Insights from a Greenbelt Volunteer

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Liz Harding

What a full weekend! Over three long hot days, I alternated between manning the Hope for the Future stall and exploring the talks, music and art of Greenbelt. It was hard work but good and I had interesting conversations. One couple had not flown for 14 years before a tour of the northern hemisphere last year, now they were going to stay grounded for another decade before a Southern Hemisphere tour. I helped a 5-year-old write a message to her MP and I spoke to a teacher interested in booking a Hope for the Future workshop who was keen to address the issue with her school students who were not allowed on the climate strikes.

Being in the stall was fun. I was a little worried about my lack of political knowledge, though I had volunteered for Hope for the Future for a few months earlier in the year, I worked on their public events, and had little knowledge about parliamentary politics. 

Thankfully, the person on the stall with me usually did or I could just admit I was probably the least politically aware person on the Hope for the Future Greenbelt team but if “you just pop your name on our sign up sheet, we can get back in touch and a member of staff can help to answer your question” (we had no signal so Google was no help!).

I slept very well at the end of each day. The only thing to consider if you are thinking of volunteering is that you probably won’t get to see all the talks you like. However, you would get hours free each day to snooze in the heat, listen to talks and enjoy the yummy food at Greenbelt and you’ll get to meet and engage with people of all ages and backgrounds about climate change. We had more than 100 people sign up for a HftF email about the work we do and how they can get involved. If even a fraction of those people contacts their MP about climate change, we'll significantly raise climate change’s position on the political agenda, something it felt great to be a part of. 


In the Face of the Enormity of Climate Change, How Can I Make a Difference?

Vaughn Pomeroy

Lifestyle changes can often feel futile when witnessing the scale of environmental degradation worldwide. However, time and time again, it has been proven that small scale changes have real value in the battle against climate change, in the least because of the act as an effective indicator for politicians about public concerns. In this blog, Vaughn, a long-time supporter of Hope for the Future, writes about his personal journey to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. 

I began writing this in Arctic Norway, where our changing climate is much more apparent than at home in London. I have seen the dwindling seabird colonies, I have felt myself sinking into the ground which was frozen when I was here a few years ago. This is my record of a personal journey as I think out what I can do as a personal contribution to combat climate change, as I work out how I can use my actions to encourage other people to make their own small difference and use the lessons that I have learned to seek changes from our politicians, both national and local. 

It is amazing to watch our young people rising to the challenge when my generation has been unable to address climate change. I belong to the first generation that has begun to really understand how we can alter our planet through our own apparently trivial actions. We are also the last generation that can do anything to avert disastrous planetary outcomes that could result from our collective behaviours. 

This is simply a personal story but it has thrown up some interesting choices, and some decisions that are very definitely not obvious in conventional cost-benefit terms. It has demonstrated that we have to develop a different mindset and overturn conventional wisdom. It is easy to sit back and just think that it all too difficult, and just leave it to others. But this is a story with hope, at least it should be! 

Carefully calculating my carbon footprint and offsetting, through Climate Stewards, does clear the conscience but it also helpfully identifies the big contributors. The petrol estate car should clearly be retired. I had the good fortune to attend an evening meeting when a couple of enthusiastic EV users who dispelled many of my concerns and presented data that dealt with some of the myths. Rapid charging points have a low occupancy rate, so are usually available. Most charging is done at home and you can always leave with a ‘full tank’, which is not the case with a petrol or diesel car. The benefits outweigh the challenges, and with journey planning, it becomes a far more pleasant experience. In future, supermarkets and out-of-town shopping zones could be obliged to provide charging points. 

I live in a modern, conventional detached house with the usual gas central heating and electrical appliances. Of course, when electrical appliances need replacement, the efficiency can be improved and all of the lighting has been switched to low energy solutions - that is obvious and straightforward. In January 2016, I fitted 4kW of solar panels. The annual total generation has exceeded the predicted values by over 14%. I was lucky enough to have completed the installation shortly before a big reduction in the income provided by the Feed-In Tariffs for small scale generation. Without these Tariff payments, the costs of installation are more difficult to justify without some battery storage, which in itself is a costly complication. I am aware that this is a common topic of conversation when Hope for the Future supports individuals to meet with MPs, so hopefully, more progress concerning the values of solar panels will be made soon.

