting out the data and we hope to hear many more instances of its use like this.

    Image: Mike Newbry

  2. Climate monthnotes: December 2022

    It’s a new year, but let’s not overlook the work we did at the end of the last one. Here’s a quick run-down.

    Preparing for a storm of activity

    Our partners Climate Emergency UK have been busy recruiting volunteers to mark councils on their climate action for the next phase of the Scorecards project. To help with this ambitious data-gathering exercise,  Alex and Struan have been developing a basic web interface for CE UK’s volunteers to use while doing that marking — thus saving them the pain of filling data in across seven different spreadsheets. 

    If you’d like to experience the joy of not filling in seven spreadsheets, there’s still time to join this year’s volunteers.

    Helping people understand how to use our stuff

    We’re rolling out some changes to CAPE that will make it easier for non-experts to understand what it is and how to use it — lots more to come on this front. Basically we’d like climate-concerned citizens to be able to land on the site and immediately understand what they can find there, and how it could be useful to them.

    And while we’re doing so, we’ve decided it’s called CAPE. No trotting out ‘Climate Action Plan Explorer’ every time we mention it (although of course we’re happy to explain the derivation if people ask). It just feels easier this way.

    And making sure they can find it in the first place

    Meanwhile we’ve been briefing an agency to buff up our Adwords, which are provided to us free by Google, to be more effective in bringing in the kind of user that those changes will benefit. They’ll be looking at the keywords people type in when they’re interested in the sort of service CAPE provides; and the messaging that can persuade them to click through to the site and learn more.

    It’s a relief to be able to hand this over, as keeping up with Google’s various changes in best practice and new features is definitely a full time job in itself, and one we haven’t had much time for in recent years.

    Ads can’t do everything though — sometimes you need to talk to your potential audiences! In last month’s notes we mentioned taking part in the What’s The Power In Data event from Trust For London, showing our tools to small London charities. All the sessions, including ours, can now be viewed on YouTube — hopefully that means our insights can have an even more lasting effect.

    Embracing the future

    Alex met with Faculty AI to put in motion plans for welcoming a data scientist into our fold on a six-week fellowship: we’re keen to ensure the experience is useful for both sides so he’s been putting quite a bit of thought into what machine learning could usefully do for our Climate programme, without taking us on too much of a diversion from our core work. 

    Proving our impact

    We’re continuing to write up nice usages of our services as we find out about them (if they’re feeding into your work in any way, please do drop us a line and let us know). In our latest case study we chat to The Commitment to discover how they’re hoping to secure climate pledges from MPs, with the help of their constituents, ie you!

    It’s nice that we’ve been continuing to gather proof of impact, since we met with our new grant manager from the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) last month, too. Obviously it’s desirable to be able to show what effect our work is having — and of course we hope that case studies also inspire new directions in others as well.

    Mince pies all round

    Before we all went off for our holidays, we found out that mySociety had won an award — for Outstanding Contribution to Democratic Change, no less. What a nice way to mark the end of the year! Not only that, but CE UK were also shortlisted in the Democratic Innovation category, for their Scorecards work.

    That certainly put a smile on our faces as we set up the out of office reminders and went off to crank up the Crimbo music and put the brussels sprouts on to boil. A good week or two’s holiday was enjoyed by all — and now here we are, refreshed and back for another year of Climate innovation.

     

     —

    Image: Yang Shuo

  3. Scoring councils’ climate action: how FOI is helping

    Last year, mySociety provided technical support to Climate Emergency UK (CE UK) for their Council Climate Scorecards project, which marked every UK local authority’s climate action plan across 78 different areas. The resulting data made clear where plans were adequate, and where there was still work to do. It has informed campaigns, researchers, news stories and councils themselves, as well as feeding into government-level policy.

    But plans are one thing, and putting them into action is quite another — not to mention, rather more crucial. So this year, CE UK have set themselves the task of scoring councils on the progress they’ve made on climate action.

