Published on July 31, 2014

Can you hear me? Citizens, Climate Change & Open Local Government

By Houda Davis

Houda Davis is a Research Assistant at Involve interested in participation in health, the environment and science and technology.

 

Citizens climate change and open local governmentIn this new publication Involve looks at how local authorities are engaging citizens on climate change, energy futures and sustainable living. It explores how an open government approach might lead to improved governance of these complex issues.

Each year disasters related to weather and climate claim thousands of lives and result in significant economic losses globally. A new report from the World Meteorological Organisation clearly highlights the devastating impacts of flooding, storms and extreme temperatures which have increased in frequency and severity over the last three decades. Earlier this year the Somerset Levels became one of the UK’s first climate change front-lines, serving as a poignant reminder that urgent steps need to be taken to make our communities more resilient. The UK also faces a significant challenge to reduce carbon emissions to meet legally binding targets. This will require major changes in our energy supply and usage, with difficult decisions needed on nuclear, fracking and large-scale renewable infrastructure.

Climate change presents a ‘wicked’ policy problem – it is highly complex and controversial. Both local and national government (and indeed international governance structures) seem to struggle to make the changes required. Some people think the answer lies in better communications which more closely resonates with the public – will this be enough to change peoples’ behaviour and promote public acceptance of major infrastructural changes?

Involve believes that communication alone is not sufficient to deal with the complexity of challenges we face today. In this short report on how local authorities are engaging citizens on climate change, energy futures and sustainable living , we explore the extent to which greater citizen engagement as part of a wider system of open governance – in particular greater transparency and more effective accountability mechanisms – could lead to more effective action on climate change.

It argues that the local level is crucial in dealing with the direct impacts of climate change and energy challenges; councils are community leaders, they play a vital role in shaping and maintaining local infrastructure, brokering partnerships to support the development of the green economy and are responsible for looking after the health and wellbeing of local communities. This report builds evidence through the use of practical examples and draws on ideas from the international open government movement. The report goes on to develop a set of core ideas as to how open government principles could help local government rethink the way it deals with complex climate-related issues.

You can download the publication here: Involve_Climate Change and Open Local Government

If you have any questions or comments, please contact Clive Mitchell at clive@involve.org.uk. 

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