Talking about the Government’s recent move on single use plastics Mr Jenkin remarked that ‘the establishment is playing catch up’ with public concern for greater environmental protection, listing as an example the range of eco-friendly lifestyle choices he has made over the years. The issue of climate change specifically, however, is one that has evolved for Mr Jenkin, not least due to the work of one of his constituents, Jill of the Women’s Institute.
How can we achieve the energy generation we need from renewables whilst protecting our treasured natural environment? What risks does the Government need to take to achieve our emission reduction targets and how far are they willing to go? Is our current political response to the danger of climate change encouraging or is there still a lot to do?
St Buryan WI in Cornwall had a fascinating discussion with their MP, Derek Thomas, about climate change, wildlife and efficient housing among many other topics, following training from Hope for the Future. Regional Climate Ambassador, Pippa Stilwell reports on the meeting in this guest blog.
On 04 May, 30 WI members and friends who live in the St Ives constituency , plus 3 members of the RSPB, met in St Buryan Village Hall to discuss climate change. They were joined by St Ives MP Derek Thomas, and also by Sarah Robinson from the organisation Hope For The Future, based in Sheffield, which specialises in training citizens to work with policy makers on climate change. Sarah opened the evening with a fascinating presentation on how to engage with your MP and hold a constructive conversation by finding common ground (for example the goal of ensuring that all new homes are energy efficient) and then asking for action which the MP can realistically take, from a request to pass a letter to the relevant minister, through various levels of ambition ending with a commitment to launch a national campaign.
Derek Thomas then gave a talk around topics including the future of a local Wave Hub, geothermal energy in Cornwall, future plans for infrastructure to protect West Cornwall from flooding in the face of rising sea-levels, and also a question about energy efficiency for new homes and retrofitting insulation for old ones. Mr Thomas answered all these questions in detail, and undertook to send us copies of the briefings he had obtained. He agreed that levels of funding for improving our inefficient homes are disappointing, given the huge potential gains in terms of reducing fuel bills, reducing carbon emissions, and keeping people well. He also outlined his vision of introducing variable tariffs, with low energy users paying less per unit and high energy users paying more: although the method is complicated, if combined with grants for insulation for low income households this may be an effective way of helping with energy bills.
Other questions from the audience included one about whether the new town planned for Truro would be well supplied with charging points for electric vehicles. Pippa Stilwell asked if Mr Thomas would press the Government on the importance of introducing energy efficiency standards into building regulations, which he agreed to do. Barbara Curnow from Carbis Bay WI described her son’s big savings on energy bills since moving to an energy efficient house. When asked to what extent the climate agenda is a priority at Westminster, Mr Thomas said that politicians are aware that green energy initiatives present huge opportunities to create new jobs across the UK, and that this will drive change.
Sarah Robinson mentioned the upcoming Speak Up Week of Action campaign organised by the Climate Coalition, of which both the WI and the RSPB are members, which will take place between 30th June and 8th July this year, when members of the coalition (about 15 million individuals) will contact their MPs and ask them to press the Government to commit to the target of zero emissions by the year 2050.
Finally, Pippa Stilwell stressed the need to take action urgently, and asked people to encourage their friends in other Cornwall constituencies to approach their own MPs as part of the Speak up Week of Action, in the hope of getting a united voice in Westminster from all 6 Cornwall MPs.
The evening finished with tea and cake in true WI fashion.
Pippa Stilwell Zennor WI
Climate Ambassador, Cornwall Federation of Women’s Institute: 05 May 2018
I first met with my MP, Guto Bebb, around 18 months ago, not long after I moved into the Conwy area. Our first meeting went much better than I expected. Before the meeting Mr Bebb told me that he was happy to meet although he didn’t consider himself an expert on climate change so he wasn’t sure how he could help. However on leaving the meeting, I was inspired by Mr Bebb’s knowledge of issues related to climate change in North Wales, including renewable energy and flooding and came away from this meeting feeling extremely positive. From then on, I kept in contact and Mr Bebb even put me in touch with his researcher, Hattie, in Parliament after I told him how interested I was in a career in research. Before meeting with Hattie I didn’t have much knowledge of the role of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) and how there was specific climate change and related groups. Thanks to Hattie explaining all about APPGs, we then went on to use this knowledge at Hope for the Future, to help in our work. This was a really great outcome of my first meeting with Mr Bebb.
