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.

Marie (second from the left) meets with Rebecca Long-Bailey MP (second from the right) with constituents and Friends of the Earth representative, Ali Abbas.

Marie (second from the left) meets with Rebecca Long-Bailey MP (second from the right) with constituents 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 break 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. 

"I think that the hon. Lady has deeply misjudged the tone of the House today." Why Climate Silence Exists in the Houses of Parliament

Some of you may have seen the following exchange in Parliament the other day in response to the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Irma in parts of America and the Caribbean. 

This debate was called by the Government to address the UK's response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma. Sir Alan Duncan MP, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, delivered the Government's response to the House of Commons. On four occasions during this debate, MPs attempted to bring up climate change as a broader cause of the recent extreme weather events which needs to be addressed. On all of these occasions, however, Sir Alan Duncan brought the discussion back to focus on the more immediate concern of responding to those being affected by the hurricane. 

Those of us wanting to encourage open discussion about the root cause of increased extreme weather events couldn’t help but feel disappointed by Sir Alan’s dismissive response. By no means were these MPs ignoring the immediate need of those across America, rather it was a stark opportunity to address the causing factor of these disasters in order to reduce their instances in the future. It is possible, however, that the way in which the questions were asked elicited the defensive response they received. 

It is not uncommon to see exchanges such as the one above happening in Parliament, but is there more going on here than party politics and the throwing around of climate change as a political football? Republican climate sceptic turned climate activist, Bob Inglis, thinks so.

Bob Inglis is the founder of republicEn.org, an initiative that brings together American Conservatives concerned about climate change. In a recent podcast with Ana Marie Cox called 'You Can't Build Things With Pitchforks and Torches', Bob Inglis spoke about a few of the barriers to Conservatives engaging with climate change. One such barrier was a lack of confidence that people on the right might feel towards the arguments around climate change. When someone doesn't feel equipped to enter a discussion, they may wish to shut it down. 

Once Conservatives start feeling like they can enter the competition of ideas, then they can stop striking sides of denial.
— Bob Inglis, Republican Climate Activist

He uses the metaphor of a tribe leader not wanting to leave the tent to go and face the other tribe leaders down at the river. If they were to leave the tent, they may be stabbed in the back by those in the tent because they are frightened that they don't have the answers. Picture this: Donald Trump goes to meet Al Gore to have a discussion about climate change. Who is more equipped to engage in this discussion? If Trump feels insecure about contributing his ideas, he may find it easier to simply deny the focal point of the discussion (climate change) and disengage from the conversation. 

In the above example, although Sir Alan Duncan did not in any way deny climate change, he refused to engage with it as a possible cause of the hurricanes that needs to be urgently addressed. This may well be because he did not feel equipped to respond to the questions put forward by the other MPs. Caroline’s challenge clearly put Sir Alan on the defence because, as climate change becomes more and more apparent, the political narrative will have to change and those who have not taken the issue seriously will be exposed.

If Sir Alan feels under qualified to talk about climate change, perhaps he wants to avoid talking about it. Maybe this is what often happens in parliamentary debates. So how can we approach our MPs in a way that will not lead them to dismiss discussions of the issue? If we approach our MPs to raise their awareness but without leaving them defensive, we may well find a more receptive audience willing to engage.

As constituents, we are in a position to equip our MPs with the knowledge, and therefore the confidence, to engage in debates around climate change. MPs have a barrage of local and national issues facing them every day, and they are likely to prioritise those issues where they feel confident that they can offer a valuable input. Meeting with your MP about climate change and supplying them with key facts brings the issue to the forefront of their conscious and equips them to enter the competition of ideas.

Our Story: Will you join us on a Journey towards Hope for the Future?

John Musker is cycling from Canterbury to Rome to raise money for Hope for the Future. Find out more. 

John Musker is cycling from Canterbury to Rome to raise money for Hope for the Future. Find out more. 

In celebration of our official registration as a charity, this October John Musker will be cycling from Canterbury to Rome to raise money for the work of Hope for the Future. Read more about John's bike ride here and find out more about Hope for the Future's journey below.

Our Story

Hope for the Future was born in the summer of 2013 when several Yorkshire Churches asked what on earth we could do to bring a greater sense of urgency about the biggest challenge of our time - climate change.

The campaign aimed to involve whole churches, spanning the entire political spectrum, rather than a few keen environmentalists. Participating in MP meetings across the country, we learned a lot about what makes for an effective engagement with an MP. We quickly became the only organisation in the UK researching the practicalities of building good interactions between constituents and MPs.

We have developed an approach to effective MP engagement based on finding common ground, building bridges and respecting differences in opinion, regardless of differing political values. We learned a huge amount from MPs too, and realised that much can be achieved by seeking to work with our politicians.

