Community groups repowering London

A conversation with Chris Church, the founding director of Community Environment Associates | By Daniel Hills

Community groups repowering London
Photo by Henry Be / Unsplash

Chris Church is a founding director of Community Environment Associates (CEA). Since 1990, he has worked as an advisor, trainer, researcher and advocate for sustainability and community development. He focuses on the development of effective climate action by communities and local organisations.

I spoke to Church to find out more about what young people can do to get involved and what he believes local councils may or may not be doing effectively.

“What I do is get involved with local communities and what out the clear and effective steps they need to take in order to change their local environment” Church explained. The onus has to be on the community to take action, with him steering decision-makers towards effective change. 

"One of the main problems is that people in these communities think that their local environment is what is directly outside their front door,” says Church. When they realise just how large the scope really is “that’s when it seems far more daunting”. 

So how can young people get involved? “One of the groups off the top of my head is Repowering London and they’ve done a lot of great work, especially in Brixton to engage young people. Especially young black people”.

Church added: “a lot of the groups before have been very white but Repowering London really focus on fairness, educational opportunities and fighting fuel poverty”.

Through their work in the community, they have provided paid training to 155 young people and have avoided the use of 900 tonnes of carbon emissions which Church said is “proof enough for more people to get involved”.

We are in a position now where people are being forced to spend money by turning on their heating, instead of saving money and energy. “What Repowering London does, is train these young people so they can go on to work in the sector which leads to the ability to retrofit homes.” Church explained, “if more homes were insulated and built in these ways, there wouldn’t be a need to consume energy the way we do at home”. 

Church also spoke about issues regarding local councils and the work they do to meet their climate pledges and tackle the wider issues. Being a Southwark native, I asked Church how he feels Southwark has been doing based on his work with local communities in the borough.

“It’s all well and good having solar panels on two or three hundred homes but that’s not really going to do a lot in the grand scheme of things”, said Church. But the issue is one of capacity, not willpower. Local councils aren’t doing more because they’re just not able to. “The money just isn’t available; the lion’s share has to go elsewhere".  

“I do however have to mention Peckham Library and the job done there” he said. The improvements: “new low carbon, heating, cooling and ventilation among other things” are part of a significant climate-friendly renovation.

With Peckham Library being a large social building in the heart of one of Southwark’s busiest areas, Church feels that it is a good place to start, saying "while I believe there is a lot more to do, stuff like this is a good place to start if Southwark and other local councils really do want to become carbon neutral anytime soon”. 

For more information, please visit the Repowering London and Southwark Council websites.

Written by Daniel Hills