With the feeling that I now had a good relationship with my MP, I considered asking if Mr Bebb would attend a workshop on climate change in Aberconwy School in my constituency. These workshops are run by Hope for the Future in association with Scurrah Wainwright and provide secondary school students the opportunity to learn more about working with their MP, how Parliament works and present a ‘campaign’ of their choice to their local MP. Mr Bebb joined after the students had prepared their really creative campaigns, on fuel poverty, renewable energy, Eco Schools and air pollution. The students presenting their ideas to their MP was a really great way to open up the discussion on a variety of issues that I’m not sure Mr Bebb would have thought we would be discussing in a workshop on ‘climate change.’
Following this, Mr Bebb was really engaging in a question and answer session. He talked about issues such as recycling, on which Wales is a leader in the UK, and also fuel poverty which is a big issue in the Aberconwy constituency. Mr Bebb’s understanding of opportunities for renewable energy really shone, and he even told us that before becoming an MP he pushed for a smaller version of Electric Mountain- a hydroelectric power station in North Wales.
The students asked some really thought provoking questions. Not only did they get a lot out of the opportunity to discuss such an important issues with their MP, but Guto also said that he was inspired to hear the passion on these issues from the students. Mr Bebb also gave the students some advice for approaching their MP on climate change and related issues:
'Now is a really important time for young people to engage in politics. If you care about climate change and the environment you have the opportunity to present your views in shaping environment policy after Brexit.'
For anyone worried about meeting their MP on climate change, I would 100% recommend that you give it a go. There is almost always something that you and your MP can find common ground in. For myself and my MP, it was renewable energy; before our meeting I didn’t know that Mr Bebb was an advocate for Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. From initially being worried about approaching my MP on an issue such as climate change, to Mr Bebb attending a workshop at the local school on the issue, I feel that building a good relationship with your MP goes a long way.
For more information on our workshops, see our schools page here. If you know of a school or an MP who would benefit from being involved with this project please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday night, Hope for the Future hosted a panel discussion at St John’s Church in Menston on the theme of ‘Renewable Energy and Fuel Poverty’. The event was attended by Shipley MP, Philip Davies, and covered a range of topic; from reducing household bills to fracking …to solar powered cars! The event was organised by constituent Marilyn Banister and Hope for the Future’s events coordinator, Emma Stevens . Here, Emma reports on the discussion, reflects on the outcomes and ponders the potential next steps…
This was my first event with Hope for the Future and knowing that Mr Davies was one of only five MPs who had voted against the 2008 Climate Change Act, I wasn’t sure how a discussion that part-focused on renewable energy would go (and as my first event, I obviously wanted it to go well!). Back in February 2017 a group of Shipley constituents had met with Mr Davies and were interested to know more about his views on climate change and related issues. There was the potential for this to be a challenging discussion but, supported by Hope for the Future in advance of the meeting, the group decided to focus on Mr Davies’ strong local ethos.
As Mr Davies had previously shown an interest in reducing local energy bills, the meeting was framed around fuel poverty and following a productive meeting Mr Davies agreed to speak at an event held in the constituency. The aim was to bring together speakers from different backgrounds to provide the audience with multiple perspectives through which to look at the themes of renewable energy and fuel poverty. Joining Mr Davies on the panel was Emma Bridge the Chief Executive of Community Energy England, Sam Hall from liberal conservative think tank Bright Blue who leads on their green conservatism work and Andy Stephenson from NAREC Distributed Energy.