We are amazed to now be working nationally with over 50 MPs across the country and hundreds of constituents. It has been an incredible journey so far and we are delighted to have finally received charitable status in June this year.

Time and time again we have seen constructive outcomes as MPs, including cabinet ministers and climate sceptics, offer to take action on climate related issues such as securing free parking for electric vehicles, raising awareness in their constituency, and supporting renewable  energy in Parliament. We’re only just beginning and there is so much more we want to do.

Politicians from across the political spectrum have offered their endorsement for our work, including Lord Deben, formerly John Gummer and now chair of the Climate Change Committee, and Ed Miliband, who described our approach as 'one of the best approaches to lobbying I have heard about in a long time'.

With the right training, we have seen how engagement with MPs and policy makers can be considerably improved. In 2016 alone, the campaign trained over 1000 people in effective MP engagement, contributing to hundreds of MP meetings across the country.

Support our work and John's ride to Rome by donating to us here. Thank you!

Finding Common Ground with my Uninterested MP

Meet Eileen. She's in her nineties and passionately working for social and environmental justice. Our team aspire to be like Elieen where we're her age! Read her story meeting with climate sceptic Graham Brady MP below. If you would like any support working with your MP contact us here.

GrahamBrady.jpg

I recently met with my MP, Graham Brady, to discuss my concerns around air pollution in Altrincham. I wanted to meet with Graham because I am very concerned about the health issues resulting from high levels of air pollution, especially for young children attending schools on highly congested roads.  I have met with Graham previously and although we have always had a perfectly pleasant conversation, there was never any outcome from the meeting. This time I wanted to see action taken on the issues that I am concerned about.

Following support and advice from Hope for the Future, I prepared some key facts for the meeting with Mr Brady, about the issues I planned to raise with him. This showed that I had done my research on the issue but also by providing a copy of this for Graham, I was able to offer information to enhance his knowledge of issues that matter to local residents.

I seemed to capture Graham’s attention when I told him that 4 nurseries in Trafford (out of 35 in Greater Manchester altogether) are close to roads that break legal pollution limits. After this, Graham agreed to find out who is responsible for the monitoring of local air pollution levels. I raised electric vehicles as a solution to the air pollution problem. Graham was sure that the electric vehicle market is going to expand rapidly so I asked him what we could do here in Altrincham to provide incentives for EVs. Though Graham had economic concerns around some of the incentives I suggested, it was agreed that the local council would look into incentives that would work best. Even though Graham and I differed on our views on climate change, we both agreed that electric vehicles could contribute to reduction of air pollution. Overall, my MP and I didn’t see eye to eye on everything but we found common ground on air pollution. Although at points the meeting was frustrating, Graham did agree to follow up on a few things and he wrote a letter to me confirming he would. We have also invited Graham to attend a local event on electric vehicles as the next step - and we intend to keep on building the relationship.

I encourage anyone with a concern relating to climate change to meet with their MP, no matter whether your political opinions differ or not. I learned that finding common ground is exceptionally important to establish a relationship, which I hope to strengthen in future meetings with my MP.

Greenbelt Festival: 2 Degrees of Separation

Find us at Greenbelt for one to one advice on developing a tailored strategy for getting your MP switched on about climate change.

Find us at Greenbelt for one to one advice on developing a tailored strategy for getting your MP switched on about climate change.

We'll be at Greenbelt again this year, partnering with our friends at USPG. Come and see us for tailored advice on how to lobby your MP and involve your church congregations. We'll be giving away free copies of our new resource produced jointly with USPG, Faith in a Changing Climate. We'll be offering a free service to anyone who would like a tailored strategy for working with their MP on climate change. If you have an especially resistant MP, we would particularly love to meet you!

2 Degrees of Separation Panel Discussion

Join us on Monday at 2pm for a panel discussion with former Green Party leader  Natalie Bennet, Mohammed Adow, lead of policy at Christian Aid, and Archbishop Winston Halapua of the Diocese of Polynesia. The discussion will be chaired by our Director, Jo Musker-Sherwood.

Following the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, when the world committed itself to safeguarding a ‘two-degree world’ (not allowing global warming to rise by more than two degrees centigrade because of the catastrophic effects that would have on sea levels rising and the whole global climate), where are we at?

What are our governments doing? What are we doing? How do we keep this most fundamental of issues in the spotlight and what can we do to play our part?

Hear about the impacts of climate change from those living on the frontline, from politicians and NGOs.

 

If you would like to arrange to meet with us at Greenbelt, contact us here.

Can Carbon Capture and Storage help us deliver on climate change?

Recent years have seen a surge in enthusiasm for tackling climate change. However, the window of opportunity to do this is narrowing. Warming depends on cumulative emissions, meaning our attempts to limit it come with a finite carbon budget - a budget which is shrinking rapidly, and could be blown in less than 20 years.

As we’ve continued to eat this carbon budget, it has become clear that as well as cutting our emissions, we will need to capture them.

Carbon Brief animation: The Paris climate deal set a temperature limit of "well below 2C" of global warming, and says there should be "efforts" to limit it to 1.5C. But how much time do we have left before our greenhouse gas emissions take us past these thresholds?

Capturing carbon

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) involves trapping CO2 as it is produced by power plants and storing it deep in geological formations, preventing it from reaching the atmosphere. Capturing emissions is a critical addition to reducing them, partly because of the slow pace of climate action so far, but also because in some sectors - notably industry – cutting emissions to zero on any timescale is a formidable technical challenge.

Rolling out CCS at scale is therefore looking more and more like a necessity. Leading scientists have suggested our ability to hold warming below 2˚C could hinge on carbon capture, and the International Energy Agency expects CCS to account for a huge 13% of all global emissions reductions by 2050.

However, the technology is still relatively young and has struggled with delays, higher-than-expected costs and lost funding in recent years. In the UK, a £1 billion competition to fund the country’s first commercial scale CCS project was unexpectedly cancelled in 2015, and the future of the industry remains uncertain.

Elsewhere in the world large-scale CCS projects do now exist. By the end of 2017 more than 20 could be in operation, the first of which is now capturing nearly 1 million tonnes of CO2 each year. However, scaling this up to meet our climate targets could require hundreds more plants to be operating by 2030. This is achievable, but political momentum and investment are needed to speed up deployment of this potentially game-changing technology.   

Going negative?

CCS is also known as a component of ‘negative emissions technologies’, where it is combined with bioenergy. Negative emissions technologies are a popular, but controversial, solution to the risk of overshooting our dwindling carbon budget. While they remain unproven, these potentially allow us to go beyond carbon capture and actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

The most popular negative emissions technology is BECCS - Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage. This involves growing vegetation to soak up atmospheric CO2, before harvesting and burning it to generate power, simultaneously capturing the resulting emissions using CCS.

While BECCS sounds appealing, the use of land to grow vegetation for bioenergy opens the door to conflict over land rights and food production. With many of the scenarios in which BECCS helps us meet our 2˚C target requiring an area of land more than twice the size of India, this is a serious concern.

What can you do?

CCS technology is a critical opportunity to bring global emissions back in line with our climate targets, reducing our reliance on problematic negative emissions technologies such as BECCS. It is also a chance for the UK to combine climate and industrial leadership. CCS could add up to £4 billion to the UK economy by 2030 and create 30,000 jobs, but investment and support will be needed to realise these benefits. Claire Perry, the Minister for Climate Change and Industry, recently said she would like to see the UK taking a leading role in global climate action; ask your MP how support for CCS could contribute to this vision.

Why work with us? Contributing to Hope for the Future’s ongoing MP communications research

In order to represent their constituents appropriately, MPs must listen to their opinions, struggles, values and passions and allow this to influence the arguments they bring to Parliament. This relationship between constituents and their MPs is one which must be protected, maintained and enabled to flourish in order to establish a healthy representative democracy. At Hope for the Future, we believe that this relationship is the bedrock of democracy and a vital vehicle for social change.

Constituents meet with Fabian Hamilton MP

Constituents meet with Fabian Hamilton MP

Through researching the conditions of MP-Constituent engagements, we aim to establish how this relationship can be better supported to create a fairer and more representative society, particularly with regards to climate change.

Accompanying constituents for over 100 MP meetings over the last three years, we have dedicated our time to understanding why so many campaigners feel frustrated with their engagement with their MP. We have met with many MPs of different political persuasions and values. Whether they are an MP that devotes their time to work in Parliament, or one that places greater importance on their work in the local constituency, we find that the vast majority of MPs have a strong sense of respect for the integrity of the relationship between constituents and themselves.

Along with our first hand experience and hearing from MPs themselves, we draw on recent political research in order to establish the conditions for a constructive MP engagement.

“[The relationship between MP and constituent is] that of a priest and parishioners, solicitor and clients, shepherd and flock, shop steward and workers and friend of many friends. The MP should be the living embodiment of the constituency, tirelessly promoting and defending the territory with the ferocity of a mother protecting her offspring.”
— Paul Flynn in The House of Commons: An Anthropology of MPs at Work, Emma Crewe

One such area of research was that of political anthropologist, Emma Crewe. In her book, The House of Commons: An Anthropology of MPs at Work, Dr Crewe explores the motivations and values of MPs. She delves into the mysteries of what is going on behind what Hope for the Future has described as the ‘glass wall’ -  a metaphorical barrier that campaigners face when attempting to engage their MP.

