POINT (-8.446437 40.575425)
  • Carbon Literacy training – an inspirational approach for cities

    Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

    How to build understanding as a launch pad for local action on climate change.

    Carbon neutrality

    Many of us have been watching the elections in the United States and maybe thinking about its potential implications for the future of the global Paris climate accord (amongst other issues!). Meanwhile, Europe’s cities have continued to develop practical solutions over recent years for improving their climate performance at local level.

    Such enhanced environmental sustainability is a key part of the sustainable urban development that URBACT seeks to promote. The programme supports a number of networks working directly on key and innovative environmental topics such as net zero energy territories and zero carbon cities. It is also committed to improving environmental performance across all its cities and networks.

    In that context, we present here the concept of Carbon Literacy training – a practical and flexible framework for building understanding and informing local action on climate change – that has come to our attention through the work and exchanges of the URBACT C-Change network.

    So what exactly is Carbon Literacy?

    The UK-founded charity The Carbon Literacy Project – which originated the concept, defines Carbon Literacy as: “An awareness of the carbon costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.” In other words, it is about understanding our carbon footprint and our ability and level of agency in reducing it, individually and collectively.

    The project offers a process for developing the Carbon Literacy knowledge of any individual or group through five broad levels of understanding:

    1. What global warming is and how we know – building understanding of the ‘big picture’ of climate change.
    2. What climate change is and what effects it is having – building understanding of why climate change is important.
    3. What people are doing about it – building understanding that action to reduce carbon emissions is possible.
    4. What people just like you could do about it – building understanding that action to reduce carbon emissions in possible in any specific sector.
    5. Exploration of what you could do – building understanding of how to measure your own carbon footprint and realistic, practical steps to reduce it.

    This approach is based on a firm belief that local-level action can and does make a difference and that increased knowledge and understanding of carbon emissions can change cultures within organisations. This in turn, building on principles of equity and fairness, will contribute to a better world and a better way of life.

    The concept of Carbon Literacy has gained increasing international attention in recent years, particularly when the work of the Carbon Literacy Project was showcased as part of ICLEI’s Transformative Actions Program (TAP) at the COP21 UN Climate Change summit in Paris in 2015, with delivery having already taken place across Europe and even further afield.

    Stakeholders in various sectors have seen the value of working with others on carbon awareness initiatives and that improved Carbon Literacy can make you a leader in your sector.

    How can cities deliver Carbon Literacy training?

    The key to understanding Carbon Literacy training is that it is not a one-size-fits-all course, but instead an approach (defined by a publicly-available standard) that can be adapted and applied consistently in very different contexts. The approach therefore has flexibility at its heart. The training is adapted to make it relevant to the specific sector that trainees come from and work in.

    Practical tools – including those for measuring your carbon footprint – and inspiring examples that can truly drive change need to be rooted in and applicable to the practical everyday experience of the trainees. Otherwise, people might be motivated to improve their environmental performance, but demotivated by their lack of agency – lacking the knowledge and understanding of how they can do so in practice.

    For this reason, peer learning is a key aspect of successful Carbon Literacy training. Hearing about what someone in a similar role has been able to do can lead to more meaningful change than high-level or abstract examples that are hard to relate to. Other key aspects of the learning method required by Carbon Literacy are ‘local’ learning, group enquiry and positivity! It is designed to work in community, workplace and education settings.

    Lastly, participants must formulate or take an action within their own area of control, and an action that involves a wider group of people – so Carbon Literacy can never be passively received. On the basis of evidence submitted on behalf of each learner, successful participants receive Carbon Literacy certification, whatever their sector of activity.

    In practice, cities can develop their own carbon awareness training, find service providers to support them or collaborate with others to share toolkits, materials or resources. If a city wants to formally adopt Carbon Literacy as an approach, the Carbon Literacy Project checks and accredits the training programme and materials of any organisation in order to maintain quality and offers resources, support and connection to other cities and organisations to accelerate action and reduce cost.

    An URBACT good practice story: Manchester

    The Carbon Literacy Project in Manchester (UK) was founded as a direct response to Manchester’s first climate change strategy in 2009. Since then, the concept has become increasingly recognised and is now listed by the Manchester Climate Change Agency as an action for “every resident and organisation in Manchester to help meet our climate change targets”, supporting the new Manchester Climate Change Framework, which includes the aim to reduce the city’s direct CO2 emissions by at least 50%, 2020-2025.