The speakers each opened with individual presentations in which Mr Davies stated that he “enjoyed a good debate”. Fortunately, this is what we were provided with in the subsequent Q&A session. Mr Davies opened stating his belief both in climate change and its impacts. He agreed that renewable energy in the UK had been a success story, but Mr Davies’s great contention was this; Whilst the UK’s emissions may have dropped, what about the rest of the world? In putting more rigorous climate change legislation in place has the UK simply lost out on business opportunities, whilst forcing polluting businesses to other parts of the world for other countries to deal with?
Sam responded with ample examples of other countries’ recent leadership that leaves the UK in the danger of being left behind and Andy’s fuel poverty angle emphasised the importance of energy efficiency measures to reduce demand in the first place. Emma inspired us with a story from a village in Kenya that was using solar lamps to enable children to finish their homework in the evenings, met with appreciation from the audience.
Hope for the Future co-founder and trustee, Jemima Parker, chaired the discussion and got the Q&A started with audience members’ questions about wind energy’s future potential and costs. Sam was able to dispel some myths about the stagnation of renewable sources, explaining that they are not a fad and have actually grown from 11% to 29% of the energy mix between 2012 and 2017. Mr Davies focused on the sunk costs associated with investing in intermittency of the technology “not working when the wind doesn’t blow” whilst Emma encouraged Mr Davies to also take into account the added social benefits of community owned renewable energy; “its democratic, sustainable and the financial benefits are shared”. Appealing to the new generation of developers and engineers, Andy spoke of new technologies such as battery storage which can overcome the concerns raised by Mr Davies. “We can have energy that is cheap, reliable and green”, our panelists insisted.
Tackling another contentious issue in fracking, our panelists were largely in agreement that fracking should not form a focal part of the UK’s sources of energy in the future. Mr Davies stipulated that he believes energy security to be one of country’s biggest issues and was therefore more open to the role that fracking could play in providing cheap energy for all, citing the US as an example. Owing to queries that had been raised earlier in the evening around wind turbines’ impact on the natural environment, Emma Bridge was keen to say that based on those underlying concerns “why would we [then] frack there?”. Sam appealed to Philip’s small state conservatism to encourage the Government to allow communities to decide if they want fracking or wind for themselves.
With voices from politics, community, research and industry, this discussion offered a diverse range of opinions. Reflecting on the broader issue of climate change there were concerns that without a legally binding international agreement, the UK may wrongly prioritise its energy future. However, in his closing remarks, Sam noted that the much bigger danger facing the UK was that the investment made in renewable energy would be lost just at the moment that the UK stands to most benefit from the dividends.
Looking to the future, Marilyn Banister concluded the event by encouraging the audience to see how they could improve the lives of their local communities now and for generations to come. Following the event conclusion, we asked Mr Davies if there was anything that had changed how he thought about some of the issues discussed. “I wouldn’t say that my opinion has changed, but it has developed. I learned more about the great local benefits of community energy, and it’s an interesting point Sam makes about my ‘small state’ view regarding wind energy. I’m also interested to learn more about battery storage from Andy”. Philip also offered to take part in a Hope for the Future school workshop in his constituency – a great outcome to a successful event!
I’m really looking forward to organising more fantastic events on a wide variety of themes during 2018. If you would like our help in putting on a climate change event in your constituency then please get in touch! email@example.com
Policy Intern, Rachael Treharne, takes a closer look at the 25-Year Environment Plan.
Last week the Prime Minister, alongside Michael Gove, finally unveiled ‘A Green Future’; a 25 year plan for protecting and enhancing the environment, originally due for publication in 2016. Its contents indicate how nature will be valued following our exit from the EU. This has implications not just for conservation, but for sectors including farming and public health, and for efforts to address global environmental problems such as plastic waste.
