A place-sensitive approach is crucial for effective environmental policy, argues new British Academy report

30 Mar 2023

Today the British Academy has published a new report highlighting the power of ‘place-sensitive policymaking’ and its role in the development of effective environmental policy.

A place-sensitive approach recognises and builds on the diversity of places and supports policymaking that meets the needs of everyone, particularly those experiencing disadvantages.

Understanding the role of place in environmental sustainability brings together the findings of seven research projects commissioned by the Academy in 2022. Together the research demonstrates how crucial a place-sensitive approach is to the development of effective environmental policy.

The report finds that:

  • Environmental knowledge and education can underpin the transformative shifts in behaviour that are needed for environmental sustainability
  • Language and a discourse that resonates with the values, culture and experiences of a particular place and community create a more compelling narrative for change and may increase the effectiveness of environmental policy
  • Long-term, trusted and inclusive relationships and partnerships sit at the heart of the methods that are most effective for engaging people where they live
  • Embedded governance mechanisms and spaces can adapt to meet the changing needs of local environments and communities
  • Delegated power and resources that build on governance processes that already work are important, particularly when resources are tight.

The report builds on the evidence from the Academy’s Where we live now project, which focused on exploring what places mean to people and why, along with what place-sensitive policymaking might look like in practice.

Harriet Bulkeley FBA, Professor of Geography at Durham University, and a member of the Academy’s Where We Live Next Advisory Group, said: 

“The climate emergency and issues surrounding environmental sustainability are global challenges requiring international collaboration. However, they are also critical issues for local communities, businesses and governments so we should not overlook the powerful role of place-sensitive policymaking, which will be vital to achieving our environmental goals. This report demonstrates that by engaging with local communities and drawing on existing systems to pioneer community-driven solutions, policymakers will be able to implement more effective policies and forge a sustainable future.”

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