Following Footsteps’ 2020 Earth Day gathering, this workshop explored ‘just transition’ from a community perspective. ‘Just transition’ lies at the heart of Birmingham’s June 2019 climate emergency declaration for the City to become “net zero carbon by 2030 or as soon after as a just transition permits – making sure we take communities with us, protecting employment and without impoverishing deprived communities.”
Some 20 people with a range of community knowledge and knowledge of life in different parts of Birmingham participated in the workshop. Representatives from grass roots community groups did not, however, engage to the extent that Footsteps had hoped. When contacted they told Footsteps that they were currently heavily committed to delivering food and other work. One comment during the workshop a comment was that some community groups tire of being asked what is needed when what is needed is practical help on the ground.
The workshop began with community activist, Mahmooda Qureshi, discussing with David Cox OBE his work on social inclusion, racism and promoting cycling and the insights into just transition his experience gave him. This was followed by participants sharing their experiences.
From a community perspective, ‘just transition’ is a vision for a future that builds resilience and includes a ‘green’ Covid recovery. Timing is crucial with social change. The Covid pandemic and impending economic recession provide a window of opportunity. Approaches that are joined up all the way from community and ward level to national policy are needed.
Communicating, cooperation and trust in all directions are key. First austerity and now the Covid induced recession impact most heavily on poor people making existing jobs vulnerable. Inequality and deprivation are getting worse and damage the whole city.
Creating resilient communities and building local structures are crucial to tackling the problems of austerity, the current tragic pandemic and climate change. Faith communities and groups and individuals also inspired by values have particularly important roles to play.
‘Taking communities with’ the Council involves:
- Communicating and creating dialogue with communities to build co-operation and trust
- Effective, appropriate communications using different channels
- weekly educational information, similar to the current Covid updates, on climate issues about flooding, extreme future climatic events etc and the need for adaptive measures.
- letting people know about cheap energy and home insulation
- Co-operation at city, ward and street level
- Vertical and horizontal trust
- Birmingham as a ‘super-diverse’ city. Trust needed between communities and with the Council
- Council is a gate keeper to the big strategic decisions needed
- Council’s reputation is important
- Currently, jobs are at risk and employment vulnerable
- The job market will contract even more when the lockdown has ended. More automation likely.
- Experienced workers will be lost.
- Career prospects affected, especially for young BME
Without impoverishing deprived communities
- Inequality and deprivation damage the whole society and result in the city under-achieving
- Inequality is getting worse and the Covid induced recession will impact heavily on poor people.
- Not just income inequality, but also lack of information, influence, internet
- Income and health inequalities and deprivation co-exist
- Poverty robs people of energy, agency, status and purpose
- Furlough works better for the well off.
- What can poor people do all day, and where are they welcome, if they have no money?
- There are people who are left out of communities, such as people in care homes, old people left alone
- Persuading housing associations, council and other landlords to use sustainable energy companies, especially for those with prepayment meters
- A just transition is a vision for a different sort of future, with big ideas and simple statements.
- Timing is crucial. Opportunities for major social change come infrequently. The Covid pandemic and impending recession provide a window of opportunity for change.
- David Cox drew an analogy with surfing and the need to have the ‘policy surf boards’ for the big waves of opportunity that are coming in (audio clip below).
- The new policy opportunities suddenly opening up need to be identified
- Need a vision that builds on community resilience and includes a ‘green’ Covid recovery
- Will be hard work and a struggle (audio clip below).
- Integration and joined up approaches needed between national policies, city strategy, local initiatives and individual efforts and be doing things at Ward level that are part of larger initiatives e.g.
- A bridge is needed between good works in the community and the high-level work done by the Council. Need to ensure real voices of community are being captured. People need core agency in their lives (audio clip below).
- Setting up a new initiative is hard work, although everybody wants to get on the band wagon when things are going well.
- Taking Brum Together uses community connections and relationships as part of a national initiative to get meals to vulnerable people.
- Cycling has become an inner-city community development activity with cycle clubs being formed in mosques, community centres, churches etc
- Value inspired groups and individual have a particular roleInterfaith groups like Footsteps, can help bring isolated faith communities together and have influence up the system as well as at the granular level.
- Greater leverage when different faiths work together
- CANWM facilitates conversations, brings communities together and creates opportunities for climate action conversations, but knowledge quite patchy and still much work to do.
- Individuals need to “be the change you want to see in the World” (Mahmooda Qureshi)
Good things going on in Birmingham’s communities
Workshop participants mentioned and touched on ideas, individuals, local and city-wide groups and organisations contributing to the creation of a more resilient and cohesive city. These included:
- The Active Well-Being Society (TAWS)
- brap does good things
- BVSC supports the voluntary and community sector of Birmingham to help build a more inclusive and dynamic city
- The Real Junk food Project, Birmingham
- Birmingham Sanctuary – for refugees and asylum seekers
- Ladywood & Northfield Real Junk Food Distribution Hub & Change Kitchen have stepped in to look after vulnerable people in isolation and get food to their homes.
- Nishkam Centre
- BAHU Trust
- Clifton Road mosque
- Hodge Hill Church Project
- Narthex food bank at St John’s Church, Sparkhill
- Places of Welcome
- SWB NHS Trust
- The Health Foundation health equality work and Marmot Review 10 Years On
- ‘New Amsterdam’ initiative
- The Mission in Huddersfield
- Thrive Together
- Standing in the Gaps website
Ideas and campaigning
- Green New Deal
- 20 Minute City
- Subject for teaching and preaching in faith communities.
- Standing in the Gaps – face to face opportunity rather than a website