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Imaginative Approaches to Combating Climate Change Locally. Northampton Low Carbon Communities provides a conceptual overview of social change, an.
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Internationally, the investigation of the factors influencing the development and governance of, and engagements with, CBCRS is currently an under-researched area of investigation Seyfang et al. Previous research on low-carbon transitions has not yet sought to address how engagement with CBCRS can be sustained and has instead sought to focus on the governance of urban climate change experiments and the political dimensions of regional development Castan Broto and Bulkeley ; While et al.

This research gap is surprising given that these areas of research can illuminate what it means for individuals to become involved in such projects and how participation in a low-carbon future can be facilitated, increased and sustained. In order to begin addressing this research gap, a mixed methodological approach was identified as providing sufficient breadth and depth of detail Bryman ; Newing towards illuminating key understandings around the extent to, and ways in, which individuals engage with addressing climate change in their communities.

Focus groups were conducted in late to explore more deeply the character of individual engagements with CBCRS. A total of 4 focus groups were held: 1 in Blacon; 1 in Congleton; and 2 in Northwood.


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To provide a balanced overview of qualitative data, it was decided that two focus groups be held in communities with an established CBCRS and a further two focus groups without such projects. In total, 17 participants discussed their views towards addressing climate change and sustainable living with the facilitator between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. Each focus group was recorded, transcribed and analysed as part of a thematic analysis approach Braun and Clarke ; Savin Baden and Howell Major Participants in the focus groups for all three communities surveyed were allocated a number using the following system e.

Focus groups were applied in this research as they generate valuable emotional and subjective responses and multilayered vocality Morgan ; Newing , and can provide possibilities for exploring the gap between what people say and what they do Conradson While the findings here originate from UK residents, the results of the focus groups have international applicability in terms of highlighting, and responding to, various positionalities on addressing climate change at the community level. These findings show that such activities have strong, and often multifaceted, practice elements.

The outcomes of this study illuminates issues that are transferable to other localities globally that have diverse social and political contexts and warrant further investigation. The subject of addressing climate change and sustainable living at a local level was predicated on strong notions of collective activity. Whilst making an original academic contribution to environmental social science, policymakers and practitioners will find these results to be of particular interest as this paper highlights how community-based activities seeking to facilitate, increase and maintain actions to address climate change and transition to sustainable forms of low-carbon living can be supported effectively and meaningfully.

Participants provided substantial information regarding their potential engagement with CBCRS in a number of ways: 1 cognitively what CBCRS individuals are aware of and associated understandings ; 2 affectively positive, indifferent and negative emotional connections ; 3 behaviourally willingness to participate and identified methods of participation ; and 4 identified previous engagements. Cognitive engagements are exemplified in the following statements:.

Imaginative Approaches to Combating Climate Change Locally

Surely this is the future? These comments indicated that while participants were not aware of any formal projects despite projects existing in two areas , individuals did suggest they would be inclined to become involved and that participation in CBCRS does result in positive outcomes, personally and for the environment. Furthermore, residents suggested that such community approaches are seen in a number of ways, as; methods that can support the transition towards sustainable living; communal approaches that generate numerous social and environmental benefits.

This indicates that there are multiple motivations for involvement that are predicated on personal satisfaction of living more sustainably to the outcomes of participation. This may be the result of a lack of awareness among residents. Practicing communities should therefore seek to continually raise awareness of the activities of CBCRS. While no negative connotations of community approaches were identified, respondents questioned the role of other individuals in the broader transition to sustainability.

Cognitive engagements also reflected notions of collective action and non participation reflecting the idea that a minority cannot sustain participation and success of a project.

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While the value of CBCRS reflect the ability to harness the creative energies of communities to address climate change in context-specific ways, participants indicated that a project can only be successful if participation is sustained. This point directly reflects turning initial excitement into sustained participation indicated by Alexander et al.

Collective action was a substantial theme throughout this study, reflecting notions of the socially grounded nature of behavior and social norms Jackson ; Kennedy This suggests that the ways in which participants view CBCRS corresponds with the definition offered in this paper indicating that greater numbers of residents acting together will result in wider benefits of participation Heiskanen et al. Parkhill et al. Given that individuals often feel powerless to address climate change reinforcing the collective action and participants.

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The comments highlighted by residents suggest that CBCRS are 1 inclusive approaches; 2 projects that have impact socially, economically and environmentally ; and 3 influencing the ways in which people feel towards their lifestyle and community. These notions represent the values attributed to CBCRS; which policymakers and practicing communities should demonstrate these to the individuals they seek to engage. Yet NP7 notes that affective engagements are vital to participation; particularly interest, as activities of CBCRS need to be congruent with concerns or motivations of residents.

Practicing communities should therefore seek to facilitate and maintain interest through supporting activities and events that relate to how residents wish to be engaged with community-based sustainability. Such comments place emphasis on the role of affective engagements in sustaining participation. In this study, affective engagements are exemplified as follows:. Positive affective engagements reflected the values of CBCRS; concepts of communal action; and activities that resonate with individual interests. Again, individuals note how grounding sustainable living practices within communities is advantageous; indicating that participants are aware of the impact of others on their behavior Jackson Yet indifferent responses suggested hesitance among participants, considering that potential participation depended upon the activities of the project itself.