I am now looking at options for space heating with air, or ground-source heat pumps alongside some modifications to the house inline ‘passivhaus’ ideas to reduce the carbon footprint. That remains a work in progress, but the current inefficient state of the UK housing stock is another example of how hard-wired we are into standard solutions that are not fit for the future. 

It has been an interesting journey but I do feel that I am doing the right thing and that I am probably future-proofing my lifestyle. There’s no doubt that early adoption comes at a premium but it is also exciting to be able to encourage others to follow by demonstrating how practical solutions are possible. The solar panels make a visible statement. The electric car certainly starts discussions in all sorts of unlikely places, and being red it does make a statement! Through these opportunities, in my own small way, I am able to challenge the traditional wisdom that taking action on climate change is unattainable. 

What has your personal journey with climate change been? Some of the actions that Vaughan has taken himself, or discussed, such as using electric vehicles and installing solar panels, are climate change-related topics that you could discuss with your MP. Engaging your MP with topics such as these is yet another way you can help to make a positive change in the fight against climate change. We can support you to build a relationship with your MP by providing you with expert research, accompany you to a meeting or helping you to set up an event.

Lessons from Lobbying Labour

Georgina Collins

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As part of Hope for the Future’s ongoing climate lobbying research, we’ve been looking into key ways in which climate change messaging can be made more appealing to Labour Members of Parliament. Given that Labour MPs make up 247 of the 650 representatives in Parliament, this research is of vital importance. Though finding common ground is always essential, it is also helpful to remember, as our findings demonstrate, that very different factors may appeal to Labour MPs than to Conservative MPs. For instance,  it easy to forget the simple but significant fact that Labour MPs currently form the opposition government, and so do not have the ear of the government to the same extent as Conservatives. This does not mean they are not valuable assets to the fight against climate change!

This project is currently only in the initial stages of research, but will shortly appear as another training course available to those wishing to learn more about working with Labour MPs on climate change. So far we have found three key areas to keep in mind when engaging with a Labour MP...

‘Social Justice Champions’

Labour MPs often report becoming interested in politics due to a desire to help the most disadvantaged in society. Indeed, the party’s history is one that has ‘always been about people. It was formed to give ordinary people a voice and has sought power in order to improve their lives’, with its crowning achievements being egalitarian projects such as the NHS and welfare state. 

As such, most will want to be reassured that the measures needed to mitigate climate change will help- or at the very least not hinder- things for those already struggling in their constituencies. So, when talking about climate change to a Labour MP, they are likely to be concerned about factors including whether the green transition will lead to job losses in various industries? And subsequently, will there be provision for these people finding new jobs? Furthermore, affordability will factor significantly for Labour MPs, for instance, are measures to mitigate climate really affordable for working families in the constituency?

It is important to try and counter the twin notions that climate change policy will entail an unfair time and monetary burden for hard-working and struggling families, as well as that they will not directly those same vulnerable constituents. For instance the issue of fuel poverty. Green Alliance has found that UK homes are some of the least efficient in Europe. Rising energy bills and fuel poverty are a major concern and it is estimated that nearly 10,000 people a year in the UK suffer premature death due to cold homes. Technologies that aim to reduce the carbon emissions of homes have the added benefit of providing warm, comfortable homes for many more people. More information on fuel poverty can be found on our sie.

Try to communicate how climate change policy will both not harm the needs of those most vulnerable in society, and in fact, benefit them. Specifically the concept of a just transition, that aims to ensure ordinary people are not negatively affected by climate change policy. 

