Forget What You Think You Know... about climate action

In this episode, one of our NGDP graduates, Katie Goodger, explores what is needed to fulfil the COP26 Glasgow Pact and what else could have been added so communities could go further and faster on climate action.

Forget What You Think You Know

Episode 7: Climate action

In this episode, Katie Goodger explores what was agreed at COP26 in Glasgow, what is needed to fulfil the Glasgow Pact and what else could have been added so communities could go further and faster on climate action. The podcast also explores the important need for diverse leadership when it comes to tackling climate change, and why it is vital every level of government plays a role in tackling climate change. Speakers include: Corinne Le Quere, a Royal Society Research Professor of Climate Change Science; Cllr Pippa Heylings, Deputy Chair of the LGA’s Environment, Housing and Transport Board; and Olivia Sweeney, from Black and Green Ambassadors.

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<Katie Goodger> 

Hello and welcome to this episode of the Forget What You Think You Know podcast. I’m Katie Goodger, [add job title] at the Local Government Association and in my role have been focusing on climate change. 


I recently attended COP26 in Glasgow. COP26 was the 26th annual summit which brought together almost every country on the earth to discuss how collectively we can tackle climate change. At this year’s event, hundreds of organisations, governments, and businesses attended to put forward their case for how best to tackle climate change. From these discussions agreements are usually formed between countries for the best route forward. Although not legally binding, countries pledge what actions they will take to tackle climate change.  


The COP26 negotiations went through various talks and the countries involved eventually came to an agreement on how best to tackle climate change. The agreement saw a pledge to further cut emissions of carbon dioxide, a plan to reduce use of coal, although this was watered down, and a pledge to increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change. 

In this episode I want to learn a bit more about the Glasgow agreement and what this means for us here in the UK. I want to find out what should happen to achieve the goals in the agreement and what work needs to happen between national and local government to help us all make a change. 


It’s time to Forget What You Think You Know about climate action… 


Corrine intro 


I start on my journey by speaking with Corrine LeQuere, a Royal Society Research Professor of Climate Change Science at the University of East Anglia. Corrine is a member of the UK Climate Change Committee, an independent committee that provides evidence-based advice to inform the Government’s response to climate change. I wanted to find out what her years of research on climate change has found and what she thinks about the Glasgow Agreement that was made at COP26. 


Corrine LeQuere section 


Hi Corinne, thanks for joining me on the podcast today. So you have been studying climate change for a while now. In your years of studying what has been happening to our planet and has it been worrying you at all? 
<v Katharine Goodger>So and in your years of studying climate change what's been happening to our planet, and has it been worrying you at all? 

<v Corinne Le Quere > Yeah, I mean it it there has been incredible changes in the climate in the last 30 years or so since I've myself personally looked at the evolution of the planet we've seen. I mean, the warming is really, really obvious. Warming of the planet. We've had over 1 degree Celsius warming so far, and that's and it's actually on a planetary terms. It's an enormous amount of warming. It's a little bit like if you have a fever of 1 degree, so everything is out of balance in your body because that's not your body temperature. 

<v Corinne Le Quere> And it's the same with the planet, so we see their changes in all aspects of the environment that the water cycle sea level we see in the biosphere changes there. You've all seen the extreme heat repeated extreme heat records, including everything that comes with it. 

<v Corinne Le Quere > And including wildfires so 

<v Corinne Le Quere> And it's really, really worrying to see the scale of the changes and the and the speed at which the climate is evolving at the moment 

<v Katharine Goodger>Are you pleased with the agreements that have come out of COP 26 and what do you think the future might hold? 

<v Corinne Le Quere> Yeah, I'm I'm very reassured with the agreement that came out of COP 26. I think it's as strong as I could have possibly hoped for before going into COP. It's not enough. It's really the starting point of action that needs to now scale up 

<v Corinne Le Quere> Uh, but much more rapidly, much more at scale with the with 

<v Corinne Le Quere> The challenge itself 

<v Katharine Goodger>Yeah, yeah, it's definitely. It's just sort of the start and then we're looking at right now. Is there anything that you think they specifically missed or that needs to be done to tackle climate change? They did in the tool mention? 

<v Corinne Le Quere >And there there there is the realization that the action in the next few years are not enough, that one of the problems of the COP 26 agreement is that a lot of the action that countries brought to the table are pushed back beyond 2030, and that is too late is way too late. 

<v Corinne Le Quere >And the COP agreement has put in place a new timeline accelerated timeline to encourage countries to come with stronger targets already next year. And this is absolutely essential, and it means for countries like the UK, where we already have policies in place to tackle climate change, it means to be more ambitious to accelerate action to really make sure that things work, that all the sectors of the economy. 

