Dr Beatriz Aguirre-Martínez discusses local citizens’ responses to the net-zero challenge through Local Green New Deals, focusing on energy demand reduction measures.
A Local Green New Deal is a recovery package that strengthens jobs and skills around green technologies and innovations in a region whilst promoting social and environmental values.
It involves specific actions that promote local economic development while maintaining or enhancing quality of life through benefits such as cleaner air or improving mental health.
These measures prove particularly necessary, especially in our post-Covid period, where there is a need for new investments in jobs and skills after a significant economic contraction.
In the first part of this CREDS research, led by Dr Donal Brown, we examined the potential for Local Green New Deals in the UK. The full paper is available online.
As part of a CREDS webinar series, researchers from the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex presented the results of further research analysing local citizens’ responses to the net-zero challenge through Local Green New Deals, focusing on energy demand reduction measures from the CREDS Positive low energy futures
The case studies of this two-year project, led by Professor Tim Foxon, are two leading city-regions in the UK which are taking action to achieve net-zero goals: Greater Brighton and North of Tyne. Both regions have areas of affluence as well as areas of deprivation.
Which recovery plans to support?
How can local governments decide which green recovery plans to support, and how can these be assessed for wider social and environmental benefits? The research group ran a survey and a workshop to assess citizens’ views on how these mitigation options to reduce energy demand towards the net-zero targets could contribute to their overall well-being.
The North of Tyne and Greater Brighton survey results were surprisingly similar. After ranking 14 demand-side climate mitigation options, respondents from both regions agreed that having more affordable public transport and efficient use of energy in their households were the options that most contributed to an increase in their well-being.
Respondents also highlighted their preference for funding demand-side options: more central government funding and community municipal bonds.
In the workshop, six of the demand-side climate mitigation options from the survey results – the two highest, two from the middle band, and the two less preferred – were selected and 25 local participants rated the benefits derived from each option, in relation to six well-being criteria (two economic, two social and two environmental).
Applying a Multi-Criteria Mapping tool, developed at the University of Sussex, participants rated options in relation to these criteria and to provide a final score, weighing the importance of each one.
In Brighton, the results showed that the preferred options were affordable public transport and nature-based solutions, whilst the less favoured options were a plant-based diet and car-free zones.
In North of Tyne, results showed higher overall favourability scores for five options than in Brighton. Participants rated most highly home energy efficiency and cheap public transport, and also had favourable views of nature-based solutions, car-free zones, and active travel, whilst plant-based diets were significantly less favoured.
Local Green New Deals are arguably essential and relevant strategies that allow communities to progress after a crisis and contribute to a reduction in carbon footprint whilst delivering economic, social and environmental benefits.
Communities must decide together on which strategies to implement first and how. In prioritising different options, many factors need to come together: budgeting, listening to citizens and understanding which project has a more significant impact on well-being but also in reaching net-zero carbon goals.
This research highlights the importance of engaging with a range of citizens in local areas, not just those with the loudest voices, to uncover their views on which measures local and regional authorities should undertake to promote citizens’ well-being, benefit the environment and contribute to a community’s economic recovery.
Banner photo credit: Thomas Foster on Unsplash