How can the outcomes of COP26 support the carbon neutral ambitions of businesses, policy makers and communities in Sedgemoor?

On Wednesday 24th November 2021, twelve days after the close of COP26 in Glasgow, Burnham & Weston Energy and the University of Exeter’s Green Futures Network collaborated with Sedgemoor District Council to deliver ‘COP26: what does it mean to Sedgemoor?’

The aim was to explore the outcomes of COP26 and to understand the opportunities decisions made at a global level give us to act on climate change locally.

What was COP26?

Many people believed that COP26 was ‘the world’s best last chance to get runaway climate change under control’. UK leaders came together in Glasgow with leaders from across the globe. Their hope was to ‘acclerate collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society to deliver on our climate goals faster’.

Increasingly, this became a focus on ‘keeping 1.5 alive‘ – we have a less than one per cent chance of keeping temperatures within the 1.5 degrees centigrade target set by the 2015 Paris Agreement (agreed at COP25) should we maintain our current emissions trajectory.

What did we achieve at ‘COP26: what does it mean for Sedgemoor?’

With the input of the University of Exeter and an engaging panel of experts, campaigners and policymakers, the event steered participants through:

  • The trends to emerge from COP26
  • The learnings from the conference that can accelerate our progress towards net zero
  • Identifying questions that we need to address so that we can work better together to achieve our local 2030 carbon neutral ambition

Over 60 people registered to take part, and the event welcomed policy makers and local authority officers from across Somerset, public and private sector organisations including businesses, health, finance and education), community organisations and conscious citizens. Following a presentation on the outcome of COP26 and a Panel discussion, participants joined breakout discussions to look at the opportunities for businesses, funding shortfalls for local projects, and local climate adaptation impacts in greater depth.

Key themes to arise from ‘COP26: what does it mean for Sedgemoor?’

A full overview of the event, including recordings of the Panel discussion and outcome of the breakout discussions can be found later in this report. However, some prominent themes from the Panel and breakout discussions included:

  • We have the potential in Sedgemoor to be leaders of climate action
  • To be successful, we need a route map and to decipher how we all, given the diverse networks involved and affected, work together
  • Local responsibility for meeting climate objectives lies with everyone in terms of what we do, choosing who we work with including suppliers and partners
  • We know enough to develop and deliver local solutions to net zero, and we must learn how to share this knowledge and experience and collaborate more widely
  • Clear, sensitive, communication is needed to increase understanding and enable change
  • There is value in those already taking action – let’s recognise, celebrate and learn from them

Outcomes and trends from COP26  – led by Peter Lefort, University of Exeter Green Futures Network

Drawing on the views of University of Exeter academics who also attended COP26, Peter Lefort opened ‘COP26: what does it mean for Sedgemoor?’ with an overview of the outcomes from the conference and the government’s Net Zero Strategy, opportunities and trends emerging for local climate actions plan, and the direct and indirect impact on the area.

In establishing a platform for the discussions, Peter highlighted considerations and questions important for Sedgemoor to take on board should people in the district want to succeed in realising their net zero objectives including:

  • There is a need for behaviour change, but with no national strategic approach, this is likely to fall to a local level
  • Evidence suggests there is support from the public for stricter rules and environmental regulations
  • As pressure to address climate change mounts, we need to be aware of blaming others for lack of action and the social effect of this
  • Do we have the tools and resources locally to help businesses get on board with the trend for being transparent with their impact and progress towards targets? Can we recognise and celebrate businesses who do this? What leadership do we need locally to support this?
  • In the UK, there is still a need for an agriculture emissions strategy, a clearer plan for Power, and clarity on what’s going to happen with larger transport and motorbikes
  • Locally, we’re developing a better understanding of what climate change means to us, and now we need to make changes to the way in which we grow and transport food, travel, power our homes and businesses etc

The opportunities include supporting businesses so they can quickly respond to the changes they need to make and focusing on behaviour change. Peter also noted the importance of maintaining the drive to realise the local net zero ambitions, encouraging communities, businesses and local authorities to tap into the resource that academics in universities in the UK and abroad can offer.

