Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require a rapid transformation of the UK economy that goes beyond focusing on the financial, regulatory and technological shifts and places citizens and communities at the heart of the transition. But what does that mean in practice and how can we achieve the level of public support for this to happen?

In the Local Just Transition Challenge we are working with two distinct communities to demonstrate how the long-term benefits of the transition to a net-zero economy can be felt by everyone and to demonstrate the potential impact of involving citizens directly in the decisions that affect them, and provide inspiration for other communities seeking to drive the Just Transition. 

Read about the challenge

About the solution

Pilot 1: Our Zero Selby

Who's involved

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The Challenge

Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 requires a rapid transformation of the UK economy. In many circles, there remains a focus on the financial, regulatory and technological shifts that need to take place. Whilst these are obviously critical, the level of transformation required means that citizens and communities have an equally important part to play, for example in ensuring new zero carbon business models, products and services flourish and scale.

As recognised by the 2020 Climate Assembly, “the way we live our lives, what we buy, how we travel and what we eat will all have an influence. So, it is essential to work with citizens to make sure their views are heard, and develop strategies that fit with people’s lives and aspirations”. Increasingly, there is also expectation that the benefits and burdens of the net zero transition in key sectors like energy, agriculture and transport are shared equally across society, including a conscious effort to avoid the harmful impacts and injustices of previous industrial transitions within communities across the UK.

A just transition is needed for a rapid and resilient shift to a net-zero world. But what does this mean in practice, and how might communities realise the co-benefits associated with the decarbonisation of our economy? Without addressing these questions, there is a risk that we don’t achieve the level of public support and momentum we require for the changes ahead.  

Our Solution

Our vision is for all communities to benefit from the transition to a net-zero economy that the UK is undertaking. We believe this is possible where communities have agency and are able to collaborate with businesses, public authorities, investors, and donors towards common goals. Through conversation and practical action within communities faced with significant change, we want to show the long-term benefits of net-zero can be felt by everyone.

Over the course of 2021 and 2022, we worked closely with public participation charity Involve. During this time, we collaborated with two communities to:

  • better understand how the net zero transition relates to them and their everyday needs, and what a vision of a just or fair transition looks like for them;
  • explored how local, regional and national actors might work together to help realise this vision and the potential projects that support it; and
  • leveraged the commitments, resources, and funding needed to catalyse the changes they would like to see.

We also captured learning from the two pilots and shared this via a national learning network.

Pilot 1: Our Zero Selby

We completed our first pilot in 2023 in Selby, North Yorkshire, under the name Our Zero Selby. A key principle behind this project is that pilots are run by and for the local community. Our Zero Selby is therefore managed by local charity, Selby District AVS (now called Up for Yorkshire), with support from Forum and public participation charity, Involve. The initiative is funded by Friends Provident Foundation.

Over 12 months, Our Zero Selby developed a community-led vision for Selby’s future, prioritise ideas for local action and start working on turning ideas into action.

Our Zero Selby secured additional funding to facilitate coordinated action and ensure citizen voices are represented in planning decisions. With this funding, Our Zero Selby is supporting the development of projects aimed at transforming Selby into a Net-Zero community. These projects include constructing a ground-source heat network and community kitchens, with continued emphasis on community participation at their core. While Forum has stepped back from leading the project, it remains engaged with the Our Zero Selby team in a consulting role.

Please follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook to see what a community-led just transition looks like in practice.   

Who’s Involved?

We would like to acknowledge the generous support of Friends Provident Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in making this project possible.

Core partners:

Supported by:

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Reach out to Annabel Johnstone if you’re interested getting involved or would like to find out more about the project.