The 151 page document lays out a strong, positive vision for taking a more holistic approach to environmental protection, recognising that the integrity of the natural world is central to a healthy economy, as well as to human wellbeing. It contains some important commitments, notably to retain key principles underlying EU environmental law and to establish an independent watchdog which will hold the government to account.
However, its description by Boris Johnson as a ‘ground-breaking step to protect our planet’ is more than a little grandiose. Despite signals that the plan does indicate genuine intention to tackle environmental issues from air pollution to soil health, it is non-binding, lacks urgency, and is, in places, vague.
What is in the plan?
Six key areas are covered: sustainable land use, nature restoration, health and wellbeing, pollution and waste, the marine environment, and tackling global environmental issues.
Although some of the aims within each of these reiterate EU or other existing targets, there are also new objectives and ideas with the potential to make a real difference to the state of UK nature. There is a target to eliminate all avoidable waste by 2050, and all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. There are promises to reward farmers for good environmental stewardship and to strengthen environmental standards in planning rules. There is also a commitment to provide an extra half a million hectares of wildlife habitat through a ‘Nature Recovery Network’, and a range of proposals to promote nature as a “pathway to good health and wellbeing”, including considering prescribing environmental therapies through the NHS.
This tone and direction is very welcome. However the devil is in the detail; the plan does not provide any legal or financial basis to ensure it will actually be delivered, and provides little clarity on how progress will be measured. Arguably, it also risks complacency. The UK is now considered to be among the most nature-depleted countries in the world: more than half of our species are declining, with 12% extinct or threatened with extinction. In this context, a greater focus on concrete actions to be taken in the immediate future might have been expected from the environment plan.
Where does climate change fit in?
Remarkably the document states: “We will take all possible action to mitigate climate change, while adapting to reduce its impact”. However, despite a separate government report clearly showing that the UK is on track to miss our existing climate change targets, the new 25 year environment plan neither recognises this nor proposes any concrete measures to close the gap between ambition and reality.
Further, where climate-related aims are included, they suffer from a lack of detail. Commitments such as that to “help developing nations… by providing assistance” will require greater ambition and clarity over the scale and form of this assistance if the UK is to maintain its reputation as a global leader in climate action.
The 25 year environment plan could be a turning point in the condition of our natural environment and its contribution to human wellbeing. Alternatively, unless it is followed up by concrete action and legislation, it could represent little more than good intentions. To help build the positive vision in the plan into something more tangible, you could ask your MP to:
- Support a new Environment Act. This would embed the objectives described in the plan into UK law and establish systems to measure and independently report on progress.
- Support clear targets to protect our environment in the near as well the long term.
- Fully consider the impacts of climate change, described in the plan as “the most serious long-term risk to the environment”, on UK nature and its relationship with human wellbeing.
It’s not hard to understand why only 10- 15% of people contact their MP each year. How many of us have balked at the smarmy politician persona brought on by a particularly unpleasant media grilling, or the playground antics of Prime Ministers Questions? Near weekly political scandals and career climber betrayals make for titillating dinner gossip but little else.
Hope for the Future is in the business of getting climate change onto the political agenda. With climate action seen as a ‘career limiting move’ and, when approaching MPs, met with ‘oh gosh, climate change…really?’, we were quickly acquainted with disappointing political engagement. Returning to the drawing board, we examined what we were doing wrong.
A breakthrough came in August 2015 when accompanying constituents to meet a particularly prickly MP who had given less than five minutes to their previous meeting. Attempting to impart the terrifying fate of polar bears, I couldn’t help but notice his dazed expression, broken only by quick glances at the clock behind us. “It can be a dry topic, climate change, can’t it?” I remarked. Quick to sense criticism, he retorted that it simply wasn’t a constituency issue. “I’m not interested in making the lives of my constituents any harder than they already are”, he added. Fair enough, I thought.
