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Localization: Taking Climate Action Beyond The COP

Introducing the Localization Action Guide:

As the world looks towards COP26 for climate action, a newly launched guide shows individuals, communities and policymakers how to make a real hands-on difference in their own localities.

Created by international nonprofit Local Futures, the Guide features no less than 146 actions that can help reduce emissions, pollution, consumption and waste, while strengthening local communities and economies. They include everything from growing organic food and moving your money, to setting up farmers’ markets, community investment funds and co-operative businesses. They also include suggestions for those with an eye to policy changes that, frustratingly, have so far been absent from discussion in the COPs – for example, shifting subsidies and regulations to favor local economies instead of global corporations .Each entry in the guide points the user in the right direction, highlighting key networks and resources, and offering inspiring examples of groups who have successfully taken action in various corners of the globe – from rural India to the heart of Boston. That said, the guide is primarily aimed at sparking action in the Global North, where radical shifts in consumption and lifeways are most urgently needed.

While achievable for individuals and community groups, these actions are more “upstream” than the consumer-oriented actions we are all too used to hearing about. The Localization Action Guide spares us a rehash of the supposed benefits of recycling or purchasing from “sustainable” brands.

Instead, all actions described involve some form of economic localization, which means shortening the distances between producer and consumer at the structural level.

Localization reduces unnecessary transport, packaging, and energy-intensive processing operations, and promotes a shift away from resource-guzzling, polluting industrial farms – all of which are central to the export-oriented global economy. It also stimulates more sustainable and regenerative ways of producing our basic needs – in diversified, agroecological small farms rather than in factory farms, for example.

Not only are localizing actions important for mitigating climate change – they are also crucial for adaptation and building resilience. As has been made all too clear by the COVID-19 pandemic, social and economic infrastructures that support community mutual aid, small business networks, shorter supply chains and local food economies are vital for weathering crises.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the Localization Action Guide shows us how taking meaningful action to localize our economies can simultaneously increase our own wellbeing and tackle the climate crisis. By reconnecting with our communities and our local ecologies, we can heal ourselves as we help to heal the planet.

So, should we focus only on bottom-up ways to localize, and ignore global climate policies?  Well, not exactly. On their own, community-based actions cannot create systemic change. But together with political resistance and big picture awareness raising, they are a vital part of a paradigm shift to a healthier and more abundant world. For this reason, the guide includes actions ranging from the individual to the political, as both kinds of action are mutually supportive and necessary.

In the words of Local Futures director Helena Norberg-Hodge: Grassroots localization initiatives “are lifeboats of soil health, biodiversity, human wellbeing and community cohesion. They offer tangible hope, no matter what happens at Glasgow.”

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