    One of the various sectors to engage with the Carbon Literacy Project is the arts and culture sector,  from museums and galleries to opera houses and arts centres. Here, a big catalyst has been MAST, the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team, a network of over 40 cultural organisations that was first established in 2011 in order to explore how the sector could contribute towards implementing the city’s first climate change strategy.

    In 2016, a number of MAST members carried out a Carbon Literacy training pilot in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University, and together, they developed a version of the training specifically for the arts and culture sector.

    Some MAST members have gone on to deliver organisation or department-wide training. For example, HOME – a multi-arts venue – now has two accredited trainers who deliver training for all of HOME’s team, as well as to corporate and private sector organisations in their neighbourhood, who in turn have gone on to adopt Carbon Literacy, and then develop and roll out Carbon Literacy materials for others.

    “Climate change sometimes feels incredibly disempowering, and our role is to empower people to play their part. That’s the strongest thing we can do because it will take all of us together to make the difference,” says MAST Chair Simon Curtis. “Carbon Literacy training been an amazing tool for us to help build action in organisations. It speaks to our sector in our own language, using recognisable examples.”

    MAST achieved an average CO2 reduction of 6% every year starting in 2011-2012, whilst a core group of 13 members achieved a 16% reduction in energy use emissions over three years. In 2017, the MAST model won an URBACT Good Practice award.

    An adaptable tool applied in different European contexts

    Thanks to a successful project application to URBACT, the MAST good practice model is now inspiring five other cities to set up similar actions through the C-Change Transfer Network. We look forward to sharing in early 2021 more details on the full range of exciting initiatives developed by this and other URBACT Transfer Networks.

    Here in this article, what is interesting is to note the adaptability of the Carbon Literacy training approach to different national and local urban contexts. As C-Change Lead Expert Claire Buckley (of ‘Julie’s Bicycle, a charity which supports climate and environmental action in the creative sector) explains: “The partner cities have very much taken on the principles of the Carbon Literacy approach from Manchester, and a good bit of the content. Each city has shaped the training to their needs and local context, but none of the cities have gone for the exact same model.”

    In Wroclaw (PL), trainers from four arts and culture organisations delivered two separate sessions for cultural administration and maintenance staff, and two more in-depth sessions for programming and production people. Participants designed a creative, sector-relevant solution to a specific challenge, such as: a green production rider for an event; or a local cultural project idea on climate change. In total, 48 employees representing all 27 city-run cultural organisations have been trained so far.

    In Mantua (IT), a workshop for about 30 local authority and cultural sector participants, was run by the municipality together with cultural associations, and hosted by an environmental NGO. It looked at how the climate crisis is being felt in Italy, highlighting the Venice floods, and showed a video of a leading Italian climate scientist. Participants mapped ‘spheres of influence’, and discussed the impact of climate change on people’s lives now and in 5-10 years, revealing a huge range of perspectives.

    In Sibenik (HR), the city library ran a half-day training event in October 2020, starting by making a range of environmentally themed books and magazines available. The trainer, a local activist, introduced a ‘climate collage’ exercise as a key interactive element. This has sparked strong interest in further training – for example in the city’s Department of Enterprise and Economic Development – and the library is looking into offering this kind of training as a service for schools and the general public.

    In Agueda (PT), a first training in February 2020 included a site visit to a local cultural organisation to see their good practice. A second training in July 2020 included a visit to the city’s SmartLab neighbourhood where participants investigated scalable solutions such as a solar bench for charging phones. In October 2020, climate change training was part of an open day at Agueda’s Smart City Lab on practical decarbonisation solutions.

    More info

    Interested in Carbon Literacy certification and support? See or email

    In addition to the normal capacity building and thematic support provided to networks, URBACT provides the specific additional possibility for any network to access 2 000 € of support to carry out carbon compensation actions. The use of this budget should be agreed with all partners and can include activities such as: community awareness raising and educational activities; tree planting initiatives; Carbon Literacy training; and community projects.

    Listen also to the C-Change Transfer Network story as presented at the European Week of Regions and Cities 2020.

    Thanks to UK government support, all UK local authorities and educational establishments now have access to free-to-use Carbon Literacy toolkits. Already piloted, toolkits for the UK National Health Service (NHS), Police, Fire and Ambulance services, and even the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are on their way. COP26 host city Glasgow is rolling out Carbon Literacy to its Council staff and members specifically in preparation for this.

