Commission suggests climate change dashboard to connect with hearts and minds

A ‘climate change dashboard’ for Essex is one of the proposals being recommended to find a way of “worming” a way “into the hearts and minds of everybody where it actually really deeply matters to them”.

As part of the Essex Climate Change Commission’s recommendation over steps to reduce CO2 impacts in the county, it says an online dashboard that brings together annual carbon figures alongside more readily available data such as numbers of trees planted, air pollution levels, numbers of car-free streets, numbers of electric vehicles, traffic volumes, renewables capacity and tonnes of waste.

Speaking to the commission on Tuesday (February 9), Jo Roberts, director and chief executive of the Wilderness Foundation, said: “One of our recommendations that we feel really strongly about is to develop an online dashboard that will be bringing together the carbon figures and we’re able to then measure where we are from a range of different angles – not just from trees planted, not just from electric vehicles but a much wider a scope.

“And carbon figures can feel very abstract and remote to people and I think what we’ve got to do is to find a way of worming our way into the hearts and minds of everybody where it actually really deeply matters to them.”

Jo continued: “We need a way that people can get a handle on it.

“Pavlovian training is not for the faint-hearted but it’s about giving rewards if we feel that our action has made a difference. We can see it on a trackable dashboard. We know that if I’ve not used my washing machine for X number of days I’m making this difference and I can see where I’m contributing.

“It’s a huge reward system for people’s motivation.

“There are plenty of many more readily available measures that show progress but this dashboard is going to make a significant difference in a more personal way as well.”

Separate research has shown that a more targeted approach may be needed towards people living in urban areas.

The Countryside Climate Network (CCN) – a group comprising 26 local authority leaders from across England including Essex County Council and whose membership accounts for over 40 per cent of England’s land area – revealed that rural citizens are more engaged than urban.

60 per cent of rural citizens think that we are already feeling the effects of climate change compared to 56 per cent of urban residents.

Compared to those in urban areas, rural citizens are also more likely to engage in a range of personal actions to reduce their climate impact such as recycling and reusing plastic to reduce electricity use, improve home insulation, switch to renewable energy and holidaying nearer home.

Polly Billington, director of UK100, said: “This research underscores the huge opportunity there is for levelling up across the UK in an inclusive green recovery and transition to Net Zero.

“This desperately needed insight into rural perspectives is something that has been missing for so long and the UK100’s Countryside Climate Network is shining a light on this. We look forward to using this research with our rural members to help inform their climate action and continue to urge the UK government to provide more powers and investment to help them achieve their ambitions.”

“It demonstrates that without significant government investment in a decarbonised infrastructure which provides viable alternatives to the private car, the perspectives highlighted in this research are unlikely to change. The CCN stands ready to work with the Government to address these challenges.”

The research, conducted by Climate Outreach, also raised some concerns amongst the rural population with regards to transport – 45 per cent of rural citizens were worried about the prospect of not being able to drive their petrol or diesel car and were also found to be less likely to walk and cycle than those living in better connected cities.

Steve Count, chairman of the Countryside Climate Network and leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “It is encouraging to see that rural communities are more receptive to renewable energy generation than urban areas.

“This accurately reflects our commitment in Cambridgeshire – a predominantly rural county – to reduce our carbon footprint and become carbon neutral by 2050.

“Although we have quite rightly been recognised at a national and international level for our efforts, it is vital that organisations such as UK100 work closely with urban areas to encourage them to follow our lead.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter