How can we harness ‘the year of COP26’ for community energy?

COP26 is about ambition and delivery sufficient to deliver the Paris 1.5℃ goals. 

The UK government has a huge focus on delivering a successful COP26. It has sought to lead the way, committing to ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution of 78% carbon reductions over 1990 levels. However, its plan to deliver this is way off course. The Climate Change Committee has repeatedly warned, ”It will not be possible to get close to meeting a net-zero target without engaging with people or by pursuing an approach that focuses only on supply-side changes”.

Current climate and recovery policy mostly focuses on big-cheque, business-focused, supply-side investment with nothing to support or stimulate collective action at individual or community or social business level. This is a potentially fatal flaw in the UK's 'world-leading' policies for COP26. We can and must exploit the focus on COP and climate action, to get government recognition and support for community energy as essential to achieving net zero. At the same time, we should work to mobilise as many as possible in our communities to take individual and community action.

Get involved with COP26

CEE can’t do the government lobbying alone. We need our members (and their elected representatives) to join the campaign. There are 267 MPs with community energy in their patch - we want them all as community energy champions. We will continue to reaching out to specific groups with particularly useful MPs to help you ‘harness’ them for our cause.

At our Spring Conference, panelists and members came up with great suggestions for action in the year of COP which I incorporate in the list of actions below that you and your group can take. Natalie Bennett said: Talk about the benefits; Steve Shaw said: Tell great stories, spread the word, locally and make sure your councillors hear about the benefits including the ‘knock-on benefits’. Ask politicians for something specific eg support the Local Electricity Bill. Syed Ahmed said: Help create a vision for the local area. Build partnerships and links.

Make your MP a community energy champion! (see here for draft letter etc)

  1. Invite them to visit your project, celebrate success, cut a ribbon...
  2. Film it (a guided tour?). Take good photographs, press release, write a blog. Share them with the MP. Do social media and tag the MP. Supply good news stories with benefits that have been felt by constituents, with testimonials. Aim to get into their constituency newsletter, be the photograph at the top of their Facebook page/website.
  3. Ask them to do stuff for you. Support the Local Electricity Bill. Mention your project in relevant debates. Ask parliamentary questions, write to ministers urging support for CE…
  4. Use the House of Lords! See Baroness Bennett’s article about how the HoL is now the ‘centre of resistance’ in government. Suggest questions to CEE for her to ask.

Build relations with your local authority and in your area. In the absence of central government support, local government may be able to enable projects, through funding, investment, opportunities, connections, contracts, Local Area Energy Planning... Three London boroughs have set up Community Energy Funds. 74% of councils have made Climate Emergency Declarations and are employing new officers to carry out emerging Climate Emergency Plans. There may be contract to be had, roofs to access, Local Area Energy Planning to participate in… Councillors also need connecting with to lead political change and keep energy and climate change high up the agenda.

Use COP year as an excuse to do more community outreach. If you get new volunteers harness them in the above and doing more community outreach if you don’t have investable projects at present!

  1. Raise awareness of and celebrate your achievements to date. Publicise widely and make sure your politicians know about it.
  2. Film a virtual guided tour (with your MP?) for use during Community Energy Fortnight and beyond (including Great Big Green Week 18-26 September)
  3. Get young people to do TikTok videos of your project, with vox pops.
  4. Produce leaflets/fliers - more highly valued by GenZ even than Instagram apparently!
  5. Do local events that are useful and visible - energy advice sessions, Carbon Conversations, street groups to work on household energy efficiency…

Please discuss with co-conspirators what you can do and make a plan.

Thanks for your support. We will do our best to help you do this.