Some forms of nonparticipation and ambivalence, however articulated, can be related to Foucauldian notions of resistance; indicating a level of opposition Medina towards addressing climate change. However these comments genuinely consider the local project rather than the politics of climate change.

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Furthermore, participants suggested that while a project has to be beneficial, the quote by BP2 indicates that residents should contribute in some way. While not being specific, this could relate to taking action to live more sustainably or volunteering to lead aspects of a project. These notions of contributing to CBCRS reflect how residents can use their skills in supporting local transitions to sustainable living Seyfang This is of particular importance for practicing communities as residents feel that regular, impactful activity is an essential component of CBCRS.

Here, practicing communities should support events and actions that resonant with residents while promoting the multifaceted advantages of participation that are intimately linked with affective engagements. The majority of focus group participants indicated they would like to become involved in CBCRS, with the remainder indicating a level of hesitancy suggesting that they required more information on the project and its activities before participating.

This barrier presents a number of implications for meaningfully engaging the public with addressing climate change, yet practicing communities should address this through continually seeking to raise awareness; develop creative and stimulating activities; and support residents that wish to participate in whichever ways they want to be Table 2. This includes engaging nonparticipants and supporting new involvement; increasing regular participants to take more action; and re engaging those who may not be as active as previously.

This places residents at the heart of CBCRS with realistic expectations that such projects are both proactive and reactive to levels of public engagement that ultimately determine their success. The findings in Table 2 from questionnaire respondents support the identification of this gap.

Awareness of the existence of this gap for practicing communities indicates that interventions can be applied to counter its impacts and engage residents in meaningful ways; whether through generic awareness raising, tailored information, activities and events, and feedback Abrahamse et al.

The statements exemplified in this article indicate that people expend varying levels of cognitive, affective and behavioural engagement towards CBCRS see Figure 1. The opinions of the individuals provided in this article illuminate the multiple ways in, and extent to, which they would become involved in a community-approach addressing climate change.

Governance is key to this endeavour. The challenge of climate change for governance is, in part, a challenge about scale. The new millennium brought a dawning realization of how difficult this exhortation was to follow.

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Global challenges demand global responses. International climate policy claimed centre stage in environmental politics through the Kyoto Protocol. And yet achieving the goals of the Protocol proved elusive. A part of the reason for this was the failure of Kyoto to create a global emissions cap. But even the playing out of reduction targets to the national level turned out to be no recipe for success.

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The limitations of top—down national governance in addressing the urgency of climate change are vividly illustrated in the UK during the s Harding and Newby, Critics pointed out that this was evidence that policy initiatives needed to be much more flexible if they were to be effective in addressing climate change. It must reach upwards to the world stage; downwards to regions, local communities and households. Global targets must mean something to households. Global initiatives must resonate at the local level. Communities must play a crucial part in the protection of the global commons.

Decision-making and implementation are coordinated through a complex network of intersections within and between national, international and local levels.

The loci for decision-making have become dispersed across a variety of institutional structures. Perhaps surprisingly, this emphasis on local initiatives for social change draws strength from a long intellectual pedigree. At its broadest level, casting the climate action in terms of behavioural change suggests a particular manifestation of a perennial social issue.


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As Gardner and Stern have pointed out, it is essentially the problem of ensuring that behaviours which threaten the well-being of the social group are discouraged and that those which promote long-term well-being are encouraged. In other words it is quite precisely the problem of coordinating individual behaviour for the common good.

Ophuls argued that, from time immemorial, there have only ever been a few basic methods — written about by philosophers and employed Introduction 3 by societies — for achieving this. There are of course some clear reasons for this shift, not the least of which is that community itself has become a casualty of increasingly globalized economies Putnam, ; Jackson, Nonetheless, in recent years the UK Government has been particularly keen to emphasize the important function that local government and communities can — and should — perform in galvanizing action towards household carbon reduction.

Prior to this, many UK local authorities had already begun the process of both encouraging and introducing community-oriented projects, focusing on changes that individuals and households themselves could make in order to save energy and reduce carbon emissions. Again the rationale for these initiatives is well established.

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What makes community management systems work, according to Gardner and Stern , is a combination of participatory decision-making, monitoring, social norms and community sanctions. Interestingly, sanctions and penalties for non-compliance are not the most important element in ensuring compliance. Gardner and Stern suggest that there are several reasons why people internalize group norms. In the first place, they have participated in creating them. In the second place, they can see the value of these norms for themselves in preserving and protecting the interests of the local community and themselves as members of that community.

In addition, these group norms become a part of the shared meaning of the community and contribute to the social well-being of the group, not just through the protection of resources but through the development of trust, collaboration and social cohesion. Sanctions may be necessary to protect the group from those tempted to violate the collective good for individual interests, but the main reason people accept and act on social norms is that doing so cements social relations, signals membership of the group and contributes to a sense of shared meaning in their lives Jackson, This is not to suggest of course that community-based strategies are without drawbacks.