There was much excitement when Somerset, England became the first Transition Local Authority, resolving to tackle climate change and peak oil through strategic partnerships with citizen activists and businesses. Unfortunately, however, what started out as a promising step toward cooperation between local government and grassroots movements has ground to a complete halt. With a new Conservative council recently elected, Somerset has formally decided to halt "climate change work, work on renewable energy, natural environment policy and delivery." Rob Hopkins has a typically thoughtful, engaging and non-party political piece on what this decision means for localism and the environmental agenda:
"Recent developments in Somerset are another substantial blow to the idea of the Big Society and localism, especially in the context of a co-ordinated national response to climate change. If central government is to be contracted, and responsibility for the installation of a renewable energy infrastructure is to become that of local councils, the Somerset story strongly suggests that this is a strategy guaranteed to fail. National government can set climate change targets, emissions reduction strategies and targets for how much renewable energy it wants to see installed, as it has done in this week's Carbon Plan published by DECC, yet all of it will struggle to actually happen when faced with councils that have downgraded climate change to the extent of being a non-issue, as Somerset have just done."
"Think global, act local" may be a powerful mantra for grassroots activists but, as Rob so forcefully argues, it can't become a replacement for national and international action too.