Learnings and experience from councils on progress towards a green economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Towards the end of 2020, the LGA commissioned a development programme entitled: LGA Sector Led Improvement: Creating Local Green Jobs. The objectives were threefold:
- As the nation recovers from the devastating impact of COVID 19, the LGA wanted to support a green economic recovery at a local level;
- This in turn would help Local Authorities to play their role in achieving the UK’s goal to become carbon zero by 2050;
- The focus of the project would be on creating the green jobs that would be at the heart of this recovery.
Action Learning Sets were chosen as the vehicle through which this support was to be delivered. Action Learning is recognised as being both effective for problem solving as well as a powerful developmental tool. The work was awarded to Transitional Space consultancy.
Local Government Association Green Jobs Report
The project is grounded in a piece of research conducted by Ecuity Consulting in collaboration with the LGA. The research culminated in a report entitled: The research culminated in a report entitled: Local Green Jobs: Accelerating a sustainable economic recovery. The report suggests that the green economy is ‘booming’ and is projected to grow at a rate of 11 per cent a year between now and 2030 compared to 1-2 per cent across the economy as a whole. In 2018 the green economy employed approximately 185,000 people. By 2030 this is set to rise to 694,000 and to 1.18 million by 2050.
Action Learnings Sets – phase one
Action Learning (AL) is based on the principle that the individual is best placed to address the challenges and problems that they face, but that by asking powerful questions, other Set members can provide new insights and perspectives.
Following a familiarisation day on 4 February 2021, five Action Learning Sets (ALS) were created from a cohort of seventeen officers and eight members. The programme includes four Action Learning sessions for each ALS over a four-month period. ALS members were invited to bring a challenge to the first session which was linked to local green economic recovery and local green job creation. This blog summarises the findings from phase one.
Types of challenges
The breadth of challenges brought to the ALSs were varied, ranging from specific issues such as tree planting, retrofitting houses and buildings and town centre regeneration, to broader issues such as how green assets can benefit the local economy, understanding what green growth means and how it can be achieved. A sample of the other challenges are listed below:
- Developing a sustainable economic development strategy
- Building the infrastructure for sustainable economic growth
- Building capacity to support green economic development
- Raising business awareness of climate change and opportunities linked to it
- Engaging with and encouraging businesses across the authority to decarbonise
- Creating a low carbon tourist destination
Overall, retrofitting; working with businesses to both reduce carbon and build capacity; and developing a green economic strategy were the most common issues, being mentioned by over half of the cohort.
It is clear that this is just the beginning of a process. As a result of the first round of action learning sets there have already been many first steps across authorities and the programme is beginning to lay the foundations over the next four months for green jobs creation. The programme is aiming to support councils through tricky challenges, providing an opportunity to reflect, begin to build capability and capacity, and to start to catalyse partnerships. Because of the complex nature of some of the challenges an iterative process is called for – for example, working with businesses to focus on green jobs requires that employees with the new skills will be available in the labour market, which will require colleges and universities to be offering those courses.
Learnings from phase one
The following commonalities and themes emerged either during the sessions or from written submissions from the Set members following a period of reflection after the ALS sessions.
Theme one – building understanding of the climate crisis and defining terms
Concerns about levels of understanding of the climate crisis and how terms are being defined were raised during discussions. Ensuring that everyone has the necessary baseline of knowledge to address the challenges that they face as well as ensuring that terms are carefully defined is therefore an important starting point. What is the evidence for and the science that underpins climate change? What are the broader environmental challenges being faced by humanity? How are we defining green economic growth?
To address some of these questions, we circulated video links for Ted talks by Johan Rockstrom from the Stockholm Centre for Resilience. e also circulated important reports on the degradation of bio-diversity and eco-systems:
Definition of green economic growth
For the purposes of this project, green economic growth is aligned with the UK Government’s view that the low-carbon and renewable energy economy consists of the following industries, low-carbon and renewable energy economy sectors, and key sub-sectors:
- Low-carbon electricity
- Wind power, solar PV, hydropower, nuclear, CCS 2.