Another significant influence in our research was from the work of Peter Bull, a political psychologist at York University. Dr Bull’s research into the defensive behaviours of MPs suggests that MPs have three ‘faces’ - or an image - which they must portray to the public and protect when under scrutiny; their personal face, the face of supporting and non-supporting others, and the face of their own political party. Dr Bull used these faces to explain the way in which politicians respond to questions in interviews by avoiding direct answers or giving ambiguous responses.

Drawing on research such as the examples given above, our approach understands how constituents could break through this ‘glass wall’ to find the individual with similar hopes, dreams and fears to their own, and begin to work together.

Our research allows us to train constituents in how to work constructively with even the most challenging of MPs. It empowers constituents who need further experience, support and confidence to take control of their relationship with their MP and work for the change they wish to see in the world. We accompany constituents across the UK to meet with their MP so that we can gain a better understanding of what works well in an MP meeting, what the challenges are, and how we can use this experience to provide better support for others.

By working with us in discerning the most effective way to engage your MP on climate change, our supporters are contributing to our ground-breaking approach to lobbying MPs. We hope that as more people work with us in this way, we will be able to restore balance to MP-constituent meetings and promote a healthier, more representative democracy where citizens know that they can have their voices heard and make real change in our society.

Thank you to all our supporters for being a part of this exciting development in our move towards a sustainable future.

Contact us for one to one help and support working with your MP. 

What happened at COP22 and what does Trump's decision mean for climate change?

Rachael Treharne has recently joined Hope for the Future as a volunteer. She has recently completed an internship with BirdLife International, an environmental NGO, with whom she attended the COP22 United Nations climate talks in Marrakech. Rachael shares her experience sitting in on the climate negotiations in Marrakech, giving an insight into the passion and commitment of world leaders towards action on climate change.

Rachael is a volunteer for Hope for the Future and attended the climate negotiations in Marrakech, 2016.

Rachael is a volunteer for Hope for the Future and attended the climate negotiations in Marrakech, 2016.

In November 2016 nearly 200 countries came together in the dust and heat of Marrakech to begin implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change. Two days into the negotiations, we woke up to the prospect of a US president who has referred to climate change as a ‘hoax’; a president who last week announced that the US would be withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is an ambitious, global deal to hold warming well below 2˚C and adapt to climate change. The agreement works from the ‘bottom up’, encouraging each country to set their own, individual targets (‘known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs). The Agreement is an historic success: not only for its content, but for the unprecedented political momentum it has generated. However, the Paris Agreement is not perfect. While emissions reductions pledged so far will prevent an additional 1˚C of warming, they will still lead to overall warming of nearly 3 degrees.

In Marrakech, countries hoped to begin developing a rulebook for the agreement that would push countries to improve their pledges. Negotiations were erratic – there was frustration, confusion and even anger as countries clashed over different priorities and, especially, over the need to support poorer countries.

The Paris agreement in 2015 was a historic success. 

The Paris agreement in 2015 was a historic success. 

However underlying these conversations was a real commitment to the spirit of the agreement and to tackling climate change head on. Following the news of the US election, countries immediately responded with public statements of continuing support for climate action, culminating in the ‘Marrakech Action Proclamation’. The mood was summarised by one negotiator; ‘If the US steps back on climate change, it is up to the rest of us to step forward’.

However, the US is responsible for the largest share of the world’s cumulative emissions, and Trump’s planned withdrawal from the agreement is an undeniable blow. Withdrawing will take four years, and some have suggested that Trump may in fact re-join, having weakened the US NDC – allowing him to claim he’s negotiated a better deal. Nonetheless, ‘the Trump effect’ is likely to impact global emissions reductions and reduce support available for poorer countries.

So what does this mean for global climate action? Critically, much of the good news in Marrakech emerged outside the negotiating rooms. Most dramatically, 47 of the world’s poorest countries committed to 100% renewable energy production. There was also real leadership shown by the private sector, with major businesses committing to 100% renewable energy production and the ‘We Mean Business’ coalition highlighting over 1000 climate commitments from nearly 500 businesses.

This push for a greener future has been echoed in the days since US withdrawal was announced. Not only have leaders around the world have been quick to condemn to move, but cities, businesses and other groups across the US have stated that they will bypass Washington, working together to fulfil the US commitments under the Paris Agreement.  

This enthusiasm and determination within communities, constituencies and institutions is central to delivering climate action to an international level. While the changing political climate poses challenges to addressing climate change, it has failed to weaken the international momentum behind the Paris Agreement. It may even be galvanising extra support for climate change, in the words of a climate campaigner in Marrakech, creating an ‘organisers’ paradise’.