Boosting nature and halving our carbon footprint in Henley by 2030: our public consultation

public consultation HoT 2

‘Think global, act local’ – you have probably heard this phrase before; it underpins everything we do at Greener Henley. By encouraging people to take action on the climate and nature crisis at a local level, we aim to bring about robust change – both locally and further afield.  We know that governments need to make big policy changes, but we all need to be on board as individuals, companies and organisations too.  We can only  drive such transformational change through strong engagement with our local community.  We need EVERYONE – local residents, businesses, schools and community groups closely collaborating to shape our path forwards together as we move closer to 2030(1).

The strength of public consultations

In May 2023 we hosted our 2nd public consultation, exploring how we boost nature and halve the carbon footprint of Henley by 2030, and what help we need from our local councils to achieve this.  By bringing a host of different people, organisations and groups together in this way to learn about and discuss ambitious topics, along with guidance from local experts, we can harness engagement and drive positive, impactful change within our communities.

What happened at the event?

Nearly 70 residents convened for the sold-out event at Henley Town Hall to voice their ideas and hear  expert speakers. First up, Ed Hopkins (communications consultant, Dark Green PR) shared the most impactful ways to cut our carbon footprint.  Participants then heard how the Greener Henley Wildlife Group, led by Sally Rankin, has been working for more than 30 years to protect and restore nature at locations around the town, including Mill and Marsh Meadows, and lastly, Catriona Bass, Co-Founder of the Nature Recovery Network (West Oxfordshire), spoke about how the community has come together to undertake successful nature restoration work in Eynsham.

Participants then broke out into small groups and were asked the following questions:

  • What are the most impactful actions you/your organisation can take to reduce your/your organisation’s carbon footprint?
  • What are the most impactful actions you/your organisation can take to boost nature?
  • What are the 3 most impactful actions our local councils could take in and around Henley order to boost nature and cut carbon?

Our local residents’ suggestions

Over 150 ideas to cut carbon and boost nature were put forward, from encouraging car sharing in schools and reducing meat consumption, to green corridors for wildlife, ditching chemicals and rewilding parts of our gardens. You can read the report in full here.

Whilst ideas in relation to boosting nature were really wide-ranging, those on cutting carbon fell strongly into 5 groups; in descending order these were: consumption, travel, energy, food and initiatives to improve engagement/awareness.  

Participants identified collaboration/education and promoting biodiversity as being the key areas in which councils could make the most impact. These included incentives for people ‘greening’ their front gardens, increasing tree cover for adaptation, bulk buying solar panels, challenging people to walk more, and integrating the environment into decision-making.  There were some suggestions about the council leading by example on premises, land and food (as it does currently on energy efficiency and ethical financial services and investment).

Key takeaways

In analysing the data gathered from the questions posed, the following themes emerged strongly from the consultation:

Ethical investments and savings:
There appears to be a real opportunity to make a difference in Henley by running a campaign on this. Although cited as one of the top 3 most impactful things individuals can do to reduce their carbon footprint, it was notably almost absent from mention by the public, so there is plenty of work to be done on raising awareness around this issue.

Boosting nature:
A clear communications strategy should be established on this to encourage everyone to get involved, both in terms of our community/garden spaces in and around Henley (including the river), and also our ecological footprint further afield(2).

Creation of a network of local experts:
Access to expert knowledge on nature is essential to inform both Greener Henley (to help shape our communications strategy) and Henley Town Council on how we tackle the nature crisis at a local level, in particular in relation to public information campaigns.

Greater community engagement and awareness:
Increasing community engagement and awareness around these vital issues repeatedly came up as a strong theme in response to all three questions, which indicates we might consider stepping up activity in this area.

Next steps

We will use the results of the consultation to shape our future campaigns and activities, with the hope of inspiring a cascade of community action to tackle the emergency. You can find a report on the full findings of the public consultation here.

Feedback from the evening’s participants

A post-consultation online survey was sent out to participants, the results of which included a strong message about the power of coming together as a community and collaborating on these challenging issues.  One respondent said: “I realised that the community network is much stronger than I assumed it to be and I am now looking forward to becoming more familiar with local people from different backgrounds, with different areas of expertise….who all want to cooperate to improve our situation vis-a-vis the climate crisis.”

Mike Sweeney, President of Leander Rowing Club

“At Leander, we feel a sense of stewardship towards the water on which we row. Our club and our rowers should be seen as “ambassadors” for clean water – an issue that affects every human being on our planet. I was delighted to attend Greener Henley’s recent public consultation on how to boost nature and halve our carbon footprint in Henley. I believe that such public engagement events that bring the community together in relation to the climate and nature crisis are a crucial way forward.”

Jessie Grimond, of Nettlebed Estate said that the estate, which has been farming without fertilisers or pesticides for more than 20 years and using measures to promote biodiversity such as planting for pollinators and wild birds, shares Greener Henley’s “deep concern about biodiversity loss and alarm about climate change” and that they “look forward to embracing the opportunities that may emerge from this local, grassroots initiative.” 

Catharine Darnton, Head of Gillotts School 

Ms Darnton encouraged all schools to get involved in these kinds of public engagement events and to increase the level of collaboration on these vital issues, saying “not only is it the right thing to do for our community and our planet, but the Government is requiring all education providers to put in place sustainability leadership and climate action plans by 2025.  Such action plans will only have real impact if they are part of a collaborative effort across the community.” 

Tim Hoskins, Head of Badgemore Primary School attended the follow up meeting and urged schools, individuals, businesses and organisations in Henley to get involved and make changes to reduce their impact on the planet.

Credit: Main Photo by Nemone Caldwell.

References

1. The Government’s 2030 Strategic framework for international climate and nature action sets out how the UK will deliver internationally on its climate and nature goals in this critical decade, up to 2030, including:

  • keep 1.5°C alive by halving global emissions
  • build resilience to current and future climate impacts
  • halt and reverse biodiversity loss

2. This refers to the impact on nature arising from our consumption of goods and services, for example the production of many foods that we consume here in the UK have resulted in deforestation in other parts of the world.

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