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’. 

Announcing the launch of our new Campaigner Workbook

We are very excited to announce the launch of our new Campaigner Workbook which aids campaigners in developing a tailored strategy for working with their MP on climate change. The Workbook guides readers in all aspects of setting up and preparing for a meeting with their MP and is full of advice on how to get the best outcome- including from MPs themselves.

“This is a really excellent resource and should prove to be of great benefit to all those, in both faith communities and secular groups, who are engaged in lobbying their politicians on issues of sustainability or climate change.”
— Nicky Bull, Chair, Operation Noah

Campaigners often come to us despondent about their MP's blatant apathy towards climate change, bewildered as to why the greatest issue of our time is not higher on the political agenda. Over the last three years we have developed an approach which effectively engages even the most resistant of MPs and for the first time, this step by step guide will enable groups and individuals to fully put this into practice for themselves.

You can read some of our campaigners' success stories on other blogs such as meetings with renown climate sceptic, Philip Davies, Transport Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, and Education Secretary of State Justine Greening.

What is the secret to their success?

Often perceived as distant, overwhelming and politically divisive, effective communication about climate change requires genuine empathy and a strong understanding of the challenges and barriers to engagement. In depth research of an MP's interests, values and motivations enables campaigners to determine what essentially will motivate their MP. It is this which forms the basis for the development of the tailored strategies which have proven so effective in engaging MPs. As Ken Haemer rightly said, "designing a presentation without your audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it 'to whom it may concern". 

An approach based in finding common ground demonstrates that differing political values need not be a barrier to action. This is a vital realisation for those of us most concerned about climate change as the long term, large scale response we seek requires cross-party commitments that will span beyond five year election cycles.

Getting Hold of a Copy

The launch of the Workbook will be taking place this Saturday 20th May in Oxford. As part of Earthing Faith's 4 week climate change course, we will be running an afternoon session guiding campaigners through the workbook when we will share the inspiring stories and individuals behind each piece of advice. The event and workbook is free of charge and you can book your place here.

The workbooks will also be available to purchase at our training days run on behalf of The Climate Coalition in Leeds, Manchester, London and Exeter. Find out more information here.

For more information about putting on a local training session with the workbook in your area click here, or contact us directly here.

“The key to advocacy is building a good working relationship with an MP. Hope for the Future’s workbook is a step by step practical guide- and it’s the best I’ve seen.”
— John Battle, former Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs

Hope for the Future's Big Move

Laura, Jo and Sarah in the new office

Laura, Jo and Sarah in the new office

Monday 24th May marked an exciting day for Hope for the Future. It was the day we moved into our new office! We have spent the past two weeks gathering furniture and equipment, and settling into the new space. The office is located in the vibrant church of Victoria Methodist in the centre of Sheffield, where classes, groups and meetings contribute to the constant buzz of the building.

Victoria Methodist is also home to the Steeple Corner Café, which belongs to the Real Junk Food Project (RJFP). The RJFP is a national initiative that began in Leeds, noticing the amount of food that is wasted everyday by supermarkets not being able to sell food past its sell-by date, even food that is still perfectly edible. It has been fantastic sitting down to eat lunch at the pay as you feel café, seeing the beautiful creations that the manager, Josie, and her team of volunteers manage to dream up and create every morning.

Amazing food that would have been in the bin if it weren't for the Real Junk Food Project

Amazing food that would have been in the bin if it weren't for the Real Junk Food Project

Since June 2015 we’ve fed over 25,000 people and saved 100s of tons of food from going to waste. In 2018 we expect to save 500 tons.
— The Real Junk Food Project Sheffield

Find your nearest café here: http://therealjunkfoodproject.org/

We are so grateful for everyone who donated office equipment, time or money to help us with the big move. If you would like to make a donation to help with the work of Hope for the Future, please see our donation page or get in touch

Wirral MP 'serious about climate change', pledges to support the #DivestParliament campaign

Hope for the Future met with Shadow Minister for Employment and Inequalities, Margaret Greenwood MP.  Following the meeting, Margaret has pledged to  call on the Parliamentary Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels and create a world leading fund in responsible investment if reelected as MP.  You can read Ms Greenwood's statement on her Facebook page here.

Ms Greenwood's office wrote the following a press release about Hope for the Future and the importance of action on climate change. 

Jo Musker-Sherwood (HFTF Director), Margaret Greenwood MP and Laura D'Henin (HFTF Researcher)

Jo Musker-Sherwood (HFTF Director), Margaret Greenwood MP and Laura D'Henin (HFTF Researcher)

"Margaret Greenwood MP has met with representatives from Hope for the Future, a national advice body for individuals, groups, faith communities and non-governmental organisations seeking to engage UK politicians on climate change.