    To do so, they’ll be using many of the same methods they put to such good effect in the Action Plan Scorecards: they’re currently assembling teams of volunteers (want to get involved? See the end of this post) that they’ll train up with the research skills needed to scrutinise such a huge body of data accurately and with a good understanding of the issues at hand.

    Scoring the plans may have seemed like a big task, but at least they are documents which were  — to a greater or lesser extent — possible to find online. Action, of course, happens in the real world, so some different methods are required. 

    CE UK’s methodology for the Action Scorecards can be seen in detail here; it relies not just on the councils’ own reporting, but on a number of different documents and news reports. And where the information can’t easily be found in the public arena, they’ll be submitting Freedom of Information requests.

    Of course, this is an area in which we at mySociety have long experience, so our Transparency team is helping out. CE UK will be using our WhatDoTheyKnow Pro service to send the large batches of FOI requests and manage the responses; once the Action Scorecards are launched, the data will, of course, be made public for everyone to access.

    With our help, the requests have been refined to provide minimum disruption to busy council officers; at the same time, we hope that these requests, which are all for information that really should be available — energy standards for council-operated housing, for example, or numbers of staff members in climate-related roles — will encourage more proactive publication of data, so that it won’t need to be requested in future years.

    We’ve also been able to advise CE UK on forming good FOI requests that will surface the required information.

    Because of CE UK’s training strategy, we’re delighted that this knowledge will be passed on to their cohorts of volunteers, effectively informing a new tranche of citizens on how and why to use FOI responsibly.

    We’re proud to be supporting this important work from a climate perspective, too: councils have a crucial role to play in cutting emissions, and there’s an obvious public interest in how they go about doing so — how they allocate public funds, how effective their interventions are, and whether they are on track to reach carbon zero by their self-set deadlines.

    All in all, the small team at CE UK have embarked on a massive but vital task. Can it be done? Their approach, as always is: there’s only one way to find out, and that is to try it!

     —

    If you’re interested in helping out, there’s still time to apply to be a volunteer — closing date is this Thursday though, so hurry! You’ll be working from home, trained up via online webinars and then helping to collect data as part of this huge effort. Sounds good? More details are here.

  4. Time to look back

    Yes, once again the year is drawing to a close, and it’s time to look back on everything we’ve achieved over the past 12 months, in the 2022 annual review.

    Our work this year has had impacts in all kinds of places, from kids’ school dinners to a prison newspaper; from access to information across Europe, to research that helped shape thinking around FOI and data that extended our knowledge of climate action at the local level. Our TICTeC Labs programme created solutions that feed back into the civic tech sector; and SocietyWorks was busy innovating through the year too, making sure that your council’s services work more smoothly.

    That’s just a taste of what you’ll find in the annual review, but you can read it all for yourself here; or, if you prefer dip into the WhatDoTheyKnow transparency report or SocietyWorks’ own review here.

    All the best of the season to our friends and followers — and we’ll see you in the New Year!

  5. How The Commitment uses Climate Scorecards to inform political engagement

    The climate and nature are more important than party politics — that’s the principle behind The Commitment. They are an impartial organisation working across the political spectrum to ensure that the health of the planet is prioritised, regardless of who is elected. 

    They invite you to make a pledge that, whatever the election, at whatever level of government, you’ll vote for the politicians who are promising to work for urgent action on the climate and nature.

    When you sign up, there’s also the chance to add your reasons for doing so. These are shared with representatives as evidence that climate action is a vote winner.

    Head of Political Engagement Carina Mundle-Garratt notes, “Our research shows that it only takes around 50 Commitments to get a politician’s attention — and in some cases as few as 20. Every pledge matters.”

    Understanding what councils do around climate

    When we heard that The Commitment uses the Climate Climate Plan Scorecards to support this work, we were eager to hear more. How did they first discover the service? Good old Googling, as it turned out.

    “We came across the website on our mission to understand not only the remit and capacity of local councils”, said Carina, “but the specific action they could take to address climate change and biodiversity loss at a local level. This involved sifting through a lot of noise on the internet!”

