The Politics of a Change Climate

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 gave 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 or call Michael Bayley on 0114 258 5428.


Chair of trustees social media advert.jpg

John's adventure from Canterbury to Rome: the story of Hope Ride.

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 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 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!


Hope for the Future training through the eyes of a local councillor

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Harrogate, Pat Marsh

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Harrogate, Pat Marsh

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.

Click on the image to find out more about Zero Carbon Harrogate.

Click on the image to find out more about Zero Carbon Harrogate.

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

What can meeting my MP really achieve? WI member Jill shares her inspiring story

"What I thought would be one day out of my life has become a very interesting permanent feature!"

Hope for the Future supporter and member of the Women's Institute, Jill Bruce, shares how, through working with her MP, she became a WI speaker on climate change. From being refused a meeting with her MP in London to now working together to put forward policy suggestions to the Government, Jill's story is certainly one of transformation. 

Jill and a fellow WI member at the 2016 mass lobby at Westminster.

Jill and a fellow WI member at the 2016 mass lobby at Westminster.

When National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) invited us to the Climate Coalition rally in Westminster in the summer of 2015, I and 2 WI friends thought “it’s one day out of our lives, let’s go along”. We arrived at the rally to find just one other person from our constituency, Angela, a marine biologist. We soon became friends and decided to work together. Our MP, Bernard Jenkin, had agreed to meet us on the day but we were so far away from the Houses of Parliament, on Lambeth Bridge, he couldn’t reach us on the day, so we arranged to meet him at his surgery in Colchester later instead. That gave us time to plan our meeting. We asked Public Affairs at NFWI what we should ask for and they suggested a local issue, or ask for a public meeting. We couldn’t think of a local issue at the time, so decided to ask for a public meeting. At the rally we had been given lots of leaflets from many organisations, but the most useful was the questionnaire results from NFWI, showing that of 1,000 WI members, 74% were concerned about climate change, with most worried about flooding, the effects on wildlife, and what problems we are leaving for future generations. The other really useful resource we found that day was leaflets from the Royal Society, the most eminent scientists in the world on every topic, including climate change. I got more information from the Royal Society, read it all, and picked out a few points to raise with Bernard, and practiced what I would say with my friends till I was really familiar with it all. Our appointment went really well, Bernard was well informed, he had clearly been well briefed by his researcher, but my Royal Society brochure ensured I could easily answer all the points he raised, and he snatched the WI results from my hand; MPs really care how we vote! He shook our hands when we left saying “very good lobbying” and readily agreed to our request for a public meeting, suggesting speakers, a venue and a sponsor. He attended the public meeting we then organised staying for over 2 hours, chairing and speaking, and talking to all the delegates, only leaving to go to another large public meeting about a proposal to build another 24 thousand homes in our area.

Bernard Jenkin giving his response to the public meeting. 

Bernard Jenkin giving his response to the public meeting. 

We focused that meeting agenda on our constituency, Harwich and North Essex, so had a
speaker from Essex Wildlife Trust, another from the Environment agency for Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex as well as the Professor of Environment and Society at Essex University and an Energy and Environmental Engineer to talk about how buildings can be better built to save energy. We all learned a lot and made more useful contacts.

We had a follow up public meeting a year later, which Bernard chaired again, and a third for the Show the Love campaign in February 2017. Bernard was unable to attend on that occasion due to the death of his father, but he sent a supportive letter to be read at the meeting, and met us again afterwards, this time offering an introduction to his policy forum.

I am now working with his local policy forum on a fourth public meeting, which Bernard will chair again. The aim of the meeting is to have expert speakers on Energy, Transport, Housing and Food each put forward 2 or 3 sensible policies, and after questions and a panel discussion, for the audience to vote, using keypad voting, on their preferred policies. This output will be sent to No. 10's policy forum. We know that following this summer’s election result the Conservatives have realised they’ve lost touch with their electorate, this seems a great opportunity to tell them what we think they should be doing. The meeting will be held 6-8pm Friday 27th October, University of Essex, Colchester. If you would like to attend, look for it on Eventbrite!

Thanks to all I've learnt along the way, I’ve become a WI speaker on Climate Change, and had my first booking to speak to a local WI in August, and I already have another booking for next year, so what I thought would be “one day out of my life” has become a very interesting permanent feature!

Each time we’ve met our MP we’ve ensured we were well informed and had something new to tell him. He will always challenge what we say so we make sure of our facts, and practice what we will say. The vested interests in big business who want to keep us burning fossil fuels have very professional lobbyists who will research carefully and practice before they see our MPs, and they will keep on seeing them again and again, so we must do the same to counter their arguments.