‘Keeping it Local’

Our research has demonstrated that Labour MPs generally take a much more direct approach in representing the needs of their constituents. As such, they tend to follow the local needs and views of their constituents more closely, subsequently representing them more clearly in parliament. This is significant because Conservative MPs, in contrast, are often more comfortable championing causes that are less linked to local needs,  such as climate change, giving them more flexibility in pursuing long term, larger scale, projects.

It is, therefore, an effective tactic to frame the issue of climate change by tackling local issues that affect local people directly. For instance, proposals to tackle air pollution in the constituency, particularly if schools or nurseries are located near to high-pollution areas.  More information on this issue can be found on our website.  Other ideas include gardening initiatives that could help to provide cheap, healthy food for locals or cycling and walking initiatives to improve public health. Furthermore, fuel poverty and lack of adequate housing can be tackled through low-carbon-emission housing projects, with the government often offering subsidies for such projects. 


In essence, try and demonstrate how acting on climate change can benefit the most vulnerable people in their constituency in a palpable way. 

‘Be Realistic’ 

Due to Labours social- justice roots, Labour MPs are often elected into areas of low socioeconomic attainment. Symptomatic of this is the fact that that Labour is most popular amongst voters in high-density urban areas who are renters (both social and private), earning less than £20,000 per annum, living in areas with a high risk of poverty, the unemployed and highly multicultural constituencies. As a result, in many cases, Labour MPs have a large amount of time-consuming casework, for instance helping constituents who have lost tenancies or that are having difficulties with government benefits, such as universal credit. Furthermore, and as previously mentioned, Labour, as the opposition party in government, don't have the same capacity as Conservative MPs to enact legislation. 

These factors have to be considered when undertaking the lobbying of a Labour MP. Pushing for quick or significant acts on climate change may be counter-productive given the strain and time pressure Labour MPs are under, as well as practically speaking the MP having less power in government. Because of this, communications should be clear and concise, making a strong case for how climate policy can benefit the constituency in a realistic and achievable way. 

Try to make sure to be patient and realistic by making recommendations for actions that are achievable and cost-effective. Express your empathy not only for the pressure the MP is under, but the lives of struggling constituents. 

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If you would like to be part of our ongoing research with Labour MPs or would like to find out more about the project, please get in touch with us at info@hftf.org.uk.

Climate Communications Blog Series

Blog 6: Framing the emergency: how to use facts and figures effectively

Briony Latter, 1st August 2019

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This blog series explores different aspects of climate change communication. Talking to people about climate change and trying to engage them with the subject involves more than simply getting your facts straight. It’s really important to think about who your audience is and how you talk to people. In this sixth and final post of the climate communications series we explore different ways to present and talk about climate change information in a way that your audience can understand and engage with.

Climate change is complicated. The science can be difficult to understand, it’s a global issue that affects multiple aspects of our lives and it’s not always easy to agree what is best to do about it. If it’s a topic you’re knowledgeable and passionate about, it may be easy to get sucked in to talking about things like ppm, tipping points and geo-engineering and forget that not everyone has the same level of in-depth knowledge. When talking about it to others, you’ll need to consider who your audience is and identify whether you need to adjust the way you talk about climate change. Depending on how much time you have, you may need to choose just one element of climate change and ensure that you talk about it in a way that is simple to understand (though perhaps in a little more depth than these bullet points from 350.org).

Some of the HFTF team meeting with Ed Miliband MP

Some of the HFTF team meeting with Ed Miliband MP

If you’ve managed to arrange a meeting with your MP, you’ll have limited time to talk to them and clearly explain your ‘ask’. An average surgery meeting with your MP is only around 20 minutes long. It’s important to research your MP beforehand so you know about their interests and values, and whether climate change is something they have had much engagement with previously. This should give you an indication of how detailed you need to be in the way you explain and discuss your chosen topic. Researching your MP and constituency will also help you to decide what topic to bring up and ask them to take action on.

Our resource hub introduces several issues related to climate change which have been found to work well when engaging with MPs. One of these free resources looks at the basics of climate change, which explains in simple terms what climate change is, its causes, impacts and more. Depending on your MP this may or may not be useful, but we also have a number of other resources looking in-depth at specific topics such as divestment and fuel poverty.

