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Responding to the climate emergency – who are the key stakeholders?

The UK is currently at the forefront of this growing ‘climate emergency’ campaign as many local authorities, universities, NHS trusts and various organisations, such as engineering and energy firms, have joined the fight by declaring a climate emergency. With the goal to become carbon-neutral ahead of the 2050 national target.

Local authorities are now acting upon their climate emergency declarations by devising climate action and engagement plans and are asking the questions ‘who are the climate change stakeholders?’ and ‘where do we begin with engagement?’

The problem is the challenges created by climate change are complex and wide-ranging. Whatever changes or actions you propose, whether it is improving air quality, introducing car-free zones or congestion-charge areas, there will be different impacts on different groups. Before deciding on any actions and solutions, it is imperative to build broader public support and involve them in developing robust climate solutions.

But, who do you engage?

Arguably, we are all stakeholders in the climate crisis. But we can separate the public into different interested groups, some of which we will broadly discuss here. For those making a start on their stakeholder mapping, this will come in handy!

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change provides provisions on involving, engaging, and educating the public at national, sub-regional and regional levels. It promotes the need for public access to information and raising public awareness on climate change and its effects. It also promotes public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and developing adequate responses. These three levels of involvement provide guidance on how to involve different groups. Increasing awareness and ensuring that a broad range of perspectives are considered will increase the likely acceptability, as well as the effectiveness of any proposed actions.

We have groups that are vocal on the climate agenda. Civil society organisations and climate groups are certainly increasing their digital game and influence, making common cause with social justice campaigners. This is not new; we have seen a steady increase over the past few years. They can bridge the gap between local authorities and the wider concerned population, providing public bodies with the opportunity to engage in more direct dialogue.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, climate activists took strikes online using the hashtag #climatestrikeonline to keep the momentum going, while other climate groups protest against the government for lack of action on the climate crisis. Online activities include a series of talks and weekly ‘educational’ webinars featuring climate scientists, journalists, activists, and other experts. These are striking examples of how concerned groups play a vital role in improving the population’s access to climate information.

Although we are all stakeholders, not all are vocal or interested, or even aware of the impacts caused by climate change. Not all want to be involved in the same way. However, policymakers need to ensure they are not leaving anyone behind – this means involving groups on different levels, reaching out the those who are vulnerable and listening to underrepresented voices.

Some local authorities view residents as the primary stakeholders, and this is effectively true. But who are the secondary stakeholders?

The Paris Agreement urges governments to enhance public and private sector participation in implementing national climate objectives. Indeed, this includes businesses as ‘key’ stakeholders too. By declaring climate emergency at the local level, authorities pledged to take actions to reduce carbon emissions in their respective areas. But local authorities cannot do it alone. Therefore, it is crucial to engage businesses at the same time, which will enable them to put forward their own set of objectives and carbon-neutral goals – feeding into the city or borough-wide action plan. It is only through collective and concerted efforts of citizens, education and research centres, the public and private sector, and civil society to overcome the emergency that endangers us all.

The Institute has an Environment Working Group who can help you – whether you are a local council, a business or an industry association – to plan your public engagement around the climate emergency. Get in touch with us to have a chat with us regarding your climate strategies.

About the Author

Sheena joined the Institute at the end of 2019 as our Public Policy and Research Officer. In her evolving research-based role, Sheena will be writing articles and commentaries for our newsletter and building case studies of past and future Institute projects highlighting different sectors, pitfalls and law.

Read more about Shaheena

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