I’ve written two posts – here and here – over the last couple of months about how I’m keen to get more involved locally in tackling climate change. I’ve also outlined how the social enterprise I work for has given me a bit of time to explore a few ideas, to see where there is scope for us to get involved with things that are already happening, or set something up ourselves.
Over the last few weeks I’ve spent a bit of time each week exploring a few ideas, so with the launch of the Leeds Climate Commission this evening, I thought it was time to give another update on where we are up to.
Big picture first – talking with people, and reading up on this issue has left me more convinced than ever that this is something I want to focus on over the next few years. Whilst there are no shortage of issues to worry about in the world right now, I’m convinced that climate change is the biggest threat we face. So I’m more keen than ever to try to get involved in things locally that could make a difference.
But how do you make a difference? That’s something I’ve been thinking about a fair bit too. Rather than just concentrating on social business ideas, I’ve been thinking – what actions are most effective? When, for example, is it best to focus on lobbying politicians, or campaigning? When does it make most sense to focus on changing what you do personally – what you eat, how you get around your city, etc? When should you concentrate on teaming up with neighbours and friends to do things locally? And when might it make sense – in our case – for us to set up a new social business?
It won’t surprise you that I haven’t come to any conclusions on all of that, other than to confirm that all of the above are important! But I think it’s a useful starting point – a reminder that making progress on such a big issue will require a whole host of approaches – whether that’s at a global scale, or at the scale we’re focusing on primarily – Leeds.
That said, our Board will be expecting an update next month. So is anything emerging around the themes I explored in previous posts?
Energy remains the topic where there’s most, well, energy. Most conversations have included discussion of opportunities to generate more renewable energy locally, and to involve local people in financing this activity – through for example community shares.
Given our recent experience with Leeds Community Homes and #PeoplePoweredHomes, this is clearly an opportunity that interests us a lot. And, in summary, at the moment it’s definitely the main avenue we’re exploring. But we’ve also been given plenty of advice to tread carefully – given that the business models for community energy have become more difficult to sustain, due to reductions in incentives like Feed in Tariffs. It would have been an obvious one to explore five years ago when the policy environment was very different – but it’s a little more difficult now.
Our next steps around energy are to continue to look in more detail at other community energy schemes around the country, and also talk with Leeds City Council (we have a meeting on Monday) to see if they would be interested in partnering up with us in some way – eg on a rooftop solar scheme.
We’re also looking into insulation – in the news again this week. Given that it makes so much sense – and brings all sorts of benefits – is there more we could be doing in Leeds to insulate more homes? For example some of the empty homes social enterprises we’ve worked with have developed expertise in insulation hard-to-heat homes – could we help them to do more?
Waste remains an interesting topic too – and as I suggested in the two previous posts it’s an area where as a city we’re pretty strong, in terms of having a whole host of social enterprises turning “waste” into useful resources – including of course the Revive re-use shops at 2 household waste sites.
This is one where it feels like if there is an opportunity, it is in supporting the organisations already doing good stuff in Leeds to do more.
As I’m reminded every time I look in a skip on our street, plenty of good stuff still gets thrown away. That costs us all in a whole range of ways. How could we make it easier for more people to reuse more useful goods, instead of throwing them away? I’d be interested in chatting more with the Council and others on that one, as it’s an interesting problem to explore, around behaviour change and effective marketing.
Transport is another key theme – particularly so in a city like Leeds with public transport provision which is nowhere near good enough. Reading up on things over the last few weeks has confirmed to me that, personally, this is the particular issue that interests me most. It’s such a crucial issue for so many reasons – carbon emissions, pollution, economic growth, making the city child-friendly etc etc.
Yet, from a social business start-up perspective, opportunities are probably limited. It might be one where we focus more on lobbying and working with others to make the case for significant investment in public transport and active travel. I’ll hopefully be able to use my membership of Leeds Climate Commission to continue to get up to speed with the issues, and also influence the debate around transport in Leeds.
So that’s a quick update. There have been plenty more conversations which I haven’t got time to share now but hopefully that gives you a bit of a feel of where we’re up to. There’s a fair bit of detail for me to keep exploring over the next few weeks – to then discuss with our Board in October.
As always, we’re keen to chat with people who’d like to work with us on this – so if you’re interested in exploring how we could work together in Leeds to come up with practical ways to tackle climate change, please get in touch. And don’t forget to follow the Leeds Climate Commission launch on #LeedsClimate.