Click to see Peter Lefort's slides: Outcomes and trends from COP26

“We need to act now, because the changes coming are inevitable. We haven’t quite got to the point where political will has matched up to the technological opportunity and the scientific knowledge. But these moments are coming, so the more we can prepare for them and look forward, the better prepared we are going to be for that.”

COP26: what does it mean for Sedgemoor? – Panel response

A diverse Panel was then called upon to respond to the outcomes of COP26 highlighted by the University of Exeter. Specifically, Panel members were asked to speak to:

  • The work of their organisation and what has been done to date
  • The outcomes from COP26 and which ones feel most important to them at a local level
  • The gaps in our knowledge and capacity that are most important to address

Their presentations provided an opportunity to further consider the local impact and opportunities to integrate learnings into local strategies, plans and actions, and our local capacity to address climate change. Some stand out takeaways from their presentations included (find the full YouTube recording of the presentations below):

Kristy Blackwell, Strategy Manager for Climate Change, Sedgemoor District Council

Having recognised a climate emergency and the scale of change needed, Sedgemoor District Council understands it has a role as community leader, not only in its own actions, but by facilitating businesses and communities to make informed and sustainable choices about the way we live – local food, active travel, local renewable energy, recycling – to also benefit health and wellbeing. Climate change is to remain a key priority as the transition to a unitary authority takes place, and we need to collaborate and utilise our partnership opportunities to maximise where we can realise positive change.

David Ralph, Chief Executive Officer, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership

Sedgemoor has an opportunity, because of its assets, to be at the forefront of net zero in how it supports businesses and communites to address climate change. Strategies have been updated due to the pandemic and the need for greater community buy in and advantage. However, we need a plan for net zero, to understand how the pandemic has truly changed things, and to understand whether our large number of small businesses have the innovation capability to drive the charge. We must also collaborate more widely and take advantage of the universities and exploit their expertise.

Ruth Lambert, Development Manager, Federation of Small Businesses Somerset & Wiltshire

COP26 pledges need to be more practical and the infrastructure needs to be there so that businesses can engage. Clear resources on how to become net zero and what it will cost, clear guidance from the government, and grants and low interest loans are a must for small businesses. Businesses need more climate friendly suppliers. Peer support can help share understanding and knowledge.

Richard Harper, Head of Sustainability, Energy and Carbon, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Yeovil District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

There is clear recognition of the impact of climate change on health – the rise in temperature, decrease in air quality, and more extreme weather events such as flooding, can effect people’s food supply, mental wellbeing, and physical health – and the NHS needs to understand the support it can provide. Hospitals are looking at how they adapt their buildings and how they can be a haven of good air quality as respiratory illnesses increase. They are also concerned with how they can incentivise sustainable travel of staff and hospital visitors, and the challenge of taking their supply chain to net zero. There are co-benefits in achieving better health for everyone and protecting the environment.

Steve Mewes, Local Nature Partnership Coordinator & Advocacy Manager, Somerset Wildlife Trust

We know enough – let us make the best use of nature and the technologies we have now. The gaps are in capacity, money, ambition, empowerment and authority. We can create high skilled jobs, adapt, drastically reduce our emissions, and we need to come together to tack climate injustice and eco-anxiety. Click here to view Steve Mewes’ slides.

Watch the presentations from the University of Exeter and the Panel

The recording of the presentations made by the University of Exeter and the Panel members, also incorporates the Panel’s reflections their key takeaways from the event. It can be viewed here:

The opportunities post-COP26 – breakout discussions

Following the Panel presentations, participants chose which of the three breakout rooms to join in order to develop the discussion. Here the notes captured on Google Jamboard are shared along with an interpretation of the key messages arising from each of the discussions.

Click each image to view it full-size or here to view the entire Jamboard.

1. Opportunities for local businesses

The need and challenge of providing community generated energy to both public and private sector businesses in order to meet local demand for green and affordable energy was highlighted. Businesses also need help to make the transition to net zero, and the opportunity to develop shorter, local, supply chains post-pandemic.

2. Opportunities and funding shortfalls for local projects

Participants shared a mixture of successes in applying for funding due to oversubscription, processes involved, and the size of projects. Sharing information about the funding available is key to future success, and collaborating may help overcome challenges of securing funding.

