Blaenau Gwent to hold first Climate Assembly in Wales

Published: 29 January 2021

Blaenau Gwent to hold first Climate Assembly in Wales

People in Blaenau Gwent have been invited to share their views and solutions for tackling the climate crisis in what will be Wales’ first climate assembly to discuss climate change.

The Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly will be held online during two weekends in March bringing residents together from across the borough to address the question: “What should we do in Blaenau Gwent to tackle the climate crisis in a way that is fair and improves living standards for everyone?”

10,000 households in Blaenau Gwent have received written invitations to register their interest in participating. From those who apply to be involved, 50 people will then be randomly selected to take part and will learn about climate issues facing their community, discussing the themes of housing, nature and transport before proposing and debating potential solutions.

The Assembly is being organised by housing associations United Welsh, Linc Cymru, Melin Homes and Tai Calon in partnership with sustainable development charity Cynnal Cymru, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and ERS Cymru.

Steve Cranston, Foundational Economy Lead for housing association United Welsh said:

“Climate change is an emergency that impacts us all, from the homes we live in through to the food we eat with our families. A climate assembly is a fantastic opportunity to capture the views of local people representing the wider population about what needs to happen, helping decision makers across the Welsh public sector to shape their approach. We all have a part to play in tackling climate change. As a partnership, we are looking forward to coming together with people in Blaenau Gwent to learn, challenge and inspire action.”

The Assembly will see leading experts present information on climate change and the sub-themes to the 50 participants to provide context to inform the discussions.

Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru said:

“Through this climate assembly Blaenau Gwent is leading the way in Wales on a new model of democracy, which gives local people a greater say in issues that affect them. Assemblies like this have been used across the UK, including with the Citizens Assembly of Scotland, UK Climate Assembly as well as elsewhere around the globe. The Assembly will give a representative sample of people in the community a chance to discuss, deliberate and produce recommendations that will be heard by decision makers across local government, local registered social landlords and Welsh Government. Elsewhere models like this have been proven to build trust, give people a greater say in local decisions and give decision makers an insight into the trade-offs people would make around climate change. This is a really exciting development and we can’t wait to see it in action.”

Sarah Hopkins, Director of Cynnal Cymru-Sustain Wales said:

“Local Authorities across Wales are declaring climate emergencies and recognising that urgent action is needed at local level to reduce carbon emissions. The transition to net zero will mean changes to people’s lives so it’s vital that citizens understand and participate in this journey. We are delighted to be involved with organising the Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly. The recommendations decided upon will help to inform the collaborative approach to decarbonisation from Housing Associations, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and other key organisations in the region. We hope that other regions in Wales will also adopt similar processes to inform decarbonisation action plans.”

The Assembly has received funding from Welsh Government through a consortium managed by energy service provider Sero, where 68 partners in Wales were awarded more than £7m to decarbonise 1,370 homes and create tools to roll out large scale decarbonisation of homes across Wales as part of the ‘Optimised Retrofit’ programme.

The recommendations from the Assembly will be shared with all consortium partners and Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council to help inform effective citizen engagement for climate change in future.

Michelle Morris, Managing Director, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said:

“Climate change is a global issue and it’s absolutely vital that we act now to protect our environment for the well-being of future generations and I am sure that the Climate Assembly will help us all focus on this. As a Council we recognise the importance of the challenges and we recently approved a new Decarbonisation Plan. We’re already taking a number of actions to reduce our carbon impact such as improving the energy efficiency of our schools; our public buildings and our street-lighting and also reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. This Plan will see us take a more strategic approach towards achieving carbon neutrality and will help us to prioritise work in a number of key areas of our operations which, with some changes, can make a significant contribution towards our carbon neutral aim.”

To find out more about the Blaenau Gwent Climate Assembly, visit:
http://www.cynnalcymru.com/blaenau-gwent-climate-assembly/

So, what is a climate assembly?

A climate assembly is a way to make decisions. It is used all over the world to look at issues and come up with ideas. It brings together a randomly selected group of people who broadly represent the entire community. The people who attend learn about an issue, discuss them with one another, and then make recommendations about what should happen.

Why is this event happening?

Solutions to the climate crisis need to take into account the challenges and opportunities of different places. Blaenau Gwent Council and the local Housing Associations believe that local people have an important role to play in deciding on actions that will also improve lives in Blaenau Gwent. We want to hear your views and recommendations on how our local area can tackle the climate crisis.

The recommendations decided on by the Climate Assembly:

● Will be considered by the Council as part of its climate strategy;
● Will shape the Housing Associations' climate plans, including how changes to current houses (‘retrofitting’) are made to ensure they fit with individuals lives and provide benefits to the community;
● Will be sent to the Welsh Government to help shape their decarbonisation strategy and next Programme for Government;
● Will be discussed with community groups in the area to make sure citizens’ are better able to shape local plans.

Who can apply to participate in the Assembly?

Anyone aged 16 and over, who lives in a household that has received an invitation, can apply. The following people cannot apply to take part in this event:

● All elected representatives from any level of government;
● Paid employees of any political party;
● Council employees working in politically restricted roles;
● Employees of the housing associations involved.

How were the 10,000 invited households selected to receive an invitation?

10,000 addresses from across Blaenau Gwent were randomly selected from Royal Mail’s address database. Once registration for people to apply to be involved has closed, 50 people will be randomly selected to take part in the event. This random selection will be weighted to make sure that there are people from all across the community in the group.