Certainly rising energy prices aren’t a vote winner. Neither is unnecessary red tape, economic regression or substandard living conditions - all misconceptions plaguing the climate movement. Well, if we weren’t to convince him, we may as well learn something whilst there. What were his reservations about climate action? What solutions did he see to fill technology gaps? How can we relate the issue to everyday life? And suddenly, his attention was all ours.
In the six months that followed we interviewed politicians of all political persuasions, seeking to better understand the lives of our elected representatives. What are their hopes, fears and dreams? How would they define a good constituency meeting? Why enter politics in the first place? Just what is it about us climate campaigners that rubs so many politicians up the wrong way?
MPs were generous and often candid about their experiences, keen to see the benefits that improved campaigning could bring for everyone. Building on our findings, we developed a lobbying approach based in models of conflict resolution, counselling techniques and research into the rise of adversarial politics. Described by former Minister of State, John Battle, as ‘the best step by step guide to lobbying an MP I have seen’, remarkably, we found our approach making significant headway.
We saw Philip Davies, one of only five MPs to vote against the Climate Change Act, lobbying the Housing Minister for improved insulation standards. Laurence Robertson had repeatedly failed to commit to any action but following a revised approach, has spoken up in Parliament supporting renewables no less than eight times. Margaret Greenwood, delighted with our constructive approach, pledged to encourage the Government to divest MPs’ pensions from fossil fuels as an election promise.
Our training is now commissioned by many of the major NGOs working on climate change and in 2017 we trained over 1,000 campaigners in our approach. We’re currently working with over 70 cabinet ministers, Government whips, and MPs ‘on the rise’ to get climate change onto the agenda. Moving forward, however, a new challenge lies ahead. Having secured Hope for the Future’s financial backing and charitable status in mid-2017, our co-founder and chair of trustees, Michael Bayley, will be stepping down from his role as chair. We are looking for someone equally inspiring and passionate to take his place. We want to recruit a new chair and we would be delighted to hear from anyone who has the vision and expertise to take our organisation into its next adventure.
If you would like further details, take a look at our Chair of Trustees advert, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Michael Bayley on 0114 258 5248.
John Musker left from Canterbury Cathedral on the 12th October to begin his cycling adventure of over 1,400 miles to Rome. He raised an incredible £8,000 for the work of Hope for the Future! An encounter with the law, sleeping under the stars, snakes and forest fires, John has kept us updated along the way with extraordinary, and often amusing, stories of his ambitious adventure.
A group gathered at Canterbury Cathedral to pray for John as he set off on his journey. It was a beautiful send off from a place where so many other pilgrims have begun their journeys. Within a few hours he was in France! Two days later he had made it to the South of Cambrai, already having had an encounter with the law… A gesticulating gendarme was leaning out of his van, clearly telling John to do something different from what he was doing. He drove on, leaving John wondering if he was cycling on roads that he shouldn’t be, but they seemed fine for the time being so he carried onto Arras!
By Day 4, John had already cycled 350 miles. His preference to cycle at night meant for a peaceful, clear ride. “It feels so fast on a bike at night and the tarmac is as smooth as marble.” Despite a migraine and sleeping on a roundabout, he found his way to Reimes easily. Unfortunately, it was more of a task finding his way out! Lost in Reimes, John came across a major running event in town and found himself riding along a prohibited road to the finish line. “There was the bunting, there were the barriers and overhead, the big finishing arch with a stop clock ready to show your time! But there was no one there…but me…crossing the line at night…the winner!” 6 locals and 3 gendarmes later, John found his way.
John made it to Dijon on Day 6. His update came at midnight after his longest day yet. He was up in the hills and found the night absolutely pitch black, silent and still with no light pollution anywhere on the horizon. The sky was just a massive dome of stars.
Cycling through Dijon, he passed lots of bikes for sale in garish colours. Suddenly John realised he was cycling on the route of La Tour! “The lone cyclist, taking pole position again!” Along this route, John met another cyclist, Don (Don La Mancha thought John…). Don was a social worker who had been to see the refugees at the camps in Calais. Don said he was hallucinating from a lack of sleep due to a close encounter with a wild boar the night before… John was glad he had steered clear of the forest on his night under the starry dome.