3. Local climate adaptation impacts

Sensitive, timely and relevant communication and advocacy were identified as a key need if Sedgemoor is going to successfully adapt to the impacts of climate change. Everyone from communities to policymakers need to be involved in identifying, planning and implementing adaptation measures – ensure local knowledge is called upon – and we need a resource dedicated to working on adaptation across the district.

Summary – Panel reflections

As the event drew to a close, the Panel members were asked for their reflections and what they were going to takeaway from the conversations. This is captured in the YouTube recording above, but in summary:

Bringing people together and expanding our network has been useful. There is a lot of value we can take from organisations already taking action and learn from them as to how we can take things forward as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, the diversity of the group is exciting but also a challenge, so we need to look at how everything people are working on all comes together.

One of the priorities will be the Local Enterprise Partnership better joining up the provision of energy and how we deliver low carbon. To do this we will have to work out the responsibility locally and what is the responsibility strategically and how the plans of multiple organisations work together. We must also make information and access to funding easier.

We also have to look at maximising the opportunity of Gravity and shortening supply chains. Broadband and digital connectivity is vital in order to support our businesses – this will mean development of services and skills.

Steve Mewes also added in follow up to the event that lack of leadership, partly due to the centralised nature of our political system in the UK giving little power or money to local councils, restricts local action. The system also prevents the ability to engage young people. However, we all need to be far more ambitious and make huge and urgent changes that are positive and fair to everyone in society.


Some great resources were shared in the discussions and Chat during the event. Here are the highlights:


As outlined in the key themes above, there is real potential for Sedgemoor to lead the way in delivering net zero (success here would also ensure benefits of net zero are secured for our local population sooner). As the outcomes of the event show, some primary opportunities for the district to address include:

Net zero plan

We need a plan for net zero and we all should all be involved in developing and delivering it. Amongst the first steps are enabling everyone – policymakers, businesses, communities and individuals – to understand our responsibility, what action is needed, and how to take action. We must also incorporate the expertise of universities, who can help us determine what local plans will work and how.


A distinct part of our success in transitioning to net zero locally will be great communication. The event highlighted that we likely have the knowledge we need to become net zero, and there are people and organisations already taking action. We need to get better at sharing this knowledge, resources, and learning from those already making changes needed to reduce emissions. We also need to deliver the communications with appropriate timeliness and sensitivity. The benefits could include identifying local solutions that will enable necessary behaviour change (a local responsbility) and shorter supply chains (a local opportunity).


Collaboration is priority. Not only does everyone have a role, but we must all work together to deliver net zero. However, our diversity, and that of our plans and networks, means we need to understand our roles, and that of others, in order to understand how we bring these together. Greater collaboration should also help realise more co-benefits for the health and wellbeing of our local population.

Take action

In taking action together, we are likely to identify vital ways forward. Taking action should also create new high skilled jobs, cleaner air, improve our health and that of our natural environment, amongst other benefits. And evidence shows that people are happy for this action to be taken. Taking action is a local responsibility, particularly in areas where central government has not set national strategies.


With the local target of net zero by 2030 just eight years away, confidence in what we need to do and taking action now will deliver the greatest benefits to residents, communities and businesses sooner. To establish Sedgemoor as leaders of positive change demands political aligns with the delivery of a cohesive plan. Delaying action will cost more to implement not only environmentally, but socially and economically, too.

Message from Burnham & Weston Energy, University of Exeter and Sedgemoor District Council

A key theme was the need to share networks, ideas and resources. You can make sure to stay in touch with Burnham & Weston Energy here, the Green Futures Network here, and Sedgemoor District Council here. Make sure to reach out to your networks and beyond for support – the community groups, the businesses, the universities, the local authorities, the NHS – where collective action would bring co-benefits. People and organisations are very keen to work together!

Finally, go out and take action. We can take reassurance from the event that people are positive that here in Sedgemoor we are capable of delivering change together. This gives us permission to go ahead, and whether realised through small or big projects, the action we take can make a significant positive difference to our health, livelihoods and the environment in the hamlets, villages and towns where we live and work.

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