<v Corinne Le Quere >Particularly transport, which is a big sticking point at the moment, all the sectors of the economy move into low carbon renewable energy and out of fossil fuels. 

<v Katharine Goodger>I'm looking at this global action. More specifically, can you tell us why climate action is important at an individual level? A local level and a global level? 


<v Corinne Le Quere>So the the what causes climate change is the sum of the greenhouse gas emissions that are put in the atmosphere by all the country. So once the greenhouse gases are in the atmosphere then they become mix and it doesn't matter where they come from, they just build up and add up and cause further warming and therefore everybody has a contribution to make these contributions needs to be guided. 

<v Corinne Le Quere> By international agreements like the Glasgow Climate Pact, that was just agreed, but once the global agreement is in place, then it's up to the countries to put in place mechanisms to to to to just put that all in motion. And it's the local level who in fact delivers the action at the end and that helps to guide citizens and businesses in the local area. 

<v Corinne Le Quere> To deliver so everybody has a role to play. The Glasgow packed is really the framework, but the implementation is very much happening locally 

<v Katharine Goodger>And is there anything you would recommend as individuals and in our local areas that we can do sort of now to get started on this? 

<v Corinne Le Quere >Yeah, absolutely so to to accompany individuals. I mean most people I would say I want to do good and it's facilitated when Council can offer options. So there's a essentially there's a few things that councils can do. The biggest hurdle at the moment or one of the biggest hurdle is really transport. So working to reduce car journeys or to encourage people to. 

<v Corinne Le Quere >buy and use electric cars by putting charging points by encouraging as much as possible. For example, encouraging. 

<v Corinne Le Quere >But the traffic to be as as low as possible and and and giving perks to people driving with electric vehicle local transport I mentioned and encouraging active transports in Cities. So that's essentially walking and cycling by making it safe to do so. 


<v Katharine Goodger>Yeah, you mentioned quite a lot of different projects and strategies that can be used there for, you know, energy, transport food. Are there any specific innovative climate action projects or approaches that you see? 

<v Corinne Le Quere>Manchester has been really quite proactive. I think it's a leading area in tackling climate change. They've had a net zero objective for awhile now, but they've not only had the objective, but of course they have put a plan and they have started implementing a very ambitious local public transport system that has been really forward thinking. 


<v Corinne Le Quere>In trying to reduce the emissions from transport, I think that's probably the region one of the regions that is most advanced in the UK. 


<v Katharine Goodger>And overall, as individuals in our local areas and globally, can we solve climate change and if so, what's the answer to solving it? 


<v Corinne Le Quere>I mean, individuals can certainly make a very substantial contribution by looking at how we transport ourselves, our homes, heating our homes, and what we eat. Ultimately, though, it is the government that needs to set the direction of travel that needs to make it possible. Make it affordable for individuals to make their contribution so it's not one or the other. The role of government is. 


<v Corinne Le Quere>Actually absolutely crucial. And then the individuals can make it as big a contribution as as as appropriate.  

<Katie Goodger> 

So it sounds like we all have a role to play in tackling climate change but we must act now if we are to have any chance of saving the planet. One of the things Corrine spoke about was the importance of a local approach to climate issues and how local government can play a leading role in tackling climate change. Whilst I was at COP26 I heard this argument from a number of speakers, including Cllr Pippa Heylings, a representative for the Local Government Association. She made the case for the role of multi-level action and local governments around the world to be recognised in the Glasgow Agreement. This was inserted in the agreement in the final draft, and was a huge win for local government and all those involved in campaigning for it. 


I wanted to find out why it was vital local government was recognised, what councils in England are currently doing around climate change and what role they can play going forward to help us reach net zero. 


<v Katharine Goodger>Hi and welcome Councillor Pippa Heylings.  



<v Katharine Goodger>And why are you interested in climate change and environmental issues specifically? 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>I went out and volunteered when I was in my early 20s and as a teacher, teacher, trainer and I went out to East Africa and what I found there was how. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>How much people really really depend on on the natural resources that are around them and that was, you know, in in an island. I was on the Zanzi bar island, so that was on the at the fish is and the coral reefs that were there but also on the the trees for firewood for protection. For shade. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>Uhm, far more than than we're used to being connected to to nature and wild things, but I also then began to see the climate impacts hitting up people living in countries in Africa and then in South America and seeing crops being damaged year after year by hurricanes, and people unable to really get out of that poverty trap. Because of these, you know, extreme weather events and also the flash floods that gave. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>People so little time to be able to save any of their belongings, and you know, and their families from those flash floods. UM, so just destroying things around them and even the slow events, which you know, I've worked with many countries that are small islands and the sea level rise has been affecting them. For you know, over 1015 years now and there are towns and villages on those coastal areas that are being eaten up. As the sea comes closer and closer. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>So it's. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>For me, that was a real wake up call to see that the climate change is happening is having huge impacts on people even though here in in the UK we hadn't really started to feel it yet. 