Ms Greenwood met with Jo Musker-Sherwood, who is Director of Hope for the Future, and Laura D’Henin who is a Researcher and from Wirral.

Among the issues talked about in the meeting were Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in the Dee Estuary, something which Margaret Greenwood, previously a member of the Environmental Audit Select Committee in Parliament, has long spoken out against.

Other issues affecting Wirral that were raised included flooding, protection for bird life, and biodiversity in the River Dee, as well as fuel poverty.

Ms Greenwood commented: “I was pleased to have the chance to meet with Hope for the Future and get to know about the work they do and what they hope to achieve. I was particularly interested to hear their thoughts about issues affecting Wirral.” 

Jo said: “Hope for the Future aims to build working partnerships with MPs to address issues around climate change. It was pleasing to meet a supportive MP in Margaret and we know she has spoken out about climate change and related matters on several occasions in Parliament.”

Laura added: “The issue of climate change is very important. As a resident of Wirral, I am very concerned about the increase in flooding in recent years and the effect it could have on our beautiful coastline.”

Hope for the Future’s primary aim is to work with both communities and politicians to get climate change onto the political agenda, and their overall vision is to see politicians of all political persuasions joining together with each other and communities across the UK to take decisive action on climate change."

You can read more about the Divest Parliament movement here.

Getting Climate Change onto the Political Agenda: Snap Election Hustings Resources

2015 Sheffield environment hustings. Green, Labour and UKIP candidates found common ground in uniting against an increasingly 'wasteful' society to tackle climate change and other related issues.

2015 Sheffield environment hustings. Green, Labour and UKIP candidates found common ground in uniting against an increasingly 'wasteful' society to tackle climate change and other related issues.

Parliament will be officially dissolved on the 3rd May following the Prime Minister's surprise announcement last Tuesday. All current MPs will become candidates fighting to retain their seat and opinion polls do not currently look hopeful for the main opposition.

With Brexit, immigration and the economy likely to dominate the debate, how can we get climate change onto the political agenda?

Hustings are a unique opportunity usually only available every half a decade which encourage open political debate about the issues that matter most to the local community. Candidates showcase their values and vision for if they are successful in their election campaigns. A climate focused hustings will enable candidates to learn more about related issues, to make promises to which they are accountable, and ultimately will allow the audience to make a more informed choice about their vote on an issue that matters to them.

The upheaval of the last two years in British politics underlines the importance of constituent engagement in ongoing political debate. A weaker opposition creates a greater need for constituents to hold their MPs to account and to give them an insight into the issues that are above party politics and spanning more than one election term.

Read Hope for the Future's election hustings resources. Make sure to keep checking back as we update them.

Finally, make sure you check that you are registered to vote. It takes less than five minutes and you can register here.

Top 10 Facts to Drop into a Conversation with your MP

Hope for the Future is here to support anyone wishing to work with their MP on climate change or related issues. Learn more about our tailored advice here on get in touch with us at info@hopeftf.org.uk.

Hope for the Future is here to support anyone wishing to work with their MP on climate change or related issues. Learn more about our tailored advice here on get in touch with us at info@hopeftf.org.uk.

Leading research in climate change communications shows that statistics alone rarely change peoples' perspective on climate change- it's personal experiences and conversations around audiences' existing values that make the biggest impact. However, some carefully selected facts, dropped into the conversation at the right time can make a big difference in evidencing your perspective and gaining your MP's curiosity to learn more. Once you have your MPs attention, the details can follow.

We've memorised these 10 facts covering food, energy and climate science to have at our fingertips in our meetings with MPs...

  1. The International Energy Agency says the world will need almost 60% more energy in 2030 than in 2002.
  2. Worldwide renewable energies accounted for more than half the new generating capacity in 2015 (Nat Geo, April 2017 edition).
  3. Since 2008 the cost of solar panel production has decreased by 80% (Dr Aaron Thierry).
  4. About 40 per cent of all wind energy in Europe blows over the UK, making it an ideal country for wind turbines (Energy Saving Trust).
  5. For every £1 spent on reducing fuel poverty, a return of 42 pence can been seen in NHS savings (Cambridge Econometrics). Additionally, insulating 6 million homes would mean energy bill savings of £8.61 billion per annum across housing stock (Cambridge Econometrics).
  6. The Great Barrier Reef experienced its largest recorded coral die off in 2016; 67% of coral died in a 430 mile stretch (Nat Geo, April 2017 edition).
  7. Electric vehicles are on track to secure half of the car market in the next 10 years. Britain is currently the fourth largest vehicle producer in Europe so we are in the position to take advantage of electric vehicle production here in the UK.
  8. In 2030, wheat prices will be 120% more than the 2010 price, and maize could reach a 177% increase on 2010 price- we need to move towards a more sustainable food supply (Dr Aaron Thierry).
  9. If every light bulb in the UK was changed to LED it would save enough electricity to eradicate the need for Hinkley Point. (Community Energy England).
  10. Every ton of carbon dioxide we emit melts 32 square feet of Arctic Ice- the average UK citizen melts 310 square metres a year (Nat Geo, April 2017 edition)