Our MPs know that we are not being paid to see them, or to say what we say, that we are doing it all in our own time, at our own expense, because we care so much on this issue, and that is a
huge trump card for us, but we still need to keep on reminding them. Out of sight truly is out of mind, so we do try to do something for every Climate Coalition week of action, and Show the Love campaign, and knowing that others around the country are doing the same with their MPs at the same time makes us confident that we will push climate change higher in their priorities.

How green is the UK’s new blueprint for climate action? A response to the Government's Clean Growth Strategy.

October 12th saw the long-awaited publication of what began an emissions reduction plan, and has finally emerged as the government’s Clean Growth Strategy. This was intended to lay out a pathway to UK decarbonisation, showing how we will meet the legally binding targets central to the UK Climate Change Act. As such, the strategy is central to the UK’s contribution to global climate action.

Hope for the Future saw Claire Perry MP, Minister for Climate Change and Industry, give a talk at the launch of Vision10. 

Hope for the Future saw Claire Perry MP, Minister for Climate Change and Industry, give a talk at the launch of Vision10. 

Remarkably, it also appears to have pressed a reset button on UK climate policy. The strategy frames acting on climate change as a “huge” opportunity that opens doors to industrial leadership while providing social benefits - rather than as an economic burden. The result is an increase in ambition and enthusiasm, with over 50 policies and plans focussing on innovation, efficiency and technology. A foreword from the Prime Minister states “clean growth is not an option, but a duty”.

However it is significant that what began as a plan is now a strategy. While the tone and aspirations of the Clean Growth Strategy are exciting, it is light on detail. It is also starkly inadequate, leading the UK to miss its 2030 target of a 57% reduction in emissions by nearly 10%. Policy and implementation that builds on the plan will be critical to ramping up ambition and closing this gap. While the clean growth strategy should be welcomed as a genuinely exciting shift in the UK’s attitude to cutting emissions, there is no room to let up the pressure on politicians yet.

Click on the image to find a pdf of the Clean Growth Strategy.

Click on the image to find a pdf of the Clean Growth Strategy.

What are the winners in the Clean Growth Strategy?

Transport. While a commitment to end sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 matches or lags behind other countries (e.g. France and the Netherlands), this is backed up by funding to reduce the upfront costs of electric vehicles, accelerate uptake of low emission public transport and to deliver “one of the best electric vehicle charging networks in the world”. There is also support for encouraging cycling and walking.

Energy efficiency. This is an important arena for cutting UK emissions while simultaneously tackling important social issues such as fuel poverty. The strategy includes significant investment in upgrading homes, underlying aims to upgrade all fuel poor homes to EPC band C by 2030 and to roll this out to other homes where “practical, cost-effective and affordable” by 2035. However, the focus is on businesses, who will be supported to boost energy productivity (a measure of efficiency) by 20% by 2030.

Environment. Commitments to protect and enhance our natural resources include planting 11 million trees and protecting peatlands, which help slow climate change by storing vast reserves of carbon. There is also a reference to aligning support for agriculture with addressing climate change and protecting nature – this will be an important area for future policy as we leave the EU and await a delayed 25 year plan from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Offshore wind. Plans to work with industry could add substantially to the UK’s offshore wind capacity, which is already the largest in the world. More money will be made available for an auction process already crediting with halving the cost of offshore wind over the last two years.

What next?

Clearly additional action to bring UK decarbonisation in line with the UK Climate Change Act is critical. The strategy mentions that permission within the Act to use ‘flexibilities’ (such as the purchase of international carbon credits) could be used in place of deeper cuts to domestic emissions; something that undermines collective international action on climate change and which the Committee on Climate Change, who independently advise the government, have already come out in opposition to.

Successful climate action in the UK will need continued commitment and support from politicians, as well as concrete plans and policies that both build on the Clean Growth strategy and address opportunities given little support in the plan (such as solar power and onshore wind).

Ask your MP to support building on the goals in the Clean Growth strategy, and about how its aims for improved energy efficiency, green transport and a high quality natural environment will be realised in your constituency. Read our resources on having an effective conversation with your MP here, and click on the buttons below for further information on the above issues. 

"Do you want to preach at people or get something done?" Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling gives his advice to climate campaigners.

John Musker, who is cycling over 1400 miles this October to raise money for Hope for the Future, met with Thomas Tugendhat MP to ask for his support for the ride. Mr Tugendhat was delighted to hear of Hope for the Future’s cross party work on climate change and even laid down a challenge for the ride: 'make it to Rome in two weeks and I'll double my donation!'

Thomas Tugendhat MP and John Musker. You can sponsor Hope Ride here. 

Thomas Tugendhat MP and John Musker. You can sponsor Hope Ride here

Mr Tugendhat laid out a vision for tackling climate change that strikes right to the heart of the issues people are already working with every day. 'Do you want to preach to people, or get results?' he asked us, 'if you want to get something done about climate change you have to start where people are. Climate change effects pretty much everything - there are hundreds of issues that can serve as a means for getting peoples’ attention about the issue.'

