Helping make climate action more inclusive

How do you facilitate a just transition if city-level environmental policymaking is inherently unjust?

The challenge

When the city of Bristol declared a climate emergency in 2019, it stated there should be a just and democratic transition. To understand how feasible that might be, we spent time observing decision-making within Bristol's administration, businesses and community organisations.

The briefing we subsequently published in 2021, highlighting the disparity in meeting-room floorspace given to different societal groups, was picked up by 200 media outlets. With the help of two Research Associates, we then presented our full findings in a paper. But it still felt like a starting point for real, transformative change.

What we're doing

Confronted with data laying bare the inequalities in their decision-making, local groups' understandable and positive response was to ask for help fixing the issues. For example, during their membership drive, the Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change asked us for support in wording a role description to enhance its inclusivity.

We knew there were people with more expertise in this area, so we began a collaboration with The Diversity Trust to run workshops and awaydays that tackle some of the challenges we've uncovered.

We're currently co-creating the content with the local environmental policymakers it's designed to assist. A Bristol-based media company is filming videos with us – on topics such as how to chair a meeting well and overcoming unconscious biases – producing resources that activists can draw on after the awaydays and workshops. Everything we offer will be free of charge.

How it helps

Having identified problems and set out to mitigate them, we're now applying for funding to build on this work with a bigger project in further cities.

In collaboration with lead scholars and researchers in Cardiff and Glasgow, we hope to conduct a year's research into the specific place-based issues of each of those cities. Following this, we propose a two-year programme working with policymakers and other external partners to create resources that address the local barriers we find.

If the project's funded, by the time it concludes, we'll have studied three major UK cities and hope to be able to highlight the obstacles, opportunities and best practice common to many other cities, helping them encourage a just transition in more local contexts.


  • Dr Alix Dietzel, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
  • Dr Alice Venn, Bristol Law School
  • Dr George Boss (RA)
  • Dr Dan Godshaw (RA), School for Policy Studies

Partner organisations

  • Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change
  • The Diversity Trust
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