Harnessing ‘parish power’ to deliver climate action

Over one hundred representatives of Cornwall, town, and parish councils have met to discuss how residents have benefited from a decade of effective localism and to hear how Cornwall Council’s plan to tackle the climate emergency could become a template for rural areas to combat global warming.    

The Localism Summit in Wadebridge this week was hosted by Cornwall Council and focused on partnerships with grass roots communities to drive local innovation and present a stronger voice to Government.

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Council Leader Julian German said: “Today is about celebrating how well we are recognised in terms of localism, and how we can work together, not as separate individual organisations pulling in different directions, but as one entity striving to achieve a common goal.

“The world is a changing place, more than ever now because of the pressing matter of climate change. So the purpose of today is to embrace what recognised independent research is saying about us. Together we can use what we have already started to deliver this and to improve people’s lives.”

Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive of the national membership network for community organisations, Locality, gave a keynote speech on the future of localism nationally and in Cornwall.

He said: “Over 100 communities across Cornwall have had assets devolved to local ownership and 80% of parishes have local service agreements. There is significant learning in Cornwall about the changing role of local councils – and to foster the right culture, trust and relationships.

“There are more opportunities for local councils to strengthen their role in community development and their partnerships with the VCSE (Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise) organisations to enhance the opportunities for community delivery, co-production and community-led planning and decision making.”

There was also a presentation on localism opportunities for Cornwall by Sarah Mason, Chief Executive of the Cornwall Association of Local Councils.

Edwina Hannaford, Cabinet Member for climate change and neighbourhoods, introduced workshops on the benefits of localism and responding to the climate emergency challenge.

Cllr Hannaford said: “This was an uplifting event, and there was real energy in the room and some great ideas. Localism is a good fit in Cornwall because we have a history of innovation and problem-solving that starts with individuals and communities, and this has often ended up being adopted globally. For example steam power, international telecoms, and deep geothermal energy.

“Now we are turning that Cornish ‘can do’ attitude to seeking the fastest route to carbon neutrality, and we’ll succeed because of the powerful partnerships on show at this summit.”

Talks were given by Helston Climate Action Group, Chacewater Parish Council and Camelford Network Panel, all of which are drawing up climate change plans to support their communities. Delegates from town and parish councils across Cornwall discussed ways of providing leadership, support, information and governance to encourage local climate change action.

Chacewater Parish Councillor John Cavey said: “There is a huge amount of enthusiasm for tackling climate change. The reality is, it’s not all down to the Government or Cornwall Council or the parish councils or individuals. It’s a combination of everyone working together. We’ve got to do it. Everyday we’ve got one fewer day to get it done.”

Cornwall Council’s Climate Change Action Plan Carbon Neutral Cornwall has been praised as being at the forefront of the UK’s response to the climate emergency and an exemplar for other public and private sector organisations.

It has been asked to attend and present at several national events including a Clean Local Growth Innovation event in October, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Conference in November, and the innovation programme ‘Energy Catapult’ Workshop in December.

Posted on 8 November, 2019