<v Katharine Goodger>And you were able to attend COP 26 in Glasgow a few weeks ago and represented both the LGA and Councils across different countries internationally. What was your main takeaway from this event? 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>I think like many that we didn't get everything that we were really hoping for. A mean, you know. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>The fact that we needed to have much, much stronger pledges from those countries that are polluting the atmosphere more with carbon emissions. We needed that more, UM, but actually. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>It was better than I was expecting. If we think that just couple of years ago with Trump in power in the US, completely pulled out of the climate change negotiations, pulling out of international multilateralism and for solving things you know climate change is a global problem that needs us to act globally together. And this is the first time we've tried to do this with over, you know, nearly 200 countries agreeing a collective responsibility, and that did keep on track. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>And the the trust is still there to come back to the table. And I think there was enough that was agreed at Glasgow to give us the confidence that we can bring that temperature down. 


<v Katharine Goodger>And that was recognition. And towards the end of the conference, with the importance of local and regional governments and of the urgent need of my multilevel and Co. Operative action in addressing and responding to climate change. And do you think the agreement made in Glasgow goes far enough to tackle climate change and gives enough recognition to those in local government roles? 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>So it was the first time ever in Glasgow for there to be talk of phasing out of phasing down of fossil fuels. And even though what we needed was those to stop, you know as soon as possible that was huge. It's a huge tipping point. There were also agreements on on halting deforestation by 2030, and one of the biggest ones was bringing methane into agreements and looking at halt, you know, stopping the production of meeting emissions again by 2030? 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>These were huge agreements. What we've got to see now is that they come into each of the national climate pledges and the biggest agreement was that we can't wait every five years for checking on whether each of the countries are doing what they've promised. But it's agreed that they come back each year. So next year, countries will come and show whether or not they have implemented these big agreements that everybody announced and to also increase the ambition. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>At the moment, if you add them all up, we're looking between 1.8 and 2.4 degrees of global warming. If we add up all of those climate pledges made up, if they were implemented, that still doesn't keep us down between 1.5 degrees of global warming, which is what we need, and so it's really important that everybody had the trust and confidence that this can work. That will come back next year at COP 27 and try again to bring those even further down. Now in terms of. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>Local government, we were really, really concerned at the beginning of the Glasgow Summit meeting because there'd be no mention of local government whatsoever and we absolutely, you know, know that you need to involve local government and all levels of government in bringing down and meeting our net zero goals because. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>A third of the carbon emissions, for example in the UK. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>They are generated and managed at local level and that's through heating and transport in particular, and land use management and so to try and do that without any mention of empowering local government would have been crazy and that's why you know I was so happy to be able to have the opportunity to be at COP 26 and be part of the body representing all of councils in England and Wales. 


<v Katharine Goodger>And at cop 26 you mentioned about now the recognition of nature and how that works, sort of jointly with climate change, with the climate to address different climate change issues. Could you expand on that a little? 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>Yes, so perhaps first would say is, you know, as a result of our advocacy at you know, at COP 26 we managed to talk to many, many countries that do recognize the importance of local government and we were able to get enough governments to put on the table. The fact that we need to explicitly talk about how important local action and local climate action in local government climate action is. The final Glasgow agreement</v> 


does include the importance of local government in that packed so that that was a key win by by all of us acting together within the the global local and regional government constituency. So that was really, really important thing to to achieve. and within that we are looking at nature based solutions. So COP 26 was the first time that the climate negotiations and the nature negotiations recognize that they're inextricably linked. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>That biodiversity and nature and wildlife will be massively impact by climate change, but also that nature based solutions can help us to address the climate shocks. So for example, you know heavy flooding, you know we know will be one of the big big impacts of climate change on our country, but we can manage the land so that it can absorb this additional rainfall coming through, and it acts like a sponge. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>We can only do that if we're planning properly and we're not building and concreting over the land that can act as that sponge to manage it flooding and or in other areas. We've got drought and drought and heat waves will be another of the climate shocks, so using land naturally to be able to capture rainfall and let it drip slowly and fill up our groundwater aquifers is a way for addressing the drought as well. And uh, fortunately, we've just not been doing this. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>Up until now, so COP 26 was a way of saying we must work together around issues for nature conservation as well as climate change. 