    From urbact
    Ref nid


    Kick-off meeting
    Transnational meeting - Mantova
    Transnational meeting - Manchester
    Transnational meeting - Agueda
    Transnational meeting - Manchester
    Transnational meeting - virtual
    Exchange & Learning Seminar
    Exchange & Learning Seminar
    Exchange & Learning Seminar
    Exchange & Learning Seminar

    Transfer the work of Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST) to support cities to mobilise their arts and culture sectors to contribute towards local climate change action is the aim of the C-CHANGE network. This can be done by: 1) Developing local policies, governance and capacity to act 2) Developing plans to reduce CO2 emissions and/or adapt to climate change, and supporting implementation 3) Developing plans to use arts and culture to engage citizens to act, and supporting implementation 4) Encouraging replication in other cities.

    Arts and culture leading climate action in cities
    Ref nid
  • What on earth do the arts and culture have to do with climate change?

    Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

    Claire Buckley, URBACT Lead Expert and Director of Environmental Sustainability at Julie’s Bicycle says time is of the essence.

    In the grander scheme of things, the arts and culture sector is not the biggest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. And so, the question from Radio Wrocław “What on earth do the arts and culture have to do with climate change?” to representatives from Manchester (UK) and Wrocław (PL) during a day of exchange on this issue, did not come as a big surprise. It is, however, well worth unpacking and, one at the heart of a new project on how the arts and culture can lead climate action in cities, funded by the EU’s URBACT programme.

    Carbon neutrality

    Human activity and our dependence on fossil fuels is changing our climate. This is taking an increasing toll on the natural systems which sustain us, on our health, wellbeing and prosperity. Climate change is a systemic issue, rooted in global economic, social, cultural and value systems locking in unsustainable consumption, inequality and a disconnection from nature. Policies, technology and investment alone will not be enough to address it. We need hearts, minds and a shift in our cultural values. No sector is better placed to bridge the gap between what we know and what we feel and support a values’ shift than the arts and culture. This is particularly relevant when it comes to cities, on the front line of climate change, and where art and culture connect citizens to the cultures which define them.

    According to the World Bank’s 2017 Urban Development Overview, cities generate over 80% of global GDP and more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Rapid urbanisation (with predictions of 60-70% of the world’s population living in cities by 2050), coupled with the effects of extreme weather and sea level rise, are putting increasing strain on city infrastructure and resources, exacerbating challenges such as air pollution and impacting on people’s health and wellbeing. Urgent and rapid city action is crucial if we are to limit global temperature rise.

    While the economic and social value of the arts and culture is increasingly recognised in cities, there has been much less recognition of how they can contribute to creating future-proofed, sustainable cities. This is starting to change, as evidenced for example through the World Cities Culture Forum’s Culture and Climate Change Handbook for City Leaders (2017).


    Manchester is one city that already demonstrates what the sector can achieve by working together on climate action and how it can support city climate change strategy. The Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST) has become one of the city’s, and indeed the UK’s, most successful examples of environmental collaboration and, in 2017, Manchester was awarded URBACT Good Practice City status in recognition of MAST’s work.

    MAST is a network of about 30 arts and cultural organisations – from community arts centres and iconic cultural venues to an internationally renowned festival and national broadcasters - working together on climate action and engagement. It has come a long way since it started out in 2011. From a small group taking practical action, with external facilitation and funding, it has evolved into a network funded and run for and by its members, actively contributing to city climate change strategy and targets. MAST enables members to meet face-to-face, share common challenges and opportunities and link directly to what is happening on a city level. MAST’s five-year report (2017) tells its story, shares its achievements and learnings as well as a wealth of good practice.  

    MAST grew from the Manchester Cultural Partnership’s desire to explore how arts and cultural organisations could contribute to the city’s first climate change strategy - Manchester A Certain Future 2010-2020. The group went on to support development of the Manchester Climate Change Strategy 2017-2050, including through Climate Lab, run by the Manchester Climate Change Agency, to test different ways of engaging the people of the city in strategy development. MAST is now represented on the Manchester Climate Change Board. In 2018 Manchester updated its commitment and adopted a science-based target to become zero carbon by 2038. MAST is one of the pioneer groups now developing a zero carbon roadmap in line with this target and Manchester’s draft Zero Carbon Framework 2020-2038.


    For Dave Moutrey, Director and Chief Executive at HOME Manchester, a MAST member, and Director of Culture for Manchester City Council, it is no surprise that the sector has come together to act on climate change and shape the city’s climate change strategy. “Culture is in Manchester’s DNA. We understand the value of culture to our well-being, prosperity and vitality as a city, and the arts and culture sector has a well-recognised part to play in contributing to all city priorities.