Be aware that people can have different preferences about how to learn and receive information. Some information may also work better in one format than another. Is there vital information that you want to show your MP which would be much more impactful if you showed it visually as a chart or diagram rather than simply talking through a list of data and numbers? Although these are global rather than local impacts, the BBC’s 6 useful graphics to explain climate change demonstrate vital information at a glance in a way that can be easily understood. Using images to accompany information or emphasise a point could be another way for you to communicate about climate change. Climate Visuals, “an evidence-based image library” by Climate Outreach, is a fantastic and growing resource for climate change imagery that goes beyond the standard images of polar bears to provide images of the causes, impacts and solutions of climate change.

Underlying all of this is the importance of researching your MP and your constituency in detail. No matter how detailed your knowledge of climate change is and how much you care about it, if you try to discuss it with your MP in a way that isn’t related to your local area or their values and concerns, it will be much harder to find common ground and create positive outcomes. You can get help working with your MP by filling in our survey and we can work with you to develop a detailed strategy.

Hope for the Future Case Study

Sarah Robinson and Carrie Cort met with Jeremy Quin MP.

Sarah Robinson and Carrie Cort met with Jeremy Quin MP.

We worked with a constituent in Horsham in to engage Jeremy Quin MP on the topic of climate change. There was a point in the conversation where you could visibly see Jeremy sit up and listen, and this was when we presented him with an article of a constituent who had saved hundreds of pounds by switching to a renewable energy provider. This message worked so well because it was relevant to him - a local constituent he represents benefiting from an initiative that he could support. It was also presented visually which meant that he could take the information away with him. He offered to write an article in the local paper about the story of this constituent and attended the local repair cafe’s first birthday celebration shortly after the meeting. You can read a blog about our meeting with Jeremy Quin on our website.

Meeting with Sheffield City Council

Two of the Hope for the Future team attended Sheffield City Council’s (SCC) latest council meeting which involved a discussion on ‘Responding to the Climate Emergency’. The webcast for the full debate upon this can be found here.

As part of the Authority to Act project, the Hope for the Future team have been researching local councils, with the aim of helping campaigners and residents to productively engage with their local councillors upon addressing climate change within their region, in the wake of numerous local councils declaring climate emergencies. 

Zoe asking a question about meeting carbon budgets at the City Council Meeting

Zoe asking a question about meeting carbon budgets at the City Council Meeting

Lots of members of the public attended the council meeting, and there were numerous pertinent questions asked to the council by campaigners from Friends of the Earth and Sheffield Climate Alliance. For example, one question asked what the council’s plan was surrounding home insulation, since this is a way to significantly reduce energy demand while tackling fuel poverty. Another campaigners pointed out that transport accounts for 25% of the U.K’s total emissions, and asked what the council planned to do regarding reducing emissions from transport in Sheffield. Two members of Hope for the Future also asked the council questions, links to the two questions that we asked can be found here and here.

Two researchers from the Tyndall Centre, which is a trans-disciplinary institute doing research into climate change mitigation strategies, presented the report they have written for Sheffield on setting climate change commitments in line with the Paris Agreement. The Tyndall Centre researchers outlined how they had formulated a carbon budget for Sheffield for 2020-2100, which is 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, based upon remaining in line with the Paris Agreement. They set 2038 as an absolute end date for Sheffield to reach net zero emissions, and argued that Sheffield should implement an immediate programme of CO2 mitigation, to deliver cuts in emissions averaging 14% per year.

It is important that SCC communicates about the climate emergency and about SCC’s plan for how to tackle this to the public, and engages residents in the process of developing their carbon reduction strategy, in order for people to support measures in line with this. It would be helpful if SCC communicate the information provided by the Tyndall Centre on Sheffield’s responsibilities towards meeting the Paris Agreement in a simple, digestible form to local residents.