Whilst positive about the wide acceptance of climate change in Parliament, Mr Tugendhat also emphasised that the agenda of politicians must be set by the electorate. For the average person, working hard to support their family, pay the bills or balance the demands of life, is climate change top of their agenda? No. But air pollution, fuel poverty, public transport, local flooding, food prices? Quite possibly.

Mr Tugendhat shared in depth knowledge and passion for emerging technologies that have the potential to improve quality of life whilst also tackling climate change. Speaking about his own experience balancing long hours working in Parliament with family life and his work to support better public transport, he encouraged us to also think about how we can emphasise the co-benefits of tackling the issue. Political and cultural change work hand in hand, with tobacco and drink driving as excellent examples. ‘We’re where we were at in the 1980’s with tobacco companies’ Mr Tugendhat told us. So the question for us as campaigners, with the Government currently set to miss its fourth carbon budget, is how do we translate the scientific consensus on climate change into radical political and cultural change?

A recent report by environmental political researcher, Rebecca Willis, outlines clearly the work that is still to be done to ensure that talking about climate change in Parliament isn’t seen as ‘a career limiting move’. Politicians’ reluctance to talk about climate change for its own sake speaks volumes to us as campaigners about our messaging. 

The work of climate communications specialists, such as our friends at Climate Outreach, is vital in this regard. The solutions put forward - and this must include by us as campaigners - must be truly representative of public concern and capable of outlasting five yearly election cycles and fast moving, conflicting political narratives. Hope for the Future’s lobbying approach invites and welcomes all those with a serious commitment to public service, regardless of political values, to the table of debate. We can support you to create a tailored lobbying strategy for working with your MP on climate change. Click here to find out how. 

Guest Blog From Hope for the Future's Patron, the Bishop of Oxford

The Bishop of Oxford writes about why faith communities are so strongly equipped to respond to climate change. Following an historic meeting at Oxford University's Museum of Natural History, he reflects on why climate change negotiators should be engaging first and foremost with faith communities. This is a shortened version of Bishop Steven's blog, the full version of which you can read here


Last week I had the immense privilege of speaking with about 50 senior climate change negotiators from all across Europe and the developing world. Everyone I spoke to affirmed the reality of climate change affecting their country through drought or extreme weather events.

The Museum of Natural History hosted a famous debate in 1860 as one of its first events between Samuel Wilbeforce, Bishop of Oxford and Thomas Henry Huxley, later known as “Darwin’s bulldog”. The debate centred around faith and science in opposition to each other and in particular Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, published a few months earlier. The debate is commemorated on a large stone at the entrance to the museum (photo to the right).

The dinner last week looked back to this debate and focused on the climate change and the approach of the faith communities and of scientists. Unlike 1860, all parties were agreed that we must do all in our power to use our different insights to combat climate change for the sake of present and future generations. 

Here are five compelling reasons why you should engage with faith communities in your role as senior climate change negotiators.

First and foremost because faith communities make up the majority of the global population. Ten years ago, long before the historic Paris agreement, the UK’s environment agency asked 25 leading environmentalists what needed to happen (As reported by Joe Ware in the Church Times, 11th August, 2017). There were 50 suggestions. Second on the list, behind improving energy efficiency was that religious leaders should make the environment a priority for their followers because of the enormous potential influence for change.

Out of a global population of 7.1 billion just 1.1 billion people are secular, non religious,
agnostic or atheist. The remainder belong in some way to one of the great world faiths. 31% of the global population is Christian. 22% belong to Islam. Within the European Union 72% of the population still claim some sort of adherence to Christianity. Just 20% would claim to be atheist or secular though there is considerable variation across the continent. What churches and faiths teach on this subject matters.


Second, faith shapes values and lives in powerful ways. The Christian faith helps people aspire to virtue, to living as God intends and often against personal self interest and for the sake of others. That is exactly the attitude the world needs to combat climate change.

The most powerful line in the Lord’s Prayer is “Give us this day our daily bread”. It is often
misunderstood as a hook on which to hang our petitions: the things we ask from God. Actually it is a prayer which points back to the worshipper: help us to be content with exactly what we need this day: “Help us to be thankful just for what we need to stay alive”. The Lord’s Prayer is the most powerful antidote to greed and consumerism the world has ever known.

Third, the faith communities are global communities. We are conscious in the Christian
Church of our sisters and brothers across the world. I am looking forward to visiting South Africa in September with our link Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman. Many local churches and dioceses have these international relationships. In one of our sessions we will be studying climate change. When we listen to the news about the disproportionate effect of climate change on the poorest in the world, these are our sisters and brothers.

