Barnet Council's BarNET ZERO sustainability campaign

BarNET ZERO is a sustainability project launched by Barnet council with a goal to be a net zero borough by 2042.


BarNET ZERO is a sustainability project launched by Barnet council with a goal to be a net zero borough by 2042.

The campaign involves a multi-faceted approach, including the launch of a new sustainability brand, Barnet's first-ever Citizens' Assembly, community ambassadors, learning from best practices, a BarNET ZERO web portal, a dedicated e-bulletin, and a pledge sign-up to reduce carbon emissions.

Additionally, the project includes the largest electrical vehicle chargepoint project in the UK and the showcasing of Brent Cross Cricklewood, a large regeneration project delivering the largest air source heat pump installation in Europe and a new net zero carbon town by 2030.

The campaign has a long-term approach and will continue to evolve as Barnet progresses towards achieving its net zero carbon goal.

The challenge

In May 2022, the London Borough of Barnet declared a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, committing to becoming a Net Zero council by 2030 and a place no later than 2042.

In January 2023, the borough launched its BarNET ZERO campaign, which seeks to bring communities, residents, and businesses together to achieve this goal.

With approximately 155,000 homes and almost 400,000 residents, residential homes contribute the most (60 per cent) to carbon emissions in the borough. For this case study, we will discuss how the BarNET ZERO campaign aims to tackle the challenge of creating a net zero carbon borough in Barnet.

The solution

Starting from scratch and with ambitions to be a net zero council by 2030 and borough by 2042, Barnet launched BarNET ZERO; a multi-faceted campaign (online and outdoor advertising) in partnership with our communities, to encourage them to co-design the solutions with us.

The initial phase of the campaign launched in January 2023, over a 5-week duration, to lay the foundations of our sustainability story in Barnet.

Our borough-wide sustainability project, comprises of the following initiatives and activity:

  • new bold, innovative sustainability brand, specific to Barnet
  • launch of Barnet’s first-ever Citizens’ Assembly
  • onboarding of community ambassadors, including a stakeholder engagement toolkit
  • learning from best practice elsewhere
  • dedicated BarNET ZERO e-bulletin and pledge sign-up to reduce carbon emissions in Barnet
  • development of the BarNET ZERO web portal, showcasing examples from real people who live, work and volunteer in the borough of Barnet.

BarNET ZERO has a long-term campaign approach, which will develop and evolve as we progress our journey to achieving net zero carbon. Further information on the BarNET ZERO campaign is available online.

Barnet Council aims to tackle the challenge of creating a net zero carbon borough in Barnet, through the following measures:

Retrofit measures

The council is committed to installing retrofit measures and providing support to landlords to install loft and wall insulation, double glazing, and other energy-efficient measures to bring all properties to an EPC Band C or above. The council recognizes the need to make it easier for people to apply for planning permission or grants to make sustainable choices. In delivering change at pace, the council completed a fabric-first retrofit and insulation to properties across the Watling Estate, Burnt Oak, creating warmer homes and reducing energy demand, supporting residents in the current Cost of Living crisis.

Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund

The council submitted a bid for £9 million from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to deliver building fabric and heating system improvements to up to 238 more homes across the borough. However, this is only a small part of the overall social housing estate, and additional funding streams are needed to turn the net zero ambitions into reality.

Brent Cross Town

The £8 billion Brent Cross Town development programme, the largest development in the borough, committed to being net zero by 2030. It will have the largest air source heat pump installation in Europe, with an on-site energy centre, providing heating and hot water to the new town using renewable energy.

Decarbonisation measures

The council has invested in decarbonisation measures by installing heat pumps and solar panels on 17 buildings across the borough, including the council's main office building in Colindale and five libraries. This project will reduce carbon emissions by 287 tonnes of carbon per year.

Partnerships and place

The council's Partnerships and Place theme brings different players from across Barnet together in identifying where they can have the most significant impact on the place. The council believes it has a vital role to play in influencing and convening others in the borough.

Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change

Barnet's Citizens' Assembly on climate change launched, asking residents the question, "What more can we do together to make Barnet more sustainable, now and in the future?" A separate Young People's Assembly (aged 11-17) will also launch, ensuring the voices of young people are heard in the planning.

The impact

BarNET ZERO's impact on communities has been significant and measurable.

With a primary objective for the launch campaign being to drive video views, the campaign was able to achieve an impressive 150,000 views of its video content across social media, which equates to views from almost 40 per cent of Barnet's population of 400,000 residents. This was accomplished with a targeted social media advertising spend of just £1,429 over five weeks, demonstrating excellent value-for-money.

In addition to this, the project achieved several other notable outcomes, including 360 positive responses to Citizens' Assembly workshop invitations, 131 subscribers and pledges made by people to reduce their carbon emissions, and 2,600 views of the BarNET ZERO web portal, all of which exceeded their respective targets.

How is the approach being sustained?

The project has already begun to add value beyond its initial goals. Middlesex University's PR and Branding department has expressed interest in using BarNET ZERO as a case study for their MA on Place Branding, while community groups have approached the council with partnership ideas as a result.

The BarNET ZERO blog has featured in the Municipal Journal, and the project's community ambassadors have been actively responding to comments on social media while creating their own content.

Overall, the innovative approach to place branding, community involvement, and storytelling puts BarNET ZERO at the forefront of sustainability initiatives in the UK. Its emphasis on empowering individuals and building strong relationships with stakeholders has made it an effective tool for encouraging positive change towards a net zero future.

Lessons learned

BarNET ZERO is an outstanding example of how local government can lead the way in tackling the climate and biodiversity emergency through a community-led approach and co-designed solutions to achieving a net zero borough.

Overall, BarNET ZERO sets a best practice approach for other local authorities to follow in running campaigns on climate change and community engagement, being innovative and pushing the boundaries on creativity within local government sustainability campaigns.

Its emphasis on empowering individuals and building strong relationships with stakeholders has made it an effective tool for encouraging positive change towards a net zero future.