Another long day and John arrived in Mervans. However his day was far from over. “I found a place to camp...rather hurriedly, but it looked ok. Started to unpack when a car drove by slowly reversed and came back. I put down my stuff and walking into the headlights, I promptly fell straight into the ditch I'd avoided on the way in. (I'm sure that doesn't happen in the movies!) "Monsieur?" I said, trying to look positive. I couldn't understand what he was saying, but he kept putting his hands together on his cheek and tipping his head sideways and then pointing ahead. I said "Can I stay...just one night?" I couldn't really grasp what he was saying until his wife came out with one word... "snake?" She said.
“I found a lovely spot a mile down the road.”
On the night of Day 9, John made it to Italy! It was a beautiful morning and John had the delight of cycling the length of Lac du Buorget with the backdrop of the mountains, all the way down to Chambery.
“I have to say, that cycling, you are right up close to everything going around you. Sounds, smells, ridges on the road, folds of warm and cold air on your skin.” Riding along, John could see something up ahead in the road, auburn brown hair… John feared it might be a bear! But up close he saw the ears and a snout. “Don la Mancha had not been hallucinating, it was in fact a huge wild boar!”
John found himself at the foot of the Col du Mont Cenis rising to nearly 7000ft, the highest of the Alpen passes. “This is what I had to face to get to Susa and a bed for the night and it was already getting dark.” John began his treacherous accent with unrelenting hairpin bends, long twisting climbs, the thinning air and freezing winds, with no barriers between the path and a vertical drop. Thankfully, John’s friends Simona and Diego were on their way to see him safely over the top and 15km of sheer descent to Susa where they would spend the night. They were his “angels in disguise”.
Day 11 saw John just over half way to Rome. Simona went ahead in the car and John and Diego set off on their bikes at midday. A strong wind was blowing, thankfully in the direction of their ride! “Gusts must have exceeded in excess of 50mph because at times Diego and I were going flat in top gear and we were being overtaken by the dry leaves being blown along with us!”
“Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next. You could not make this up. I had camped on a roundabout, beside a motorway, in the hollows, high in the hills....protected by all. Instead of staying the night at Diego’s, I might have chosen to camp in the trees on the bone dry slopes above Susa. But as we left the town a crisis in the mountainside, a forest fire... raging out of control.
“Diego assured me no one lived up there.....it was just the smoke that would be a danger to the village that lay down wind.” Turning to back to the road they headed again for Turino, fanned by the wind.
The next day Diego escorted John from Turino on his bike about 20km to pick up the main route to Asti and John said good bye with many thanks for their amazing hospitality. That night was a chilly one so John donned every item of clothing he had with him! When he got up to make a move at 4.30am there was ice on the inside of the tent.
It took a while to become light, but it began to warm up and the layers came off slowly. John stopped in Alexandria at a supermarket to stock up with food for the next two days. The weather was great so John just carried on cycling. Diego had suggested it could be more tricky wild camping in Italy compared to France as there is much less space for people to spread out.
It was getting cold again and John had been cycling 12 hrs with hardly any breaks. It was really getting cold, yet as he set off after supper, a sign flashed that it was 14° in Genova which wasn’t that far away. John reached the top of a pass and began his descent, whizzing along through strange little Mexican style towns. Everyone was around and everything was open! "It was like Las Vegas compared to Frances El Passo!" Suddenly John found himself in the city of Genova. It was 17° and the place was buzzing! John’s wife Jaki had been following John's progress on the GPS tracker and helped him come to the decision that he should stay in a hotel on this one occasion. Very posh compared to camping on the roadside! Especially with breakfast included!
