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Climate Emergency Public Engagement Survey – The full report is now available to read and download

Who are you talking to? Insights into local authority engagement with the public and wider partners

This report, published by APSE Energy, summarises the results from a collaboration between APSE Energy and the Consultation Institute to understand issues, sentiment and practicalities that impact on local authorities’ engagement with the public and other local stakeholders on climate change.

We jointly circulated a survey to our members in late summer 2020 asking about their public engagement work on climate change. Around 350 local authorities were sent a short survey, and 84 responded: broadly speaking, the respondents were representative of the make-up of all local authorities.

Summary of the findings:

  • Our survey found that two-thirds of the respondents had declared a climate emergency and all, but a handful, had made some other significant commitment on climate change. However, it also revealed that less than half of the respondents could confirm that they had a climate change engagement strategy.
  • To date, the most often cited activities that authorities had carried out on this issue were things that might be characterised more accurately as “communication” rather than meaningful engagement.
  • When asked about planned future activities, there was a significantly higher number planning to use more commonly understood engagement techniques, from community meetings or conferences to workshops and webinars, polls, forums and focus groups, through to citizens assemblies or citizen juries.

  • The survey asked local authorities to specify which audiences they intended to communicate with on climate change. It was encouraging to see that the category most specified was “as many people within the local authority area as possible” followed closely by the “residents” category. This is an important issue. There are serious risks in not involving local people in important decisions affecting their local area, as we have seen recently with a backlash in a number of areas where local authorities used Government funds for new traffic calming measures without consulting local residents.
  • When asked about the external factors affecting their ability to carry out climate engagement, local authorities highlighted the “lack of national government commitment” as the most significant. On the internal factors, it was overwhelming their budget and changed financial circumstances arising from Covid-19.
  • It is widely acknowledged that local authorities have suffered severe cuts (almost 50%) to their budgets over the last decade. Engaging the public on any issue can often be expensive, but especially so on such a complex issue as the climate emergency. It is therefore not surprising that local authorities are struggling to find the resources they need to carry out this vital work.

Finally, this report includes four interesting case studies from local authorities who have begun work on engaging the public on the climate emergency. It also suggests 10 key things that authorities can do now on climate engagement. We hope that the report will help local authorities as they embark on a long-term programme of engaging the public on this critical issue.

To read and download the full report, please click here.

The Institute is working extensively on the climate emergency and broader green issues and the place of consultation and engagement in supporting new green policymaking. We have already launched our Green Recovery Engagement Service , and more is coming in the New Year. If you have any queries about our environmental service and would like to find out more, please get in touch with  Sheena Ahmed .

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