A new report from researchers from the GW4 universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, and Exeter suggests that local green recovery debates need to find a way to better connect people’s concerns about the climate, inequality, and prosperity in local areas.
Their recommendations, which are informed by discussions between academics, local policy makers, activists and NGOs, suggest that engaging diverse voices from across communities is fundamental in ensuring political rhetoric about a post-pandemic, green recovery reach beyond economic concerns to bring in issues of health, inequality and care.
The researchers argue that framing ‘green recovery’ alongside an aspiration for a ‘just transition’ can provide a more effective lens through which to explore processes of change, and could help areas to understand how the impact and opportunities of green recovery varies across and between communities.
Ultimately, their analysis calls for greater community-led action as an enabler for wider system changes. It suggests the local level will be critical in creating the enabling conditions for ambitious action at the national level and the team argue that cities have the potential to create a sense of momentum towards change and mobilise collective purpose.
Nevertheless, the findings also suggest that the absence of a regional voice in the South West of Britain to engage with or link to national green recovery debates is also limiting scope for long-term, ambitious co-ordinated action.
Dr Sophia Hatzisavvidou from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies at the University of Bath explained: “What this work highlights is the need to engage more actively with various individuals and groups from particular areas when thinking about climate justice. A place-based approach to climate policy can pave the way towards broader inclusion and attention to specific societal concerns.”
Dr Jessica Britton from the University of Exeter added: “Covid resulted in many examples of community leadership, and the range and richness of this leadership and activism provides a significant resource, that has – so far – not been fully mobilised in developing and delivering a green recovery.”
The Rhetoric and Practices of Green Recovery in Cities report was funded by a GW4 Generator 2021 Award. GW4 Alliance Director Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE said GW4 is committed to building collaborative research communities at scale to tackle major regional and global challenges, such as climate change and the transition to net zero.
She said: “It’s fantastic to see GW4 Generator funding has enabled this GW4 community to deliver these important findings. As this report highlights, it’s vital to bring a broad range of stakeholders together to deliver positive and equitable change which improves societal fairness as we tackle this global crisis.”
GW4 recently launched the GW4 Climate Alliance, an interdisciplinary research consortium which aims to connect practitioners, industry, policy makers, researchers, and community groups.
The research team has produced a workshop report and a podcast that captures some of the themes and ideas discussed in the workshop; both can be accessed via the project website. The team continue to engage with local communities to deepen the analysis of their findings.