<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>And management these are. These are inextricably linked. The climate and ecological emergencies. 


<v Katharine Goodger>Wonderful, some really interesting points there. And what do you see as the priority area around climate action for local government to tackle? 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>Yeah, so one of the biggest emissions in housing is around heating in housing and that can only be managed locally. So we could look at transport. Now a lot of our reduction in emissions, making it possible for us to, you know. Look at the ambitious net zero target we have is because we've been able to decarbonize the grid, and there's been a lot of that as D help decarbonize the transport situation, but. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>Heating and housing is something that can only be managed at the local level, and that's around new housing, and that's enabling local authorities to set the highest standards possible for energy efficiency so that we don't have the new houses that are built that are leaking energy. So we may have the ability to generate clean green energy for those houses, but if if they're not built with the right fabric. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>And insulated properly, then we're just going to have to pay to retrofit and insulate them at a later stage to stop them leaking emissions. So we need local authorities to be able to build them to the highest energy efficiency standards to demand that of developers, and to make sure that Council and social housing is of that, UM, zero carbon standard. But the other part is even bigger, and that's existing housing and local authorities can play a huge role. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>In enabling the state funding that's needed to be able to do a massive insulation of social housing Council housing, but also private rental housing helping householders to better insulate their homes, that's one key key way that we can do it. Another key way is is not just about reducing the emissions, it's about local authorities being on the frontline to deal with climate impacts and look after communities. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>Now we've seen how important local authorities are during COVID and during lockdown and helping to support community groups to look after neighborhoods with prescriptions with food supplies with vulnerable people. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>So that same role is a critical humanitarian role as well. When we have flooding incidents and when we have heat wave incidents and we need to be able to support communities. And once again it's local authorities that would need to have their adaptation and emergency planning working together with parish councils and local communities. So that's a key area that isn't yet happening and needs to happen. 


<v Cllr Pippa Heylings (Guest)>Quite quickly. 



<Katie Goodger> 
It sounds like local government can play a huge part in tackling climate change and are already getting on with the job at hand but its not just down to them. Councils need to work in partnership with local businesses, groups and residents to reach net zero. Everyone has a role to play. But how can we ensure that everyone gets involved and has their say? A big issue that kept coming up at COP26 was the importance of including every voice from the local community in climate change discussions and the need for diversity in leadership on climate. It got me thinking, are diverse audiences being listened to and are we doing enough to encourage it? I caught up with Olivia Sweeney from Black and Green Ambassadors to hear more about this. 



<v Katharine Goodger>Say hi Livia, thank you for taking some time to speak with us today. Could you tell us a little bit about your work and black and green ambassadors? 