    Preparing for informed conversations

    And how is the data helping with The Commitment’s mission?

    “Within our Political Engagement team, they help us to engage with local councillors. 

    “We use them initially to help us assess the quality of a council’s climate action plan with regard to climate and nature. We then look at the individual components of the council’s score, cross-referencing it with other available information to develop relevant local requests to make of councillors. In relation to the Scorecards these may be to improve, update or execute parts of their climate action plans. 

    “For example, we have previously asked councillors to update their action plans to include provisions for agricultural land use, nature restoration and targets for improvements to housing stock efficiency.”

    Carina continued, “Using Scorecards has really helped us to streamline our research, giving us a local starting point for assessing the performance of a council on issues of climate change and biodiversity loss and showing action plans for other comparable areas meaning that we can help join the dots and facilitate learnings between councils on good and bad practice. It really helps us to take an individualised approach to each council we work with, and by extension to each councillor we engage.”

    A resource for informing followers

    It’s great to see our work helping to ensure that conversations with representatives are informed and productive. And the Scorecards are useful as a resource for The Commitment’s followers, too:

    “Our Commitment Gathering team use them as an impartial resource to signpost Committers to when they want to learn more about their local council”.

    Unsurprisingly, then, they’re excited to see Climate Emergency UK’s recently-published methodology which has moved forward from scoring councils’ climate action plans, onto their actual action — and The Commitment plans to incorporate the new Scorecards into their work too, once they’re complete. “As we grow, we’ll seek to track and monitor more and more politicians, so Scorecards will be an invaluable resource for us in helping us to determine the progress that councils are making for more action on the climate and nature.” 

    Get involved

    If you’re interested in the work that The Commitment are facilitating, you might want to explore further. We asked Carina where to start.

    “The most important thing we would ask you to do is to make your Commitment. This means that you promise to vote only for politicians who work for urgent action on the climate and nature and then you tell us (and them) why you are doing this. Your story is important. 

    “After that, the second thing that we would ask you to do is to spread the word and get others to make The Commitment too. 

    “We know many people are voting with the future of the planet at the heart of their decision, but we want to make that decision count more often than just once every five years, by regularly reminding politicians how important these issues are to their voters.”

    Thanks very much to Carina for talking to us — we love to hear about this type of informed activism based on our climate data and services, and especially when they’re underpinning such a well co-ordinated campaign.

  6. CAPE is helping councils to put plans into action

    Local authorities across the UK have committed to net zero carbon emissions by a set date, and drafted the plans that show how they intend to get there – and now the really hard work has begun. With their roadmap in place, councils are beginning to translate those plans into action.

    Our partners at Climate Emergency UK are starting the process of assessing the action that councils are taking toward their carbon reduction goals – see how they’ll be doing it here.

    When you read any climate action plan, it becomes clear that the green transition touches practically every part of what councils do: from the vehicles they drive, to the policies they draft; the buildings they operate within; the food they source or the means by which they dispose of refuse.

    New ways of doing things

    A key part of a council’s transition involves reskilling both their workers and their residents, as they bring on board new, low carbon ways to tackle a multitude of daily operations. And, as every council in the country is going through much the same process, it makes sense for them to learn from one another as they do so.

    That’s where our CAPE and Climate Emergency UK’s Scorecards project can come in useful, helping councils to identify others who can share their experience or embark on a new learning process together. This means that authorities need not be entirely in the dark when implementing new ideas, and the risk of spending time, money and resources on unproven solutions is minimised.

    Reskilling a county

    Luke McCarthy, Senior Green Skills Specialist at Surrey County Council, is one person who knows this very well. As his title implies, it’s his job to oversee green job growth across Surrey, ensuring that there are ample opportunities for all in the low-carbon services sector. Employers, training providers and residents will all need to gain new skills to bring the ambitions of Surrey’s climate action plan to fruition. 

    Luke explains, “A lot of my work is in ensuring we have the right green skills provision in place to meet employers’ needs, and that local residents know about these.” 