    As an URBACT Good Practice City, Manchester is now leading a transfer network - C-Change: Arts and Culture Leading Climate Action in Cities - with five other city partners - Wrocław (PL), Mantova (IT), Gelsenkirchen (DE), Šibenik (HR) and Águeda (PT). Together they have a combined population of 1.6 million people and greenhouse gas emissions of about 9 million tonnes. Together they are working to build on and learn from Manchester’s experience with cultural collaboration on climate.

    Like Manchester, all partner cities - including two former European Capitals of Culture, four UNESCO World Heritage sites and one former national Capital of Culture - have the arts and culture at their heart. They all recognise the sector’s contribution to city life, well-being and prosperity. Águeda, for example, has over the last 10 years, seen the economic and social benefits of nurturing its arts and culture scene, through i.a. a city-wide urban art programme, its AgitÁgueda festival, artist residency programmes and investment in a new contemporary arts centre.


    All are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, from rising sea levels in Šibenik and flooding in Wrocław, to urban heat island and health impacts in Mantova, Wrocław and Gelsenkirchen and forest fires around Águeda and Šibenik. Most already have well-developed climate change strategies and are signatories to the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy.

    While all cities are experiencing the impacts of climate change, people’s perception and level of awareness varies greatly. For those moving from an industrial past, many, and older generations in particular, have actually perceived an improvement in environmental conditions. While in Gelsenkirchen, there is generally a higher level of climate change awareness, there is also a certain ‘climate fatigue’. Each city has different levels of experience with climate change engagement. While in some cases individual organisations are taking action, none of the cities have yet actively involved the sector in climate change initiatives. Crucially, all cities share a recognition of the role the arts and culture can play in engaging citizens on climate change and inspiring and mobilising action.

    Climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face as a society, a challenge which requires an urgent and rapid response. As a city to which the arts, culture and cultural heritage are central - to our past, present and future - I can think of no better sector than the arts and culture to take on this challenge.” Petar Mišura, Head of the Department of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Development, Šibenik

    C-Change will require a new way of working, which brings both opportunities and challenges. In Wrocław, one of the key issues will be building sector collaboration. According to Katarzyna Szymczak-Pomianowska, Wrocław’s Head of Sustainable Development “We now aim to support arts and culture in our city in coming together to act on climate change and support us in helping our citizens understand the issues we face and take action themselves."

    For Gelsenkirchen, at the heart of the Ruhr conurbation, developing a collaboration model that works for both the city and other cities in the Ruhr region will be both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity. For Šibenik, which does not have a climate change strategy, its involvement in C-Change is an opportunity to learn from other cities as it starts to build climate change in new city strategy and link in culture from the start.


    Mantova is particularly excited about how exchange with other European cities can help us bring our cultural and our environmental strategies closer together with active involvement of the arts and culture and help us in working towards our priorities as a city, from climate change to urban regeneration, heritage conservation and public participation.” Adriana Nepote, Councillor for Research and Innovation, University and European Projects

    In Águeda, both city and sector are already active on climate change. C-Change is a chance to accelerate progress, in particular engaging and mobilising citizens in a way which directly supports the city’s ambitious sustainable development goals. "Art, culture and creativity can be a particularly effective means of engaging the public on climate change and cultural actors are playing an increasingly significant role in this area. We welcome the opportunity provided by C-Change to exchange experience on climate action and engagement, for the enrichment of all.” Elsa Corga, Alderwoman of Águeda Council and Councillor for Culture

    As the C-Change partners embark on this innovative and timely collaboration, one thing is absolutely clear. There is no time to waste.


    Visit the network's page: C-Change


    From urbact
    Ref nid
  • Open democracy for all


    Participative budgeting for a small-size city

    Daniela Herculano
    Chief of Staff - Mayor's Office
    Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedIn
    47 729


    Taking into consideration the diversity of its citizens and the diferent social and ethinical minorities on its territory, Agueda (PT) developed a partcipative budget process. It amounts to 500 000 € of the Agueda's yearly public spending. The process runs across all the activities of the  Municipality, embedded in the administrative modernisation and bottom-up approach. So far, it permitted Agueda ranking 3rd in the Municipal Transparency Index and 2nd in the Smart City Index. Since 2015, when the initative was launched, 601 projects were submitted, more than 80 000 people voted and 30 projects selected. 

