Request for help from hyperlocals

I’m on secondment with Big Lottery Fund’s West Midlands team at the moment, helping them with their BIG Local work. If you know of any hyperlocal blogs or social media surgeries serving the following areas, please could you leave me a comment below, tweet to @thewmro or email me oliver.nicholls [at] wmro.org

  • Bromford & Firs Estate (Birmingham)
  • East Coseley (Dudley)
  • Horsefair, Broadwaters, Greenhill (Kidderminster)
  • Tividale  – Grace Mary to Lion Farm (Sandwell)
  • Gobowen, St. Martins, Chell Heath (Shropshire)
  • Chell Heath & Fegg Hays (Stoke on Trent)

Thank you

Low carbon economy and sustainability – the same thing?

Last week I attended the annual SCPnet conference in the West Midlands. SCPnet stands for Sustainable Consumption and Production network and is a partnership network dedicated to promoting the philosophy of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) at a sub-national level.

I must say that I found the conference very interesting and insightful and the quality of the speakers was outstanding. This conference gave me a great opportunity to reflect on what is sustainable consumption and production, its importance, and how it links to the low carbon work we are doing at the Observatory.

Sustainable consumption and production

‘Securing the Future’, the UK Government sustainable development strategy, states:

‘Increasing prosperity, in the UK and across the world, has allowed many people to enjoy the benefits of goods and services which were once available to just a few. Nevertheless, the environmental impacts from our consumption and production patterns remain severe, and inefficient use of resources is a drag on the UK’s economy and business. We need a major shift to deliver new products and services with lower environmental impacts across their life cycle, while at the same time boosting competitiveness. And we need to build on people’s growing awareness of social and environmental concerns, and the importance of their roles as citizens and consumers.’ (DEFRA (2005) Securing the Future, p.43)

An alternative definition by Constanza (2000) says:

‘Probably the most challenging task facing humanity today is the creation of a shared vision of a sustainable and desirable society, one that can provide permanent prosperity within the biophysical constraints of the real world in a way that is fair and equitable to all of humanity, to other species, and to future generations. This vision does not now exist, although the seeds are there.’

Sustainability and the low carbon economy

So going back to the question in the title, are sustainability and low carbon the same thing? I believe the answer is no.

The West Midlands Regional Observatory recently published the research The Low Carbon Economy in the West Midlands. The research highlights that a low carbon economy is one where businesses deliver products and services while reducing their level of carbon emissions.

In this sense, the low carbon economy is just one element (an import one) of sustainability. In the same way that the environment is much more than only carbon emissions, sustainability is much more than just environmental issues.

Climate change, carbon emissions, environment impacts, social issues, waste, recycling, population growth, lifestyles, supply chain, energy, environment quality and deprivation are just a few examples of topics that have an impact on sustainability.

Also, businesses, government, people and the third sector must all work together. Sustainability is not something it can be delivered by only a few people in isolation.

In 2006 the report I will if you will presented the ‘triangle of change,’ a framework where people, business and government interact in a coordinated effort to move towards a more sustainable society.

If you want to know more about sustainable consumption and production, here are some websites that can help:

We are planning to add more posts about the 2010 SCPnet Conference soon. If you’re interested keep an eye on this blog.

Consultation on English Indices of Deprivation

Map of West Midlands illustrating performance against Indices of Deprivation 2007 at Lower Super Output AreaCommunities and Local Government launched a consultation on the Indices of Deprivation this week.

The consultation is seeking input on three key areas:

  • Need for an updated set of indices, the form they should take and comments on a longer term aim of whether specific indicators or domains should be comparable across the UK
  • Comments on the methodology used for the Indices of Deprivation 2007
  • Current availability of data sources if the Indices of Deprivation 2007 methodology is retained for an immediate update

Responses to the Indices of Deprivation 2007 suggested that a full scale review of the indices would be best held after the 2011 Census.

As such the consultation asks whether an update should be produced in 2010 based, as closely as possible, on the 2007 methodology with a subsequent detailed review to follow the next Census. The alternative is to postpone the update until after a full review is carried out.

The indices are used widely within public and third sectors to analyse patterns of deprivation, identify areas that would benefit from special initiatives or programmes and as a tool to determine eligibility for specific funding streams. As such, it’s a hugely important consultation and we would advise any interested parties to feed their views in through the CLG process.

Consultation papers are on the CLG website and responses need to be submitted by 10th May 2010.

New Deal for Communities has brought significant improvements to deprived neighbourhoods in West Midlands

A new report  published by Communities and Local Government, A New Deal for Communities Experience: A final assessment (pdf, 779kb), highlights how government investment has had a positive impact on the six New Deal for Communities (NDC) areas in the West Midlands.

The £2 billion flagship regeneration programme between 2001 and 2008 helped:

  • Reduce the proportion of working age residents in Walsall NDC area with no qualifications by 17 percentage points
  • Raised the satisfaction with housing to 91% in 2008
  • Reduced the proportion of residents in the Aston NDC area feeling unsafe in the dark from 20% to 17% in 2008
  • 81% of residents in Kings Norton NDC area feel they had good access to a doctor in 2008
  • 69% of residents in the Sandwell NDC area felt the NDC had improved their area

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What makes a sustainable community?

Ludlow ButtercrossCan we use a mix of  indicators to show which of our communities are sustainable?

That’s the question the Observatory is aiming to answer as we continue our State of the Region dialogue on sustainable communities.

We published What makes a community sustainable? (pdf, 457kb) in October 2009. This report built on a workshop held in April 2009.

In the report we took the starting point that a successful West Midlands must be made up of communities where people want to live and work, now and in the future. The work then tried to understand the factors which make communities sustainable in this way.

The next stage of the work is to look at how we can identify which of our current communities are sustainable and which need action to help them to change.

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Sustainable Cities Index: analysis for the West Midlands

Cover of Sustainable Cities Index 2009

Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton are the three cities from the West Midlands included in the Sustainable Cities Index (pdf, 4.3mb) published recently by Forum for the Future.

This is the third year that the index has been published, which tracks sustainability progress achieved in Britain’s 20 largest cities. The index is designed to give a snapshot of sustainability in each city, aiming to encourage healthy competition, stimulating discussion and suggesting new ways of thinking about cities.

This post provides a short analysis of findings for the West Midlands cities and also highlights the similarities that this work has with our State of the Region dialogue on sustainable communities.

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Institution of Civil Engineers launches State of the Nation report

Cover of State of the Nation reportThe Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) today launched its latest State of the Nation report and this year’s theme is ‘Low Carbon Infrastructure’. This report provides an interesting take on the low carbon debate coming from within the engineering industry.

As Paul Jowitt, ICE’s President says in his foreword:

“Many of the largest sources of carbon emissions are currently associated with the construction, operation, maintenance and use of infrastructure in particular in the energy, transport, water and waste sectors. Our inquiry suggests that many of the technologies and practices we need to create significant change in these sectors already exist, but their delivery is constrained by unfavourable investment and delivery conditions.”

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