<v Olivia Sweeney>Yes, thank you for having me so black and green ambassadors is a Bristol based initiative and and it was started in 2015. 2016 is a response to the city being awarded European Green Capital and there was this feeling that even though that that was a great thing for the city and for the people within the city, it was still the same kind of people when the same communities that were being made that be celebrated or funded or interest included in the conversations around. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>Uhm, what European green capital should look like and and how? 
<v Olivia Sweeney>How to shape the future around a green city. So it fell was felt that particularly the black community were being excluded from those conversations, so the seeds of black and green ambassadors were started there, so there was a pilot year straight after that. But myself Roy Anicia with the first year of the official, the National Lottery funded proper version of the project, and it's all about leading, connecting and celebrating diverse Community Action for the environment. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>While challenging perceptions and creating opportunities within leadership spaces and traditionally quite exclusive spaces as well. So we have Community Action, research or community projects that we run out of our own interest. So I focused on clean air and we have a radio show. So the project is supported by two partners who Jemma Radio, which is a black community radio station. So we have a monthly radio show on there. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>Where we chat about all things environmental and and the other partner is Bristol Green Capital Partnership. That's that more traditional environmental sector. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>So we have a community projects. We have our radio station, and then we're kind of given leadership, development and opportunities. So we sit on boards and steering groups and funding panels to try and shift the conversation from that side. So it's very much top down and bottom up approach at the same time, so yeah. 
<v Katharine Goodger>Well, it sounds like you get involved in so many different things and. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>Yeah. 
<v Katharine Goodger>We've had enough and we do hear a lot about the need for diversity and leadership in the fight against climate change. Can you tell us a little about the benefits of this will bring? And why is needed? 
<v Olivia Sweeney>Yeah, so I think, uh, we generally diversity and all leadership. It is a positive there's a lot of kind of I can't quote them now, but there's a lot of statistics and research around. Wide diversity is good in organisations from a resilience perspective. May that be financial or just longevity as an organization. And so although still apply. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>They come to to the climate sector or the environmental sector, I think, particularly for climate change, it's disproportionately the black and brown community. May that be in the UK or on a global scale that are being impacted by the effects of climate change right now? And to a more severe level? So if you're excluding people who are actually being affected by the the issues right now, how you gonna build a solution that works? 
<v Olivia Sweeney>And also the scale of chained needs to be really fast in order to adapt to adapt to the climate change that we're already seeing. And also you know meet that 1.5 degree or hopefully better targets. So initially have everybody on board the rate of change is not going to be quick enough. I think another reason why it's important is. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>You know, we've tried something. We're not everyone's included in the conversation of the decisions that it didn't work, and we're here. So what's the point in, you know, doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome? I would say maybe. Not everyone would see it that way, but you know, you would have got to this place because it has been largely white men with decision making power. And if we're going to have something different, we need to include, and I said prioritize marginalized voices. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>In whatever green future we're building, so I think I think it's vital from that perspective, and I had another reason, UM, and finally again, this links back to my first point. Kind of the practical side of things is not everyone knows everything. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>People are kind of arrogant enough to pretend they do, but I'm not saying just because I'm black, that I have all of the answers. I'm just saying I'm bringing a different version or a different sector. Uh, idea of the answers together. So if you're going to build a solution that's kind of. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>That's gonna work. That's not gonna fall out the second or third hurdle. You just need as many voices in there as possible and ideas because you know no one person, no one group is going to think of everything. The whole point is that you're putting putting that all together to make it to make it work. So yeah, that's kind of a lot of reasons. 
<v Katharine Goodger>I'm with all those reasons. Councils surely have a huge role to play in ensuring that diverse voices and those who are seldom heard in communities and our head in the climate debate. How can councils go about doing this? 
<v Olivia Sweeney>I think councils and so I think local councils are really important. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>They sometimes I feel like local councils that I always a bit like this and I was trying something which is the local council. Doesn't matter what power do they actually have, but now I think that it is. They take a really important role because they're they're a link there have more power than me as a citizen as an individual, but your local so you have that local contacts that aren't context understanding and the link 2 power. Or may that be national? Or may that be global? 
<v Olivia Sweeney>Uh, and but yet you are part of the system, so your structures and the you're all the systematic stuff that happens on a UK national scale is going to be part of what a local council is, but in some ways you have. I feel like a little bit more or Tommy and a little bit more scope to make changes where maybe national politics can't. So, uh, you could be more reflective of the people that you serve, and I think what Bristol is doing this isn't black and green but. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>Bristol. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>Has got a long way with racial equity within within the City Council. You know, local councils hire a lot of people. It's not just about the politicians within that space. It's also about all the other jobs that local councils create. And if you start with May that be gender equity or racial equity in that space, it kind of filters out and it sets a precedent and it sets a precedent for other organizations and businesses within that counselor that you know. This is how it can be done. It's a blueprint. We're not seeing it from. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>National central power, but you can show the businesses that you have and the organizations that you have that it can be done and that and that trickles down. And I like I said. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>The local of local councils is really important because it's it's confirmed and feel relevant and understandable to people. Climate change is much more mainstream and understandable, and those conversations are much more part of more peoples day-to-day lives, but they're not part of everyone's day to day life and everyones understanding and and because you've got that local context, then that local understanding and that history with with people you are able to provide that I think relatable miss. 
<v Olivia Sweeney>Of what climate change is and the power to do things. So I'm not about individual change. I don't think that's going to solve it, but it is really important that people feel engaged and like they have power to make the change. So local councils are really important in that may that be telling people what they can do or listening to what they say. And I know you can't enact everything but actually taking the time to listen and and try things out and not just dismissed from the beginning. 





<Katie Goodger> 

From my conversations today I have learned so much about climate action and what needs to happen next in order to fulfil the UK’s side of the COP26 Glasgow Agreement. 


What shone through most for me today was how important it is for national and local government to work together to help enact moves towards a more climate friendly society, and the need for everyone to be included in those discussions and actions. The changes we make to tackle climate change must work for everyone, and local councils, working with their residents have a vital role in ensuring this happens. The only way we can effectively tackle climate change is through everyone pulling together and working as one. 


Until next time, I’m Katie Goodger and I hope this has helped you, to forget what you think you know about climate action.    


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