- Low-carbon heat
-Renewable heat, heat networks and CHP
- Alternative fuel
- Bioenergy and hydrogen production
- Energy efficient products
- Insulation, lighting, monitoring and control systems
- Low-carbon services
- Low-carbon financial, IT, and advisory services
- Low-emission vehicles & infrastructure
- Low-emission vehicles & infrastructure, fuel cells and energy storage systems
(Local Green Jobs report)
Theme two – scope, targets and measurement
The second theme that has emerged from phase one is how to scope and measure the challenges being considered. Several of the ALS members reported that a key learning from the questioning they received was the need to refine their challenge, to break it down into manageable aims and objectives and to identify an ‘achievable [objective] for the purpose of the ALS’ over the next four months. The components of this theme (ie scope, targets, measurement) naturally sit within the remit of a green economic strategy, identified by a number of set members as the primary focus of their challenge.
There are several appropriate strategic models that are freely available (see Friends of the Earth and Arup). We have personal experience of using the One Planet Living framework developed by Bio-regional, which we can recommend as a strategic planning tool for a broader sustainability strategy.
Not only will LAs need to measure progress being made against the challenges that they have identified, but they will also need to become proficient at measuring carbon emissions.
The LGA in partnership with Local Partnerships developed the Green House Gas Accounting Tool for the measurement of the LAs own carbon emissions.
Giki Zero is a funky site covering similar territory from a lifestyle perspective.
https://scattercities.com/ is a must use resource for all local authorities. “SCATTER is a local authority focused emissions tool, built to help create low-carbon local authorities. SCATTER provides local authorities and city regions with the opportunity to standardise their greenhouse gas reporting and align to international frameworks, including the setting of targets in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. It is available free of charge to all local authorities in the UK.”
Theme three – building relationships with stakeholders
In all the officer and member action learning sets the multiplicity of stakeholders and how to engage with them was a consistent theme. Nearly all, if not all, of the challenges required a plan for stakeholder identification, stakeholder mapping and stakeholder engagement.
Some of the key questions posed were;
- Do we need cross party support and, if so, how do we achieve it?
- How can we work effectively in partnership with other councils – districts and county or neighbouring authorities?
- How do we engage with businesses on our sustainable economic strategies and climate agendas?
- Do we know what the needs of businesses are and do they know ours?
- How are we collecting the views of and engaging with our citizens?
- How do we work with Universities and Further Education Colleges on innovation and skills training alongside working with local businesses to increase capacity and capability?
- How do we ensure Local Enterprise Partnerships have sustainability at the front and centre of their agendas?
- How do we raise awareness and engage the private rented sector and owner-occupiers as well as social housing and tenants?
It is generally accepted that the complexity, all-consuming nature and urgency of the climate crisis necessitates a collaborative approach where interested parties must work in partnership with each other. Phase One of the AL process made it clear that little can be changed without the support of stakeholders such as colleagues, neighbouring councils, colleges, schools, businesses and perhaps most importantly the local community. Not only do LAs need to work with these stakeholder groups, but in sitting at the heart of local communities LAs can play a critical role in building networks and facilitating the change needed.
The Action Learning process
ALS members were also asked to reflect on their learnings from the AL process itself. The feedback we have received thus far suggests that participants see AL as a powerful tool for personal growth and development as well as a tool for addressing complex problems. A sample of the comments are summarised below:
AL is a great opportunity for:
- reflection and collaborative learning;
- enabling other people to help shape and challenge one’s own ideas;
- testing one’s assumptions;
- offering new perspectives and opening minds;
- providing focus when needed;
- seeing the commonality and interconnectedness of the challenges they are all facing be it tackling the climate emergency, working on a green recovery or building capacity and capability for green jobs; and
- providing the sector with an opportunity for collaborative working and learning from each other.
- Ensure all stakeholders are on the map (and check who is missing!);
- Segment the stakeholder groups e.g. business leaders who are advocates, don’t knows, sceptics, etc);
- Build engagement strategies for each segment. This will involve strategies for developing awareness; educating where necessary; connecting like minded people and organisations; partnering across the three sectors; convening meetings of relevant bodies and interest groups.
In walking the talk individual officers and members need to:
- Know their own carbon footprint and how they are planning to reduce it;
- Know their authority’s carbon footprint and have a published action plan to reach net zero; and
- Know their area’s carbon emissions and be demonstrating collaboratively how they plan to reach net zero.
Mike Green & Helen Stride, Transitional Space
18 March 2021