If you’d like help working with your local council, please get in touch with our Local Councils Coordinator Julia julia@hftf.org.uk.


The Time is Now Mass Lobby of Parliament

Hope for the Future trustee, Margaret Ainger, reports back on the UK’s biggest ever climate lobby of Parliament.

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On Wednesday I attended the biggest mass lobby of MPs ever seen in the UK. 12,000 people arrived in Westminster on a beautiful June afternoon to meet our MPs in the open air next to the Houses of Parliament. Over 300 MPs took the time to come out from their offices and meet us, their constituents, and hear our concerns about Climate Change. So many groups had members there – the National Trust, Green Alliance, The W.I., CAFOD, Christian Aid, the RSPB, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, WWF etc. - but most people appeared to be just individuals, couples and friends. Ordinary people wanting climate action.

Hope for the Future were there of course. Jo Musker Sherwood led 2 training workshops in the morning to prepare people for the lobby. It was my first opportunity to experience the training. The folk who signed up were savvy and politically aware but I could see that, like me, they were rather taken aback at learning what effective lobbying entails and the amount of research and preparation you need to do if you want to come out with tangible actions agreed, and not just a nice chat. I can see that there is enormous scope to extend the reach of our training and to constantly fine tune it to the changing climate context.

There was a holiday atmosphere to the Walk of Witness, the banners, bright colours, stalls and speakers but our underlying message was clear. We need to act now to save the planet. Can we not all sign up to act on that?

If you would like to know more about Hope for the Future’s lobbying training and how you can access our resources, get in touch with us at info@hftf.org.uk.

Webinar with the Green Alliance’s head of policy Dustin Benton

Last Monday Hope For The Future held its second ever webinar - and the last of our webinars which are part of our free trial period. We were joined by the Green Alliance’s head of policy Dustin Benton to talk about the Government’s Net Zero target. Since our previous webinar two weeks before, Theresa May announced that she would be putting down an amendment to the Climate Change 2008 to bind the Government to eliminating the UK’s carbon footprint by 2050. Consequently, we chose to question Dustin on the specifics of what the MPs and councillors should be doing  to keep the UK on track to reach this target, and what constituents and activists can do to keep the pressure on. You will find the answers below.

The webinar focused on the Green Alliance’s Acting on Net Zero Now report which you can find here

1)      Could you summarise for us again what policies would help us move more rapidly to Net Zero?

Five policies would get the UK on track (in 2030) to net zero (by 2050): a ban on sales of new petrol, diesel, and non-plug in hybrid vehicles in 2030; an industrial resource efficiency strategy; a big domestic energy efficiency retrofit programme; a plan to grow new forests, restore peatlands, and help farmers store carbon in their soils; and a reversal of the de-facto ban on onshore wind and solar power.

  2)      There is increasing concern about the impact electric vehicles have on the environment. Particularly the energy use, social impact and damage in other countries in order for us to meet low carbon goals. We need to make sure policy and engineering is tied together- how are you analysing the engineering required behind these ideas?

Electric vehicles are not a panacea, but they are a big part of the solution. They dramatically lower carbon emissions, noise and air pollution, but do nothing to address urban congestion. They also require materials (notably cobalt) which are often unsustainably mined. To address this, our research has shown that the UK could source about half its demand for cobalt from recycling by 2035 (http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/Completing_the_circle.pdf), and we could keep vehicles for longer, which reduces the amount of materials we need to mine. Their energy impacts are much lower than fossil cars, but they will still require new electricity generation: the good news is that their batteries can help firm the grid. By 2030, the UK could have twice the energy storage in EV batteries than all the pumped hydro in the alps (a key component of the continent’s energy system) (see http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/People_power_how_consumer_choice_is_changing_UK_energy_system.pdf).

 3)      How does the report address shipping and aviation as they are not addressed in the 2008 Climate Change Act?

It doesn’t. We support the CCC’s recommendation that these are included in the UK’s domestic carbon budgets, and are doing some work now on pathways to 1.5c compatible aviation.