On Day 14 John reached the Mediterranean Sea! The coast road was so up and down it was amazing to have to climb so steeply and high and then plunge down to the next town nestled in a river valley by the sea. After an unexpected hill to climb and struggling to find his next hotel (kindly booked by Jaki at home!), John finally found his place to stay for the night at 1am.
The next day offered a lovely flat ride along the Mediterranean coast, with posh houses and bars and restaurants lining the road. “It was like Sunset Strip or the Golden Mile (after mile) on the classic Costa del Whatsit!” He made it to Viareggio with Pisa just around the corner!
In Pisa, after an arduous search for the hotel, John finally found the BBC, Christian Bed and Breakfast. It was on the fifth floor of an old Italian building, stairs spiralled round an ancient lift with a cage and wires and weights like a mine shaft. He found the correct floor and the concierge, who appeared quite fierce, showed him a room. Each room opened onto the reception area and none had a room number on. John had left his bike at the entrance at the bottom of the stairs. He mentioned this to the concierge who pointed to the lift. “Fine, not a problem I decided! I wish you had been there to share the fun of trying to wrestle my bike into a lift designed for a maximum of 4 people! Whichever way I tried it wasn’t going in! NOT A PROBLEM!! thought I and began climbing the stairs struggling up after a long day. Suddenly, all the lights went out and I was plunged into complete darkness. I stumbled on banging into the walls....bike lights I thought, bike lights!...NOT A PROBLEM!!! I convinced myself!!
“I had the keys to my room and went to the door. But it wouldn’t open. I tried each key. "Stop, stop!" the little concierge lady called "Shhh!" We both fell about laughing… I was trying to break into someone else’s room!! No door numbers. It was Alice in Blunderland again. Very funny.”
Finally John had his room. Eventually sleep, then the morning came.
“Now, where’s this Leaning Tower!!”
After 18 days on the Rome John finally arrived in Rome; "And d'you know, what a moment, unrepeatable, I’d made it to Rome in the time available , bloomin' amazing!!"
"It’s been a fantastic journey and I have felt the care and prayers of all thinking about me and very much taking and being part of this wonderful opportunity."
If you would like to support John and make a donation to the work of Hope Ride, you can find out more here. Thank you!
In mid-October, Hope for the Future delivered training to Zero Carbon Harrogate, a group dedicated to seeing their local area reducing its carbon footprint. Hope for the Future’s co-founder and trustee, Jemima Parker is the Chair of this group and invited HFTF's Assistant Director, Sarah, to run a two hour session on how to contact MPs and local councillors about the issue of climate change. In the audience was a local Liberal Democrat Councillor for Harrogate, Pat Marsh. Pat was incredibly helpful to have there as she was able to offer her own perspective of how, as a local politician, she would like to be approached by local residents. Pat writes about how she found the session below.
The session organised by Zero Carbon Harrogate was very interesting because I was to hear from Sarah and others on how to contact your MP or local Councillor, and being a local Councillor it was something I was keen to hear.
Sarah led the Group through how to find contact details of your local Councillor and MP and how to research their existing interests thoroughly before making contact. We then heard about how to approach these people in a way that they would listen and reply to the concerns raised, such as the use of questions and finding common ground. One of the most important points was to not be aggressive, aggressive language would almost always result in a negative response. Sarah suggested that it was better to put your points succinctly and politely to start the dialogue as well as preparing possible solutions to the issue being raised. There followed a good discussion on those points and I was able to help with some of the responses.
The group then broke out into small groups and a role playing exercise was undertaken, one member acting as the MP/local Councillor and others taking the role of the concerned resident contacting them. Lots of serious discussions took place within the groups and some of the feedback was very interesting. Those taking the role of the politician felt under pressure and could see how difficult it could be for the person being contacted. As a result they felt that they had a better understanding on how to approach their local politicians.
I found it a thought provoking meeting for both those receiving the guidance, as well as for myself; the recipient of lots of communication from residents. Hopefully those attending found the session rewarding, I know I did.
Cllr Pat Marsh