As we emerge from lockdown and look towards a future post-COVID-19, many people are talking about ‘Building Back Better’. A rallying call to make sure that lessons are learned from the crisis and that we embrace this opportunity to ensure our recovery is a green one. The anticipated economic shock of COVID-19 is a warning of what the future could look like if we fail to tackle the Climate Crisis. So, what we need is Green Economic recovery to combat the Climate Emergency and invest in the green jobs of the future.
What does that mean for co-operatives?
What part can we as co-operators play to support this? In 2019, here in Newcastle upon Tyne we declared a Climate Emergency and brought together all of the anchor institutions in the city to create the Net Zero Taskforce. We recognised the need for co-operation to meet our ambitions. Enabling new ways of working, pooling our knowledge, resources, building on our different strengths and expertise, sharing ideas and examples of good practice. Together we are looking at the development of shared energy sources and how we jointly commission services. As a Co-operative Council, we are focused on a place-based approach structured around people and their environment. Our ambition is for a green city of the future, which values all residents, provides quality sustainable housing, a low Carbon economy which addresses poverty and looks to ensure all people feel invested and included by challenging social inequality. We recognise the importance of green spaces and the impact on mental and physical health on those with little or no access to it during the lockdown. Post-COVID-19 we want to accelerate these ambitions.
This pandemic has highlighted how health, the environment and our economy are interlinked. Our pathway to recovery could be an opportunity to make our economy more democratic, and co-operatives are vital to that. By keeping wealth circulating in the community, a co-operative approach can offer a more adaptable and resilient future economy. Combating the challenges of a Climate Emergency will require that adaptable approach, where we create; an inclusive economy, low carbon environments which are clean and healthy for our residents, sustainable housing and low carbon transport. All delivered in a just and fair transition.
What we can do as co-operators?
We can seize this moment and make a real change in how services operate. We can ensure we give people opportunities to engage, share their ideas. Develop co-operatives in low carbon transport, renewable energy, food sustainability, green spaces and environmental projects, and engage people in citizens assemblies. We can empower our communities recognising their gifts, talents, strengths and the skills they possess. We can create jobs in renewable energy, in adapting and insulating homes or in industries developing new technologies to reduce carbon emissions. We can come together to we can share our success stories, learn from each other and campaign for a co-operative approach to be adopted to secure a green clean economy fit for all of our futures.
Cllr Clare Penny-Evans
Cabinet Member for Climate Change & Communities, Newcastle City Council
Member of the CCIN Executive Oversight Committee
@cpennyevans | Clare.Penny.Evans@newcastle.gov.uk