Fourth, our feet are dancing to a different song (or they should be). There is a close connection between the global economic system and climate change. The planet cannot sustain continuous expansion in energy consumption. Increasingly the world of politics and economics dances to a single tune: continuous economic growth and expansion. We need alternative ideologies to support a more sustainable world. The faith communities have alternative ideologies – a different authority: in the case of Christians, the Scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ.

That ideology understands the connection between our inner and outer life. Pope Francis is one of the few contemporary figures able to write a letter to the entire world – his great encyclical Laudato’ Si. One of the most telling quotations in his letter is from Benedict his predecessor:

The external deserts in the world are growing because the internal deserts are so vast.
— Pope Benedict

Our external ecology is connected to our internal ecology. Faith communities nurture that inner life and offer a different song and strength to resist.

And fifth, faith communities know how to take action for change. Christians are called to be
disciples: always learning. We understand the world is imperfect. We are committed to
making a difference. We know or we can learn how to mobilise others to achieve common

I am the patron of a small campaigning organisation, Hope for the Future. Hope was founded in 2013 by a small group of churches in Yorkshire and specialises in equipping local churches and other faith groups to lobby their MP’s on climate change issues. Last year Hope for the Future trained over 1,000 people in our lobbying approach. Through our training and one to one support, we have impacted over 100 climate conversations between MPs and their constituents this year. We know from feedback from local churches and from MP’s that Hope makes a difference.

The anthropologist Margaret Mead said this. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has”. I suspect that most of us will know that quotation more from the West Wing than from Mead herself.

Faith communities are places where those small groups of thoughtful and committed citizens are found. We are not perfect. We are not uniform. But we are communities of hope whose values lead us to work for change, not against the findings of science but in tandem to bring about a more sustainable world.

Hope for the Future volunteer breaks the ice with Shadow Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Hope for the Future's Remote Support Assistant Volunteer, Marie Flanaghan, writes about her first MP meeting with Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy following training from Hope for the Future.

As a Hope for the Future volunteer, I provide constituents with information, training, and knowledge about how to meet their MP. Before joining HFTF, I have had little experience with my own MP. So, shortly after I began my role here and after undergoing HFTF training, I grabbed the opportunity to assist with and attend a meeting with Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Rebecca Long-Bailey. The training I have received with HFTF made me confident that, working with the constituents, I could help to conduct a helpful and productive meeting.

From left to right: Ruth Platt, Marie Flanaghan, Sandra Dutson, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP and Friends of the Earth representative, Ali Abbas.

From left to right: Ruth Platt, Marie Flanaghan, Sandra Dutson, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP and Friends of the Earth representative, Ali Abbas.

Rebecca, the MP for Salford and Eccles, has previously expressed interest in various aspects of policy dealing with and affecting climate change. Visiting the world’s first tidal power plant in Swansea a few months ago, she expressed the need for urgency in the government’s support for such pioneering enterprises. She has likewise spoken up about fuel poverty – an issue which affects her constituency disproportionately – and the urgent need to address it.

Going to meet with her, then, I was hopeful and optimistic. A seemingly nice meeting for me to cut my teeth on! I met Rebecca with two constituents and a Friends of the Earth representative. She took 30 minutes out of her busy schedule – and on a Friday at 5pm! – to chat with us.

The meeting was an incredibly engaging and encouraging one, in which we were all in agreement on the detrimental effects of climate change and the need to pursue further action as a country. We talked about a number of issues, from fracking to green spaces and all the while Rebecca took notes. Such engagement is certainly promising!

One issue Rebecca was particularly passionate about during the meeting was electric vehicles. She believes that the UK has an opportunity to lead the way in replacing polluting petrol vehicles with clean, electric vehicles. I thought it was inspiring that she sees the opportunity and promise in such a move, rather than predicting risks and approaching the situation with fear. Rebecca spoke about the pressing need to set an end-date for petrol cars, something which has since been announced.

I thought it was inspiring that she sees the opportunity and promise in such a move, rather than predicting risks and approaching the situation with fear.

Rebecca was also interested in promoting community self-sufficiency, believing that this is the way forward for the UK. For her, the goal is to promote such self-sustainability within 30 years. In order to do so, she spoke about the need to educate on climate change, allowing people to make the connection between themselves and the larger issue of climate change. As part of this promotion of clean, sustainable energy, she made a commitment to meet with Community Energy England to discuss matters further.

Rebecca’s manner of focusing on the opportunities which the issue of climate change brings – particularly in terms of the advancements within the realm of electric vehicles and renewable energy – is so encouraging. Such a positive understanding and approach will allow us to march forward not with fear but with promise.

While every MP may not be as receptive as Rebecca, I look forward to utilising the techniques I have learnt in HFTF to empower myself and constituents alike to work towards future productive meetings.