    The solutions offered by the good practice

    The PB-Águeda is in its third edition, revealing itself as a process covering the local government’s entire range of activity. The PB Committee (CAT) is made up of all the heads of Divisions and separate Technical Units, and a member of the Municipal Assembly, under the coordination of the mayor. Each edition of PB-Águeda comprises two cycles, with a duration of one year: the cycle of budget definition and the cycle of budget execution. The propositions received (from the Internet or participatory sessions) are scanned and entered in the computer application. This process can be done at home by the proponent, using the web services available (site or APP-based). However, we intend this process to be educational with continuous improvement, therefore meetings are held with the proponents to discuss their proposals and weekly CAT meetings take place. We use a methodology of “action-reflection-action”. The satisfaction was evaluated using a questionnaire, submitted to the participants in the Participatory and Voting Sessions. It is important to highlight that the reflection made by both elected officials and technical staff is based on the canvassing of the population. The propositions not admitted, in both plenary meetings and final voting, become part of a “Bank of Ideas” which feeds a selection or recovery of 5 ideas while drafting the yearly Plan and Budget, either because of their municipal interest or because the number of votes was too close to that of the winning propositions.

    Building on the sustainable and integrated approach

    “Being Smart” is the challenge of the new millennium. People are at the core of everything: technology meets the needs of citizens and they get the habit of easily accessing many things. We want people to feel that they live in a human, inclusive, socially, technologically and economically active city, but also that they can follow and engage with the local administration by submitting proposals, which are prioritised and voted upon in order to identify the investments that need to be included in the yearly Plan and Budget. The emerging path of Águeda as a “Human Smart City” means that the local authority provides a set of technological solutions, allowing an exact knowledge of the requests. Citizens can check the online dashboard of the local budget and follow the meeting of the Municipal Assembly through ÁguedaTV, with chat for comments. Águeda is thus a smart city, and it has the ability to develop, create and respond to the needs of its citizens. it is important for them to feel that they are an integral part of the city. An assessment of the impacts of the two years of PB-Águeda leads us to conclude that citizens are concerned with these topics: the environment, tourism, sports, urbanism and education. It is important to highlight that approximately 80% of the projects were not initially part of the options of the municipal board for 2013-2017.

    Based on a participatory approach

    We collected figures showing the implication of the citizens: • Propositions presented through the Internet: 21 (2015) and 12 (2016); • Participatory sessions: 11 (2015) and 11 (2016); • Propositions in the participatory sessions: 276 (2015) and 292 (2016); • Participants in the participatory sessions: 435 (2015) and 495 (2016); • Winning projects after voting: 17 (2015) and 13 (2016); • Registrations in the Participatory Platform: 3,048 (2015) and 5,131 (2016); • Visit by about 24 municipalities and a Scottish delegation to learn about PB-Águeda; • 12 public presentations on the PB-Águeda methodology in national seminars and workshops, e.g. the Iberoamerican Summit of Participatory Democracy; • PB-Águeda was surveyed by the Secretary of State of Administrative Modernisation for input on the methodology of the National PB.

    What difference has it made?

    The implementation of PB-Águeda was accompanied by a sociological study, which allowed us to know the reality of the municipality, at the level of: • The profile of participants, thereby allowing us to have a knowledge of the habits of participation in terms of age, gender, level of education and involvement in the associative movement; • The profile of the population (we have been confronted with a Roma community of a significant size who didn’t know how to read and write, a reality that was unknown in the indicators of the national census); • Skills in information and communication technologies; • Knowledge of the real needs of the population, even those not fitting the regulations of PB-Águeda, made it possible to include them immediately in other support programmes from the local authority; • The process of PB-Águeda is worked across all the municipal services, which implies that all employees have the same degree of knowledge in the implementation and execution of projects; • The theorisation of the practice of the processes of participatory budgeting, based on the local experience and the action of benchmarking with 7 national experiences, where the same evaluation criteria are applied. It is important to highlight that PB-Águeda was awarded the prize for Best Participative Practice in the context of the award of the Network of Participative Municipalities (RAP) with an international judges panel.

    Why should other European cities use it?

    PB-Águeda assumes itself as a good practice whose replication would benefit other European cities. The mixed model (both online and face-to-face interactions) and the methodology for the consensus tables, with the support of a team of 47 moderators (employees of the municipality, who voluntarily work for the project after working hours), make this participatory budget process inclusive to people in terms of writing skills, digital literacy, accessibility to the participatory sessions, as well as to the conciliation of family life with the exercise of active citizenship. In the last edition, we found that 68% of the people in the sessions were participating for the first time, which means that the process is attracting more and more new participants. The experience of the PB-Águeda can be replicated in areas of low population density, given the mutual trust and closeness that has been established with the citizens throughout the process. The implementation of this process in other municipalities would have to be rooted in a participatory budget model that would reflect the institutional identity and policies followed by the elected Municipal Board.

    Is a transfer practice
    Ref nid