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Bold Leadership, radical action – what Bristol residents want on climate change

What do Bristol residents really think about climate change? We know that Bristol has a reputation as a green city, but is it just ‘greenies’ at the centre of town who care? What kinds of policies would be acceptable or desirable? Are people aware of what the Council is planning to do?

Our team of eight researchers set out to all four corners of the city with clipboards , to find out what Bristol residents have to say. They approached people at bus stops, in leisure centres, at libraries and on the street to ask questions like:

  • What comes to mind when you think of climate change?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • Are you aware of any planned changes in the city in relation to climate change?
  • Are there any future changes you would or wouldn’t want to see?

The answers came in from 333 residents of all parts of the city in February and March 2020, and then a further 1343 residents took part in an online survey in June, which included an additional question about whether Covid-19 had shifted their views on climate change in any way. 

Careful analysis of the responses revealed the following insights:

  • Bristol residents are concerned about climate change and would welcome City leadership and policy that enables them to take action. People want change, but they don’t necessarily have the will or indeed power to act as individuals.
  • The emotion of fear was widely identified but what this meant for action was mixed. In some cases it motivated change while in others it held back action.
  • Transport is the biggest area of concern talked about both before and during the Covid-19 lockdown.
  • Residents are willing to see radical change in the city, and are frustrated that the visible steps taken so far aren’t enough to address the climate emergency. with the lack of visible steps that have been taken so far.
  • Equality and fairness is important to Bristolians, including an expectation that all sectors should pull their weight and that the cost of adaptation to climate change should not be carried by, or lead to the exclusion of, those least able to pay.
  • Residents expect a high level of integrity from Bristol City Council.

This research coincides with the launch of Bristol’s One City Climate Strategy, a cross-sector approach to the climate emergency in Bristol.  The promotion and communication of the One City Climate Strategy is a good opportunity for increasing understanding of the city’s plans, and involving residents in shaping what we do, and we hope that this research can inform that process. It is clear that people from across the city care about climate change, and are afraid and angry, but they want to see bold and consistent city wide leadership, and to know that the efforts they make to contribute to the change we need are part of a wider collective effort where everyone pulls their weight. 

To find out more about what people said and the recommendations coming out of this research, you can download the full report


This blog is written by Cabot Institute member Dr Jack Nicholls and Emilia Melville. This blog was reposted with kind permission from Praxis Research.

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