Barnet Council has approached net zero from a data driven standpoint, using evidence for a baseline and targeting those areas with the biggest emissions where it could have most impact.
Assistant director of sustainability, Yogita Popat was previously head of data and insight at the council and has underpinned the sustainability brief with this skillset. She worked with consultants EY and the LGA’s toolkits to pull together the initial evidence base to define carbon emissions – taking forward the insight work to build on that baseline is taking place in-house.
According to Popat: “The borough has approximately 155,000 homes and almost 400,000 residents, and we know that residential homes are the biggest contributor – 60% - to carbon emissions in the borough.”
The data clearly demonstrates that the council’s own carbon emissions represent just 4% of the borough’s total so, and Popat says that, to be successful, any action plan has to influence behaviour at a place level.
“We can only directly influence 10% of the housing stock in Barnet, and up to 90% - 145,000 houses - are old so retrofitting will be difficult. Where do you get the approximately 2,600 people it will take to retrofit so many houses in a short timescale? So we need to influence our residents to bring them on the journey to BarNETZERO with us.”
The campaign is predominantly digital and online – and again data driven. The growing sustainability team has harnessed internal skillsets to create engaging content and messaging with which residents can identify that has run across a new engagement hub, social media and email bulletins, and complemented by adverts on the sides of buses and advertising hoardings.
Assessing the success of the engagement campaign is again evidence based, with outcomes pulled together into a dashboard to gauge and track success before refining the next steps. There have been over 150,000 views of the campaign videos, which feature real people from across the borough – residents, council staff, local businesses, school children and community groups - and are designed to tell stories that build the sense of a community working together despite the current cost of living crisis, to follow best practice and take practical steps in making change.
Meanwhile, a diverse citizens' assembly has been convened to enable the community to discuss and distil the evidence base and help prioritise common action – from renewable energy targets to green transport and safeguarding green spaces.
“Recommendations from citizens' assemblies are due out in May. Combined with the evidence base this will enable us to build a business case around delivery,” says Popat. “Data is at the heart of the approach to #BarNETZERO.”
The campaign has been shortlisted in this year’s Sustainable City Awards for Public Sector Campaign of the Year.