Climate change: combatting fatalism

Groundwork’s new strategy is one for a fair and green future in which people, places and nature thrive, says Graham Duxbury.

With violent storms battering our coastlines and families already struggling to make ends meet preparing for another winter of sky-high fuel bills, the way in which our changing climate threatens our lives and livelihoods is becoming painfully clear. As these impacts begin to be felt in earnest in our communities, and as climate-related anxiety becomes more widespread, there is a growing need to combat fatalism and demonstrate positive solutions which give people both agency and hope. 

As a charity focused on helping people in disadvantaged areas and vulnerable circumstances take practical steps to improve their lives and improve the environment, Groundwork has long recognised that the financial challenges facing many people in many communities make it harder for environmental messages to ‘cut through'. Tackling the rising cost of living and adopting more sustainable behaviours are two sides of the same coin and addressing them in tandem is crucial to a just transition to a net zero and nature rich future. 

This philosophy is at the core of our new federation strategy which sets out how our network of Trusts across the UK will collaborate with councils and communities to develop and deliver solutions that help people improve their prospects, create better places and protect the planet.

Overcoming hardship and isolation

We are committed to supporting the 6.5m households experiencing fuel poverty by expanding the coverage and scope of our programmes to reduce bills and improve the quality of homes. Our Green Doctor energy advisers are working with a range of public and private partners to install practical measures in people's homes, provide energy-saving tips, and signpost to specialist services, while our growing network of green community hubs is helping people combat isolation, keep warm and grow and distribute fresh produce.

Building the green economy

Increasing the accessibility and uptake of ‘green' training and jobs is one of the most obvious ways of helping people overcome hardship while contributing to our net zero ambitions. New to Nature is helping expand the work of environmental organisations while simultaneously diversifying the sector, providing waged placements for young people with a disability or from low-income or ethnic minority backgrounds. Devolution of skills budgets and funds to support Levelling Up and Shared Prosperity give us chance to do much more of this.

Connecting with nature

For most people, the environment they most care about is the one on their doorstep, but we know how challenging it is for local authorities to maintain the green and blue infrastructure needed to make our towns and cities nature-rich and to keep us all well. We also know that those in our communities who would benefit most for nature's restorative effects are precisely those groups least likely to spend time in green spaces due to poor provision or complex social barriers. Helping more people connect with nature – and learn to look after their local environment – is an important part of addressing spiralling health and social care demand.

Responding and adapting to climate change

Prioritising green infrastructure is not just important for protecting our health and wellbeing but also for protecting our communities from extreme weather.  Natural solutions to climate change can reduce the impact of air pollution, bring respite from extreme heat and guard against flooding. Our work with councils in many areas is focused on upgrading public spaces, community buildings and homes to make them more climate-proof, and through our Communities Prepared programme we're also helping train community volunteers to support local resilience teams to respond to emergency events.

Our strategy is being launched at a time when there has never been greater pressure on local authority budgets and against a backdrop of political questioning which risks the consensus around the practical steps we need to take as a society and within our communities being undermined by divisive media commentary. Positive and practical partnership working is the only possible response - connecting people more effectively with each other and with nature and finding win-win solutions that deliver social and environmental outcomes in an integrated way.

Graham Duxbury, chief executive, Groundwork


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