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Bristol's climate debates lack diverse voices, study finds

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Bristol's climate debates lack diverse voices, study finds

A study has said there is a "worrying lack of diversity" in city-wide debates and decisions made over climate change.

The University of Bristol spent one year focussing on the work of six climate change bodies, both public and private sector, in the city.

Researcher Dr Alix Dietzel said: "From what we know from global negotiations, which is what I studied prior to this research, this is quite common."

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The mayor of Bristol, Labour's Marvin Rees, has welcomed the report findings.

"Certain voices dominate the discussion and it tends to be the most privileged in society and obviously in our case that would be white men," Dr Dietzel added.

Mr Rees, said: "While it's encouraging that Bristol is recognised as a leader in responding to climate change, this report provides cause for all organisations championing climate action to reflect on their representation and decision making."

Bristol City Council oversees the Bristol One City Board, while the Bristol Advisory Committee on Climate Change is an independent committee established by the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE) at the request of the mayor.


'Select few'
Mr Rees said the council was supporting programmes to help develop diverse talent such as the Stepping Up project and the Black and Green Ambassadors but added they were "starting points".

He added: "The burden of meeting the immediate and long-term challenges we face cannot rest on a select few individuals and organisations.

The year-long study conducted in Bristol revealed 5% of participants at meetings to discuss transition to a net zero future were men of colour, and they spoke only 1% of the time.

The voices of women of colour accounted for 2% of debate time, despite making up 14% of participants.

People of colour make up 16% of Bristol's population, according to Bristol City Council.


'Trust to engage'
This is because those from poorer backgrounds are more vulnerable to climate change because they are more likely to live in lower quality housing and lack the resources to move to escape heatwaves or flooding, the study says.

Disabled people are also vulnerable, as they often need specialist housing, making it difficult to relocate.

Dr Dietzel added: "It's not just speaking, it is getting people in the room and to feel they want to be part of these processes, to feel the trust to engage and perhaps to feel that they can make a difference and that they belong."

The BBC has approached all those reviewed in the report, funded by the university's Cabot Institute for the Environment, for a response.

The Bristol Green Capital Partnership and Ujima Radio, which together run the Black and Green ambassador programme, said they welcomed the findings and were also committed to bringing in more diverse voices to climate debates.

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