    His role is relatively new, so his first task has been to develop a green skills strategy for Surrey, prioritising which sectors have particular needs and what the role of a council might be in meeting this.

    Finding best practice

    Luke told us how CAPE, the Climate Action Plan Explorer, and the first iteration of the Council Climate Scorecards site, which assessed councils on their plans rather than actions, have been useful in helping with these aims:

    “The sites helped me find other councils doing good stuff on skills training for residents, and I discovered some example initiatives which we can either bring to Surrey or at least learn from.”

    The Browse by Feature page on CAPE groups councils’ action plans by the areas that they are strongest in, including Green Jobs, Skills and Training, giving an overview from which it’s possible to dig in more deeply. 

    CAPE links to its sister site, Council Climate Scorecards, where each plan is given detailed marks on over 70 different requirements that go to make up a good climate action plan.

    “The question I was really interested in was Does the plan identify the training and upskilling of the workforce that is necessary to transform the local economy at the scale and pace needed?

    A tool for making connections

    When we built CAPE, we hoped it might lead to council staff opening discussions with their counterparts in other authorities — and that’s just what Luke went on to do. 

    I’ve contacted two of the three councils I identified as doing interesting things on green skills training for residents. I’ve had a call with someone from one council who was very generous with his time and sharing of information. And another contact has shared some research reports — we’re hoping to speak soon. 

    “These conversations reassured me that our current thinking on key sectors and issues aligned with their focus and areas of work! I was also able to gain insights into how they’d approached understanding the green skills requirements across different sectors.”

    Additionally, Luke says he picked up new ideas on how to promote roles in the low carbon/green economy to residents who might not be aware of them: “We are already planning to take steps to improve the provision of careers education, advice and guidance around the green economy, working with local partners including schools and careers advisors. The insights from other councils certainly speed up how quickly we will be able to develop solutions, or that we can do something of higher quality.”

     — 

    Many thanks to Luke for letting us know of the small part we’ve played in helping forge links between councils. 

    Both we at mySociety, and our partners Climate Emergency UK were delighted to hear of this type of usage of our services. We hope many more councils will use our services to share ideas and consolidate their plans as we move to a greener future.

    If you’re from a council, or perhaps have a wider interest in climate, don’t forget to check out Climate Emergency UK’s methodology for the next phase of the Scorecards project.

    Image: Chesapeake Bay Program (CC by-nc/2.0)

  7. Innovations in Climate Tech: meet the grantees

    In September we heard from inspiring speakers at our kick-off Innovations in Climate Tech event; in October, we took that inspiration and let you run with it when we hosted a series of online conversations

    And now, we’re happy to present the teams who will be taking their ideas a little further with the help of our small grants.

    We were looking for projects that could test a proof of concept or start something small but meaningful around climate in a local community. Proposals had to have at least one council on board.

    Our successful applicants are all working in very different areas, but all of them have great potential to make a difference, and we’re excited to see what emerges from their work. So, let’s take a look at the grantees:

    Lynsted Community Kitchen Garden

    LCKG logo - a drawing of a radish or maybe a turnipThis collaborative food growing project in Kent will use tech to showcase sustainable approaches to gardening, with an emphasis on adapting to a changing climate. They’ll be working with Swale Borough Council.

    Horticulture may be a new area for mySociety, but Lynsted Community Kitchen Garden made a compelling case for how they would collect data through a digital weather station, and use this information to develop adaptation methods which they could then share with other gardeners.

    Data is data and we’re excited about its potential whether it’s around our familiar areas of democracy and transparency, or in this case precipitation, hours of sunshine and temperature! When correlated with plant growth and the amounts of watering required, this project should be providing some really tangibly useful outputs.

    “We are hugely excited about using climate tech to improve the resilience of our community veg and fruit growing project to weather stress”, said LCKG. “A massive thank you to mySociety for this opportunity, and to Swale’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Officer for their support.”

