Climate change will impact us all differently, depending on where we live. From increased bushfire and flooding risks, to changing farming practices, coastal erosion, and urban heat zones, each community will face different challenges and will need solutions and programs tailored to their needs.
While we often turn to federal and state governments for climate leadership, the role of local councils should not be overlooked.
Local government's crucial role
Local governments, being the closest to the population, manage infrastructure, preserve natural environments, and deliver essential services to communities. They are at the forefront of climate change action worldwide. Due to their strong community ties, they understand the need for localised adaptation and are developing tailored responses to climate change challenges.
Local councils leading the way
Local councils are not only handling traditional responsibilities like recycling and pollution management but are also driving local biodiversity programs, embracing climate emergency action plans, renewable energy projects, and zero-emission targets. Despite these efforts, the general public often fails to recognise local councils as climate action leaders.
While state and federal governments play vital roles, perceiving climate action as solely their responsibility can disempower citizens from taking meaningful actions in their own lives. Understanding the pivotal role of local governments can encourage everyone to actively contribute to positive climate initiatives in their communities.
So how can local councils promote a greater awareness of their role in climate-friendly initiatives?
Utilising local government websites
Local government websites are increasingly becoming portals for payments, applications, and service delivery. This increased traffic provides an excellent opportunity to promote local government climate initiatives. Creating engaging, user-friendly content on council websites can showcase environmental initiatives, events, stories, and projects for community involvement.
Here are a few ideas:
- How-to-guides for mulching, composting or rainwater tanks
- Videos about installing insulation or fire-proofing your home
- Interactive maps to promote citizen science in local parks and waterways
- Application forms for renewable energy rebates
- Interviews with local Environmental Heroes.
Community engagement tools for awareness
Great digital content is effective when paired with community engagement practices. Engagement not only highlights local expertise but also increases transparency and trust in government processes.
Here are a some digital participation tools to use in a community engagement campaign:
- A timeline can illustrate the progress made in a project, and show the steps along the way to give residents clear expectations of deliverables.
- Communicate progress and new initiatives with updates that appear in a prominent place on the website, and are also sent as notifications to interested parties.
- Surveys and polls can be posted online and via social media to ask targeted members of the community specific questions to gather feedback for clarifying and refining the project’s objectives.
- Interactive mapping tools can encourage residents to engage with activities in specific locations and provide feedback and insights.
- A Q&A tool provides users with in-depth information to help them understand the project in greater detail, and give them the ability to question experts and decision-makers. Sharing these questions and answers online provides transparency and genuine engagement.
- Forums, webinars, town hall meetings and other face-to-face opportunities provide residents the opportunity to engage with experts and decision-makers and discuss in real time the issues that affect them.
Educational campaigns are crucial for building awareness of a council's climate initiatives. Employing a multi-channel communication strategy, including websites, email, advertising, postal flyers, and publications, helps share information and showcase council-led projects. Community events, town hall meetings, school programs, and advertising campaigns can also effectively highlight and promote council efforts.
Collaboration with community groups
Councils can support and champion the work of existing community groups in sustainability and environmental areas, including:
- Local wildlife groups
- "Friends of" parks and waterways groups,
- Bicycle user groups
- Climate action groups
- Community gardens
- Toy libraries
- Men's sheds
- Farmers' markets
Together, this network of active, engaged residents are working to develop genuine responses that are tailored to the local community.
The collective effort
Addressing the climate emergency necessitates actions at all levels of society. Local governments can use their websites to promote their work, initiate community engagement practices, and collaborate with local climate-friendly groups. Together, we can build momentum for change, ensuring our communities have the resources and support to mitigate the effects of an uncertain future.
To find out about our community engagement platform, District Engage, sign up for a demo today.