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Tackling climate change in Cumbria gets £2.5 million National Lottery boost

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Cumbria’s bid for £2.5 million of National Lottery funding to cut carbon emissions in the county has been successful, it was announced today (17 Aug). 

Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) is one of nearly 70 organisations from many walks of life in Cumbria that came together to submit the bid to the National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. The award to the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership will fund a five-year programme of action aiming to make Cumbria the first carbon-neutral county in the UK, in a way that benefits communities and is led by them.  

“This is incredible news for Cumbria and we’re delighted to have developed this successful bid on behalf of the partnership!” said Karen Mitchell, chief executive of CAfS, which co-chairs the partnership. “The grant brings a significant investment into the county just when we need it most, as we begin to rebuild after the Coronavirus pandemic. It will create 12 green jobs and will see a whole range of activities led by communities that will make them more sustainable, stronger and more resilient for the future.” 

An ambitious programme will begin in January 2021 led by the partnership, which spans the public, private and third sectors, including community groups, councils, the NHS, police, national parks, businesses and the farming community, among others.  

“This community-led programme will tackle some of the main sources of carbon emissions in our county, with a particular focus on food, energy generation and the goods we buy. Thanks to this funding, we can make the shift towards a zero-carbon Cumbria at the urgent pace required by the climate crisis,” Karen said.

The programme will also build strong working relationships among a wide range of organisations across the county, raising their ambition to tackle climate change and sharing learning and resources. The voice of local people will be at the heart of it. 

“People from all walks of life will be able to influence and drive climate action through citizens’ juries and other projects, with community groups steering the programme,” Karen said. “Young people, whose futures will be particularly affected by the climate crisis, will be able to take advantage of a leadership programme to help them make their voices heard, enhancing their skills and giving them access to people in positions of influence.” 

Another example of the diverse range of projects, activities and events is Grow Local Eat Local, which will see local producers growing more fruit, vegetables and cereal crops in Cumbria for local use. The number of repair cafes will be expanded, saving people money while reducing waste. Cumbria will also be a test bed for two new community-energy projects, with innovative community-owned models of generating, storing and sharing energy, with benefits staying in communities.  

Climate change has been identified as a risk to public health in Cumbria, and therefore reducing the emissions that are causing it is part of the county’s Public Health Strategy, led by Cumbria County Council. Colin Cox, director of public health, jointly chairs the partnership along with CAfS. All six district councils have also committed to the county’s carbon-neutral goal. 

“Cumbria is on the front line of the climate crisis in the UK, feeling the devastating impacts of extreme weather, from increased flooding and storms to longer dry spells,” Karen said. “We also have particular challenges here, such as rural isolation, which make our communities even more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.” 

The breadth of partners and community involvement were strong points for Cumbria’s bid, along with the fact that it will also contribute to climate action beyond the county, by trialing projects and ways of working that could be replicated elsewhere. 

“We’re extremely grateful to the National Lottery for entrusting our partnership with this award,” Karen said. “Thanks to National Lottery players, this grant offers Cumbria an unprecedented opportunity to drive real, positive change in our carbon emissions and our sustainability, while benefiting our communities for generations to come.”  

This grant is one of the first fourteen awards to be announced as part of the National Lottery-funded Climate Action Fund, a ten-year £100 million fund that will reduce the carbon footprint of communities demonstrating what is possible when people take the lead in tackling climate change. All the projects across the UK will work together, share their learning and be active participants in a broader movement of change within and beyond these communities.

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