    Possible

    Possible logo - the word 'possible' in white, on a hot pink background and 'inspiring climate action' below.Climate charity Possible is behind many innovative initiatives, including the Climate Perks scheme which mySociety subscribes to. For this project Possible will be working with Camden Borough Council to run feasibility studies around installing ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) in more challenging residential areas.

    GSHPs have been heralded as a more sustainable option than the gas boilers currently found in most homes. However they are installed outdoors, presenting difficulties for tower block residents, or households with limited space or funds. Air source pumps can be affixed to the exterior of buildings, but this approach can fall foul of planning laws, and they can also be noisy.

    Possible will be experimenting in Primrose Hill with a ‘shared loop’ system, in which the collector loops are installed beneath public green space to assess the technical and commercial viability of this approach. 

    “One fifth of UK households live in flats, while one quarter live in terraced houses, so the untapped potential of this approach is vast”, say Possible.

    Better Futures

    Better Futures logo - the words betetr futures with a blue/green leaf Sandwell Council will team up with Better Futures to research and scope a new project, Climate Interchange. This online database will showcase work undertaken to adapt to climate change challenges, from councils across the UK. 

    The project has the kind of user-focused approach that we heartily approve of at mySociety: it will begin with asking officers in councils across the country what they need, before creating a  searchable project database of solutions and case studies.

    “By opening up data and sharing we want to democratise climate adaptation solutions, putting actionable insights into the hands of those on the front line in communities and local government”, says Better Futures’ Rob Hale.

    There are clear parallels here with the Scorecards work our partners at Climate Emergency UK are engaged in, and we hope that the two projects will benefit one another while providing richer resources to councils and the public.

     —

    We’ll check in with our grantees to see what they achieve and what they learn along the way, so do watch this space for updates.

    With Twitter’s future uncertain, we encourage friends and followers to subscribe to our newsletters, or to use the RSS feed which you can find on the right hand side of this blog page.

    Image: Lynsted Community Kitchen Garden

  8. Notes from TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery #6: Civic tech in hostile environments

    Last week we convened the sixth and final (at least for now) online TICTeC Civic Tech Surgery, our hands-on programme for fixing some of the prevalent problems in civic tech.

    Each TICTeC Lab begins with a public discussion on one topic area affecting the civic tech community. Interested parties can then apply to take suggested ideas forward in a smaller working group, building solutions with the aid of a grant.

    This time, the discussants looked at the challenges and rewards of creating civic tech within hostile environments, from war zones to dictatorships; examined what ‘peacetech’ means and whether it can be applied more broadly; and then discussed how a small grant might best be deployed to help those working for good despite tough external factors.

    Discussants were Yolanda Booyzen, Communications Coordinator at HURIDOCS, joining us from South Africa; Julie Hawke, Digital Peacebuilding Lead at Build Up speaking from the US; and Teona Tomashvili, co-founder and Project Lead at ForSet in Georgia.

    For a high-level view, read on. We’ve attempted to capture all the ideas discussed, but if you’re keen not to miss anything, access the notes from the meeting, as well as the full recording of the session and the AI-generated transcript.

    Problems

    A summary of the issues identified during the chat and by the audience.

    • Security: Both people and information must be kept secure when working in hostile environments.
    • Practical and logisitcal problems: Stable internet connections and electricity supplies can’t be relied on; roads may be poor and organisations may need to work across large or difficult-to-reach areas; there may be language barriers.
    • Time: Issues with time expectations manifest themselves in a variety of ways; for example –
      • The documentation of atrocities may take longer than the period in which funders expect to see results;
      • Organisations may need to react more quickly to fast-changing events than tech developers are used to.
    • Socio-cultural factors:
      • Organisations have to work in hostile online environments which also foster mis- and disinformation; hate speech, algorithmic profile targeting and polarisation.
      • In the real world, they may be battling electoral fraud and a non-independent media that is under political pressure.
    • Lack of political will: Trying to run a service that is helpful to citizens, such as an Alaveteli-based FOI service, is difficult without government co-operation and this leads to a lack of open data for civic technologists to work with.

