Image above: Illustration of the key moments from the workshop, drawn by Laura Sorvala.
The GW4 Climate Alliance held a practical workshop in Bristol entitled "GW4 Living Labs: Scope 3 and the Road to Net Zero" on February 28th, 2023. The aim was to bring together local authorities, community organisations, businesses, and universities to create living labs for Net Zero in the Southwest England and South Wales region. The focus was on emissions from supply chains and travel (Scope 3 emissions).
The event opened with a welcome and introduction to GW4 living labs by Professor Pete Walker, Climate Action Chair at the University of Bath. Pete provided an overview of the project, including work already undertaken by GW4 (Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter Universities) and the overall aim to develop our region into a whole system Net Zero testbed, where ideas and innovative solutions can be trialled and advanced.
Image: Carla Denyer speaks with attendees of the workshop
Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party and Bristol City Councillor, was the keynote speaker. During her speech, ‘Our Vision to Net Zero’, Carla emphasised the need for a fair and equitable transition and the importance of stakeholder involvement to overcome barriers to decarbonisation.
"It's all about making it easier and more affordable to do the 'green thing' in an inclusive way.”
Attendees were also encouraged to focus on and commit to proposals that could be up and running in the next 10 years, highlighting the power the workshop attendees have to bring about a greener Southwest and South Wales.
The first session drew on all participant perspectives to create a shared vision of a Net Zero value chain in the region. Attendees were asked, “when we have achieved our vision of a net zero region, what will YOU be seeing, hearing, saying, thinking, feeling and doing?”. Responses included “living in a decentralised society, with local economies”, “deprioritising cars”, “enjoying more green spaces and cleaner air”, and “emphasising inclusivity”.
The next session involved cross-sector breakout groups on priorities and practical steps for decarbonising procurement and travel. Participants chose priorities for collaboration including supplier engagement, just transitions, carbon accounting, circular economy, education for sustainable development, data and digitalisation, and whole systems thinking and ecology.
Engaging discussions took place throughout the day, with several attendees praising the positive, productive energy of the workshop. Hestor Buck, a PhD researcher from Cardiff University, commented that the workshop acted as an “interdisciplinary network with a positive vision that encourages cross-collaboration”. Freya Branley, Net Zero Data Officer and Alice Gent, Sustainability Project Officer at Exeter City Council, explored the potential of introducing ‘carbon literacy’ training as part of mandatory job e-learning, exchanging these ideas with Carla Denyer as a way to improve public understanding of carbon emissions.
Attendees were asked to answer the question “If we were to meet here again in a year’s time, what would you be thrilled to tell us that you have done, as a result of our conversations today?”. Responses were overwhelmingly positive, emphasising retaining the connections attendees made at the workshop and collaborating partnerships to challenge existing systems to reduce emissions. For many organisations, scope 3 emissions account for the highest proportion of total emissions and are the hardest to reduce, but also represent our greatest opportunity to decarbonise locally and regionally.
The workshop concluded with closing remarks from Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, Director of the GW4 Alliance. “This is just one stop”, Joanna explained, “GW4 is developing its new strategy, with a renewed focus on a just transition to sustainable Net Zero. The collaborative nature of the session offered tangible pathways for delivering Net Zero priorities, paving the way for a sustainable future. I look forward to seeing some of the ideas and projects initiated at the workshop develop into action.”
Overall, the event was a success, bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders and creating a shared vision for a Net Zero value chain in the region. The breakout groups provided attendees with the space to identify key priorities for collaboration and helped build a roadmap for decarbonising procurement and travel. A full report outlining outcomes and next steps from the workshop will be published next month.