green recovery

Driving community wealth and green jobs in Lewes

This article originally appeared in The MJ.

Green New Deals aren’t just for cash-flushed central Governments. In the last year, Lewes DC in East Sussex has been growing its own distinctive variety of green economic strategy.

With a population of around 100,000, the district of Lewes offers something of a microcosm of economic divergence in the UK today.

Putting place at the heart of a green recovery

Building community wealth through community energy

With fresh discussion this week about the importance of a green recovery, it is increasingly clear that post-Covid rebuilding must have a just transition away from a carbon-based economy at its core. The government have promised £350 million to fuel a green recovery, and Labour have challenged them to go further and support up to 400,000 clean, green jobs, amongst other policies which could enable a green recovery.

While the shape of a green recovery is debated in central government, we know that to tackle the economic and environmental challenges we face (and which have been thrown into the light through the pandemic) it will be crucial to take an approach to economic recovery which recognises the importance of place. Our paper, A Green Recovery for Local Economies, released in July this year, articulates many opportunities for an approach to recovery which builds community wealth and places climate at the heart of how we “build back better”.
“a key, green opportunity for localities”
One area of potential is community energy – the delivery of community-led renewable energy, energy demand reduction and energy supply projects. These tools represent a key, green opportunity for localities to democratise their local economies, wield the power of anchor institutions and build community wealth. Community energy projects can be wholly owned and/or controlled by communities, or in partnership with commercial or public sector partners, thus placing communities at the centre of energy systems, creating accountability, participatory governance and democratising the benefits of carbon transition, alongside enabling the further decentralisation of the energy system.

A green recovery for local economies

Covid-19 and the climate emergency both expose in different ways the fundamental lack of resilience in how we develop local economies in the UK. There has been a lot of talk about how we must “build back better”, but if we want a green recovery worthy of the name, it will mean confronting these underlying issues once and for all.

Local economies are, right now, between a rock and a hard place: the rock – an unprecedented economic collapse, with mass unemployment, business failure, and social destitution for many; the hard place – the looming threat of climate emergency, with every new hot day a reminder that the clock is ticking towards ecological collapse.