    Possible solutions

    • Create networks of grassroots organisations working in the same or similar areas, online if that is safer.
    • Make longlasting and authentic relationships with the organisations working on the ground; not just partnerships for the duration that the funding is available.
    • Base your services or software on the actual needs of the people you’re making it for. Listen to them before you begin. They might not even need software: it might be that they need connections, or training, instead. The objectives come first, before the tech.
    • Ensure that the safety of people and security of information are prioritised.
    • Build software so that it works offline for example by storing data locally on a device and allowing the user to upload it when they come back to somewhere with wifi.
    • Often the way forward is to use or repurpose existing software in new contexts. You don’t necessarily have to see yourself as a creator of ‘peacetech’ to be providing a technology that fosters peace.
    • Don’t forget that people in hostile environments need psychological support as well as technological tools. A sense of humour is also important.
    • Consider giving money to people other than ‘the usual suspects’, directly and without strings. Take more risks.

    How the grant could help

    Some ideas for spending (and administering) the grant.

    • Consult the organisations over what they really need.
    • A handbook listing ways to work and what not to do in hostile environments.
    • The organisations that need the most help are not always fluent in English. Consider providing a contact that can help them through the grant process.
    • Consider not requiring any proposals or reports, as that uses up the valuable resource of the organisations bidding for the money, and takes up some of the money you’re granting in terms of their time.

    Action lab

    Some of this discussion also took place on Padlet and you can see more ideas there.

    We are now inviting people to join the Action Lab working group, which will comprise up to six people who are keen to use this discussion to inform the group as they pin down how the grant will be spent.

    To keep an eye on this progress, and to know more about the next Surgery, see the TICTeC website or sign up for email updates.

  9. Innovations in Climate Tech: finding partnerships

    Yesterday was the second Innovations in Climate Tech event. People from councils and organisations came along and discussed all kinds of projects and ideas.

    The key question? What they might do with a small injection of money designed to kickstart digitally based, local climate related projects.

    If you’re ready to go ahead with your application, start here. Otherwise, read on.

    Projects beginning to form

    You can see all the ideas that were floated in our first meetup on our Padlet, but here are a few of the projects that emerged and appeared to be gaining the most momentum yesterday. 

    • A national knowledge sharing tool This project would seek to create a comprehensive list of what has been done digitally around Climate Adaptation, showcasing lessons learned, successes and failures. The instigators could also develop playbooks, open source tools and a knowledge sharing forum for councils and citizens. Notes here.
    • Community resilience to extreme weather events A plan to bring people together to embed community resilience, sharing information about flood risk, how to make your home more able to cope with the effect of climate change and extreme weather events. There was also a suggestion of broadening the existing community warden role to encompass community resilience issues. Notes here.
    • Adaptation gardens Showing people how they could garden in a different way to adapt to a changing climate: eg with drought resistant plants, water conservation methods, pollinator friendly plants and other eco-friendly methods. Notes here.
    • Digital toolkit for events Putting together a digital toolkit that people can use for climate-related community events, ensuring it’s accessible and reusable in lots of different situations. Notes here.

    Seen a project that you’d like to try too?

    Maybe you’re a council officer who thinks one of the ideas above would fit well within your constituency.

    Or maybe you’re a community group that could help shape the project and replicate it in your area.

    There may be an opportunity to join up with other folks working on the idea, and perhaps expanding their plans into more than one region. 

    Feel free to fill in our form and indicate that you are open to working with others on one of the existing ideas. 

    What you should know about the grants

    • You do not have to have attended either of the prior sessions to bid, but please do give consideration to what we are looking for: small, locally-based trials of projects that work with a local council at the intersection of democracy (broadly defined) and climate. A local authority must be involved in the project.
    • Need to find a partner council? Let us know and we’ll shout out on Twitter for you.
    • This is seed funding, designed to allow for testing, planning and trying new approaches; things that aren’t possible with restricted grants. So don’t worry about having a detailed plan — your application can be short and simple.
    • Applications close at 23:59 on Monday 31st October 2022. We aim to have made our decisions and awarded the grants by Monday 7th November 2022.
    • Funding will cover the period until March 31 2023  — though your project may continue onwards for as long as you like. We’ll hold a wrap-up event in spring showcasing the work to date.

