Thinking BIG for the environment
By Peter Ainsworth, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund
As National Climate Week gets underway today, what better opportunity to look ahead at our exciting plans for the future and reflect on the progress made by some of the fantastic environmental projects BIG has helped come to fruition.
As a quick snapshot, the Big Lottery Fund has awarded over £342 million since 2006/07 through our environmental initiatives, and that figure is significantly higher when individual environment grants made to communities under our Reaching Communities and Awards for All programmes are taken into account.
BIG’s Communities Living Sustainably programme is now getting into gear, providing £12 million to 12 communities in England with the aim of helping them to lower their household bills and to deal with the impact of climate change.
One of the programme’s projects is the SustainEden partnership, led by local charity Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS). The district of Eden has the highest fuel poverty rate in England at 30 per cent, due in part to the high proportion of solid stone wall houses, unconnected to the energy grid.
Last year, BIG awarded CAfS £955,270 to deliver a three year programme of draught proofing, advice on energy savings and the development of a social enterprise energy company that will set up a ‘green tariff’ to reduce energy costs. It is a fantastic project that is making a real practical difference to the local community.
In Scotland, the £9m Community Spaces Scotland programme brought communities to come together to become more involved in their local environment, communal spaces and places. Over in Northern Ireland the Energy Efficient Venues programme offered support to voluntary and community sector groups who want to make improvements to community venues and help save money in running costs while in England, Parks for People has now been allocated up to £5m over the next two years.
Last but no means least, the £66m People and Places programme in Wales is having great success funding projects that enhance their local environments, community services and buildings.
When it comes to helping people use fewer of the world’s resources, our projects have recycled enough waste to fill the Royal Albert Hall 24 times, repaired and distributed enough furniture to fill 2,600 double-decker buses and set up a number of car sharing schemes across the UK.
One such example can be found in south Wales. When the Cilgwyn Community Group received £24,600 in December to run an electric car scheme near Newport, global warming may have seemed more like wishful thinking.
Although it’s hard to believe sometimes, especially with snow-bound travel chaos fresh in the memory, scientists predict that the global surface temperature will warm by up to 2.6 degrees in the 21st Century and one of the main offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions is our four-wheeled friend.
With this in mind Cilgwyn Community Group’s EVini Shared Electric Vehicles scheme could represent a vision of the future. The group will use the funding to buy an electric van and car to establish a community electric transport club, providing a car sharing facility for the community and reducing the need for second cars. The van will be used to transport goods and fresh produce from around the region and renewable energy will be used to recharge the vehicles. The group is poised to purchase their vehicles and literally set the wheels of a fantastic environmental action project in motion.
Indeed Newport seems to be in the vanguard of the fight against climate change. Another local group, the Wastesavers Charitable Trust, are using a £160,934 People and Places award to run the PEAK project. Aimed at helping the environment, the scheme also improves the skills and education of young people aged 14 – 18 who have been excluded from school.
Among a huge range of activities, the not-for-profit recycling group runs the Community Furniture Shop where reconditioned furniture is made available to those on low incomes. Young people on the project are able to gain valuable work experience at the shop, preparing them for the world of work whilst at the same time reducing the amount of waste going into landfill sites.
Projects such as these are vital because we can’t look to the future without also involving the next generation in our plans.
BIG is currently exploring a UK-wide programme that will give young people a greater say in improving the local environment as it is their future that will be most affected by action taken now.
Young people today, often struggling to find employment, represent a huge, natural resource of talent and ideas just waiting to be discovered.
Our new environmental programme will aim harness their renewable energy to create one of our most ambitious programmes yet, bringing together the right partners across the UK and testing what is most effective in changing attitudes and behaviour.
It is part of BIG’s determination to further support communities in their efforts to safeguard and improve their environment and I look forward to sharing more details in due course.
Is your project doing something special to mark National Climate Week? Let us know on Twitter using the #biglf hashtag or leave a comment below. The hashtag for National Climate Week is #ClimateWeek. Get involved!