  4)      How do we encourage local councils to stop building so many roads?

For better or worse, I think the most effective tactic at local level is peaceful protest. The evidence against roadbuilding is pretty solid: more roads creates more traffic demand, and with the real cost of motoring falling (due to a freeze in fuel duty), this is less a case of lack of evidence and instead an example of government doing something it has always done without very much reflection on how roads often wreck places.

 5)      Does Net Zero 2050 legislation included Green Houses Gases imbedded in imported goods?

It doesn’t – the law just covers territorial emissions. Our work on this suggests that resource efficiency in industrial products would save 2-3 times as much emissions overseas (arising from our consumption) as it saves in territorial emissions (those generated in the UK). Much more detail on this issue is available here: https://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/City_consumption_the_new_opportunity_for_climate_action.pdf

  6)      What do you think of a government requirement for ministerial cars to be electric ?

Yes please! It is symbolic (there are only 85 ministerial cars), but a useful symbol.

  7)      What are the current governments incentives for domestic implementation e.g. of heat pumps and solar etc.

These are implemented via the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) which is due to run out in 2020, and the Energy Company Oblivation (ECO) scheme, which supported around 90% less insulation than its predecessor scheme. The government cancelled its support for solar panels earlier this year. All in all, government incentives for domestic change are in steep decline, and are in any case inadequate.

Byron Wood Academy Workshop

Sarah Dailly

Sarah Dailly

Sarah Dailly is a French student currently studying politics and international relations at the University of Sheffield. She started volunteering for  HFTF very recently and is mainly involved in the schools workshops. For her first day, she participated in a primary school workshop in Sheffield and had the pleasure to meet the MP Gill Furniss. She wrote about her experience below.  

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to get involved in a school workshop at Byron Wood Primary Academy in Sheffield. Prior to the workshop, engaging 30 eight-year-old pupils about climate change and its consequences did not seem to be an easy task. How would it be possible to engage an audience that young? At first, I thought that a two-and-a-half-hour workshop would be too long for the children and that they would get bored easily, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that they were truly enjoying the session.

The workshop was divided into two parts: firstly, activities related to climate change, secondly, focusing on the role of the Member of Parliament Gill Furniss and the environment.

We started with a quiz about the environment to give the children a deeper knowledge on the issue of climate change, whilst still having a good time and the children were certainly very happy to get involved! The team created a game with the aim of educating the children on the British political system, through this the pupils became aware of the role of their local MP in dealing with environmental challenges. To finish the first part of the workshop, the students made posters, drawing what they loved about the planet and how to protect it.

In the second half, we had the pleasure of being joined by Gill Furniss, MP for Brightside and Hillsborough, who listened to the students' poster presentations. Gill then talked about her role as an MP, asking the children what they thought she should do about current threats to the environment. It was positive and surprising to see how involved the children became, proposing lots of great ideas and questions. We ended the session with a quiz to calculate Gill's personal carbon footprint, another great way to demonstrate how climate change works. It was brilliant to collaborate with an MP who cares about the environment and I think this was important in that it demonstrated to the children how politicians could have an impact on climate change.

The workshop was a very exciting time for me, it was interesting to work with students who were fully engaged and enthusiastic about being involved in activities. The team had to make our explanations concerning climate change and politics simple and adapt our speech to make it easier for the children to understand, which was a very good experience for us.

I am very happy that we helped the children to learn about the link between the environment and politics and how individual choices can impact the environment. Gill provided a good example for the students because she clearly cared about the environment, really listening to what the students had to say, which created a positive atmosphere. I think it was important to have the involvement of an MP who is concerned by the issue of climate change because children are easily influenced by authority figures at this age. 

The workshop was a success for us: in addition to the work we did with the students and the MP to promote the protection of the planet, the headteacher Mrs Wood said that she will do something about the schools plastic waste by promoting reusable bottles and ending the sale of plastic bottles within the school! 

The schools workshop shows that by sharing our ideas and connecting people, we can all work together to protect the planet.