In the UK, community-led initiatives focused on town-level climate mitigation are becoming increasingly prominent, aligning with the pursuit of net-zero targets. A noteworthy example is Zero Carbon Guildford, aiming to guide Guildford, a town in west Surrey with around 150,000 residents, towards carbon neutrality by 2030 through a people-centred climate action plan.
Origins of the Project
Zero Carbon Guildford (ZERO) was established in 2021 from the acknowledgement that achieving climate goals tends to be more effective when individuals and groups from all walks of life come together and share knowledge, skills and resources rather than working in silos. Comprising an expanding coalition of residents, local community groups, businesses, and organisations, ZERO focuses on the five mitigation and adaptation strategic areas:
1. Environmental protection and restoration
- Clean energy – with our focus particularly on community energy, support for renewables and intelligent energy systems
- Active travel infrastructure and behavioural change
- A circular economy and community re-use schemes
- Low carbon solutions, retrofitting, and energy efficiency
Zero Carbon Guildford employs a holistic approach to reducing and monitoring carbon emissions trends and promoting land conservation. Key projects include:
- Home Energy Advice Taskforce
- In partnerships with community groups across Guildford, thermal imaging surveys are provided for residents to reduce usage and reduce energy bills. Additionally, a community-built online platform, One Stop Shop, will launch in Spring 2024 with tailored advice based on house type and budget. Previously, the Leaky Homes Project, which concluded in March 2023, offered in-person advice to assess home energy efficiency.
- Supported by volunteers, Terracycle is a scheme that reduces the amount of ‘hard-to-recycle’ items ending up in landfills or the ocean. Infrequently recycled items which Terracycle collects include crisp and biscuit packets, bread wrappers, toothpaste tubes, and contact lenses. This has helped the community reduce their landfill.
- Urban Greening
- ZERO members have recently partnered with the Woodlands Trust to replant forests in the nearby village of Ewhurst. ZERO has also initiated urban greening initiatives and is collaborating with residents to understand community priorities for creating green spaces in the built-up area.
- Water and Air Pollution Reduction
- ZERO organises regular river testing events to help the community monitor progress in water pollution levels. An air pollution sensing unit has also been installed to help the community track real-time air pollution concentration data for Guildford’s town centre.
ZERO also has public spaces, including a Community Fridge, a Baby Clothes Library and a Climate Cinema to reduce throwaway culture and increase local residents’ consciousness of environmentally friendly behaviours. The website also has a blog including local opinions on critical topics such as green transport.
Expanding Initiatives Across the UK
Zero Carbon Guilford and the zero-carbon town model, in general, effectively address various climate-related issues while fostering community ownership through creative initiatives. Expanding this model nationwide requires tailored goals, activities, and funding models, such as crowdsourcing and partnerships with businesses and local councils. The government should consider applying this approach across UK towns while considering residents’ specific needs.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard UK Country Manager Leo Owen.