    Apply now

    Ready to bid? Apply here.

  10. Making councils’ climate progress easier to understand

    We spoke to Rebecca Sawyer of Brighton Peace and Environment Centre, to discover how their ReForest Brighton project interfaces with our own CAPE and Council Climate Scorecards sites.

    As it turns out, our projects have a lot in common. Both aim to make it easier for everyone to understand and assess the progress a council is making towards cutting carbon emissions, a field where the picture can be complicated and difficult for the average person to follow. That starts with data.

    Rebecca explained, “Identifying the path to carbon neutrality is not straightforward, and the data that would enable organisations to know where they currently are on this path is very weak.”

    Visualising progress

    To address this, ReForest Brighton is developing an interactive website to show in real time the progress that each local authority has made in relation to its individual carbon neutral targets. 

    Naturally, the project began by looking at the organisation’s hometown of Brighton, which has a target of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2030. That’s just the start, though; the model is replicable for any other local authority in the UK, allowing their own carbon neutral targets and the actions determined by their climate action plans to be slotted in.  

    “The aim,” says Rebecca, “is to provide real time quality data that will enable decision making around policy and practice.

    “So for example, if it’s clear that maintaining the current level of action won’t bring a city to carbon neutrality by their set date, the council can refocus their efforts to reduce emissions and sequestrate more carbon.” 

    The ultimate target? “To make local authority councils more ambitious.”

    Carbon neutral dates

    So where do CAPE and the Scorecards site come in? As Rebecca explained, CAPE was useful mainly for a single datapoint amongst the many that it provides.

    “The main way we’ve been using it is to retrieve the carbon neutral dates of all the individual local authorities in the UK. 

    “Without this data being easily accessible it would’ve taken us a long time and lot of resources to go through more than 300 local authorities and dig out their target dates.”

    And as for the Scorecards site, this has been more of a sanity-check tool: “We used it once we’d completed our calculations, to check our ratings of each local authority against the Scorecards rating. 

    “For example, if our calculations rated a local authority with high climate action but the Scorecards had it as low, then we’d analyse and reassess our ratings.” 

    As well as the interactive map, their project will produce predictive data to show how much progress the council will have made by their target zero emissions date.

    Forecast formula

    For those who like the technical details, Rebecca is keen to oblige: “Our categorisation is based on a calculation of emission trends from 2016-2020. The trends allow us to predict where each local authority will be by the carbon neutral target date we downloaded from CAPE, using the ‘forecast’ formula (=FORECAST (x, known_ys, known_xs)). 

    “There is actually 15 years’ worth of emissions data available, but we chose this five-year period because climate action has only started becoming a consideration for local authorities in the last few years. 

    “Basically, we look at the predicted emissions on the authority’s carbon neutral date and categorise them accordingly — and if a local authority had no carbon neutral target or plans, it is automatically rated zero.”

    A knock-on effect

    ReForest Brighton wants to make it easier for the public to understand how their local authority is doing in achieving its carbon reduction targets — and they have another aim, too: 

    “We would like the public to push local governments to take faster, more effective action, and we’re planning to help them do this by giving them the means to write to their elected representatives, and to share the website with their friends and contacts.  

    “But even while hoping that councils will be making as much progress as possible, we’re also pushing for transparency. We’d even encourage an authority to push their carbon neutral target date further back if it gave a more honest picture of where they are at.”

    Brighton Peace and Environment Centre logoBrighton Peace and Environment Centre are a registered charity and they welcome volunteers: get in touch if you would like to know more.

    You can also make a donation to them, using this link.

    Image: Aaron Burden