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Community-Led Initiatives and SDG13: Climate Action

Community-led initiatives often foreground climate change as a key driver for action. The ways they do so, informed by holistic scientific approaches such as social-ecological resilience, tend to assume transformative perspectives in which fundamental systemic change is needed, not simply decarbonisation of existing systems.[1][2] A 2016 survey of over 300 individuals engaged in climate change mitigation action, including within CLIs, conducted by researchers at Edinburgh University, showed reported motivations to extend beyond environmental issues to also encompass social justice and economic concerns.[3] Actions are motivated by holistic analyses that transcend the distinction between mitigation and adaptation, such as that provided by social-ecological resilience, and span a range of physical, social and cultural fields of action.[4] They often involve self-monitoring and reflection, helping to nurture individual and collective responsibility as well as informs meaningful and effective action to reduce carbon footprints and build adaptive capacity in the face of both changing weather conditions and the social, economic and cultural changes demanded by a move away from fossil fuel dependency.[5][6] Many operate as commons, whereby inclusive and equitable processes for decision-making and allocation of shared resources create responsiveness, flexibility and values-led orientation necessary to overcome current institutional and cultural barriers to decarbonisation.[7][8]

Climate action is one of the areas that has generated particularly deep partnerships, and forms of mutual learning, between community-led initiatives and researchers. An important analysis arising from this form of transdisciplinary collaboration calls for an emphasise on processes of change, including attention to learning, power, equity and relationships, with research reoriented from analysis to fostering practical action. It identified ten key factors for effective community-led responses to the need to retain global temperature rises within a 1.5 C limit: enhanced adaptability; responsiveness to shocks and stresses; horizontal and cross-issue working; collaboration across social scales; fast and deep reductions carbon emissions; creation of shared narratives about climate change; direct engagement with emerging futures; attention to climate disadvantage; orientation towards processes and pathways and working for transformations towards resilience.[9] Increasingly, the perspectives and actions of community-led initiatives on climate change are shifting from becoming the object of research to vital dimensions of transdisciplinary research methods dedicated to directly helping to achieve resilience through practical action.[10]


  1. Henfrey, T., Maschkowski, G., Penha-Lopes, G. (Eds.), 2017. Resilience, Community Action & Societal Transformation: People, Place, Practice, Power, Politics & Possibility in Transition. Permanent Publications, East Meon, Hampshire.
  2. Fazey, I., Carmen, E., Chapin, F., Ross, H., Rao-Williams, J., Lyon, C., Connon, I., Searle, B., Knox, K., 2018. Community resilience for a 1.5 °C world. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 31, 30–40.
  3. Howell, R.A. and S. Allen, 2017. People and planet: Values, motivations and formative influences of individuals acting to mitigate climate change. Environmental Values 26(2):131-155.
  4. Henfrey, T., Penha-Lopes, G., 2015. Permaculture and climate change adaptation. Permanent Publications, East Meon, Hampshire.
  5. Hobson, K., Mayne, R., Hamilton, J., 2016. Monitoring and evaluating eco-localisation: Lessons from UK low carbon community groups. Environment and Planning A.
  6. Carragher, V., Peters, M., 2018. Engaging an ecovillage and measuring its ecological footprint. Local Environment 23, 861–878.
  7. Kenrick, J., 2012. The Climate and the Commons, in: Davey, B. (Ed.), Sharing for Survival: Restoring the Climate, the Commons and Society. Feasta.
  8. Henfrey, T., Kenrick, J., 2017. 4.2. Climate, Commons and Hope: The Transition Movement in Global Perspective., in: Henfrey, T., Maschkowski, G., Penha-Lopes, G. (Eds.), Resilience, Community and Societal Transformation. Permanent Publications, East Meon, Hampshire, pp. 161–190.
  9. Fazey, I., Schäpke, N., Caniglia, G., Patterson, J., Hultman, J., van Mierlo, B., Säwe, F., Wiek, A., Wittmayer, J., Aldunce, P., Al Waer, H., Battacharya, N., Bradbury, H., Carmen, E., Colvin, J., Cvitanovic, C., D’Souza, M., Gopel, M., Goldstein, B., Hämäläinen, T., Harper, G., Henfrey, T., Hodgson, A., Howden, M.S., Kerr, A., Klaes, M., Lyon, C., Midgley, G., Moser, S., Mukherjee, N., Müller, K., O’Brien, K., O’Connell, D.A., Olsson, P., Page, G., Reed, M.S., Searle, B., Silvestri, G., Spaiser, V., Strasser, T., Tschakert, P., Uribe-Calvo, N., Waddell, S., Rao-Williams, J., Wise, R., Wolstenholme, R., Woods, M., Wyborn, C., 2018. Ten essentials for action-oriented and second order energy transitions, transformations and climate change research. Energy Research & Social Science 40, 54–70.
  10. Henfrey, T.W., 2018. Designing for resilience: permaculture as a transdisciplinary methodology in applied resilience research. Ecology and Society 23.