Fuel Poverty and Climate Change: Real Stories, Mental Health and Behavioural Change

Hope for the Future had the privilege of joining the Fuel Poverty Research Network (FPRN) at Scottish Parliament to learn more about how the latest academic research is informing current policy on fuel poverty and housing insulation standards.

Dr Aimee Ambrose presents her findings on housing efficiency in rented properties. (Photo credit: Alice Restrict). 

Dr Aimee Ambrose presents her findings on housing efficiency in rented properties. (Photo credit: Alice Restrict). 

The Scottish Government missed its target to eradicate fuel poverty by November 2016 with numbers of those living in fuel poverty remaining at similar figures to those before the target was set. Both researchers and politicians present questioned why there had been such little improvement, despite various measures by the Government to address the problem- is research pointing policy makers towards real solutions? Are politicians using research evidence to inform their policy decisions?

Citizen’s Advice Scotland offers support to those living in fuel poverty and speculated on whether fuel poverty measures’ lack of impact had contributed to the Treasury’s decision to reduce support for tackling the problem. Research that evidences how fuel poverty should be defined, how it should be measured and how measures are implemented, is therefore essential.

With clear parallels between fuel poverty, improved housing energy efficiency and the potential of renewable energy to stabilise and cheapen our energy supply, there are many cross overs between fuel poverty and climate change. How can we as climate campaigners work together with those concerned about fuel poverty to further both of agendas?

It may be that your MP has little-to-no concern about climate change, but who may show real interest in fuel poverty as an issue that can be seen to directly impact on constituents, and which lacks the political controversy of climate policy. Encouraging your MP to tackle fuel poverty is a good first step in encouraging them to take action on climate change.

So, what issues might you raise with your MP? Well, there were three key themes that emerged from the conference;

1.      It’s no good just tackling fuel prices, housing insulation and household income alone. Tackling fuel poverty also involves supporting people in how to use newly installed efficiency measures (such as a new boiler, solar panels or central heating) in order to get the very best out of them. We need better support for behavioural change that leads to more efficient use of energy, saving money for lower income families and reducing their carbon footprint.

Hope for the Future Director, Jo Musker-Sherwood, presenting our recent MP Communications Findings.

Hope for the Future Director, Jo Musker-Sherwood, presenting our recent MP Communications Findings.

2.      The mental health side effects of fuel poverty are becoming clearer as cold homes are shown to lead to greater social isolation, and troubles paying fuel bills to increased stress levels. The mental health impacts of fuel poverty often present themselves quicker than the physical health impacts. By tackling fuel poverty, we can reduce strain on the NHS, alleviate thousands of people from living in cold, damp homes, and make steps towards tackling the UK emissions.

3.      Data and statistics can skew the stories of the real people living in fuel poverty. Time and again we heard how individual circumstances could be overlooked by figure averages and flaws in fuel poverty definitions, leading to ill-fitting measures. Research by Scott Restrick for Energy Action Scotland, for example, showed that specific climate variations within the UK could add up to £600 onto peoples’ fuel bills, not to mention the variations in fuel prices throughout the UK. The individual stories of constituents are therefore an incredibly powerful tool in raising policy makers’ awareness of the issues surrounding fuel poverty.

Over the course of our time with the FPRN network, we realised what a vital role constituents can play in getting the most recent, leading academic research into the hands of policy makers. We as campaigners have a vital role to play in giving local MPs the mandate to take action. For more information about raising this issue with your MP, you can read our fuel poverty resources here, or find out more about FPRN’s research here.

“My agenda vs Yours”: Former Leeds MP John Battle shares his experience working for change with his constituents

John’s political career with the Labour Party spanned over 30 years including serving as MP for Leeds West and as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Since his retirement in 2010, John has dedicated his time to supporting local community groups and campaigning on issues of social justice.

Former Leeds MP, John Battle, with Sarah from Hope for the Future Assistant Director.

Former Leeds MP, John Battle, with Sarah from Hope for the Future Assistant Director.

Sitting in the beautiful Tiled Wall café in central Leeds John shared with us his understanding of an effective MP-constituent relationship; “Compromise has come to be a dirty word”, John explained, “but it was originally a legal term meaning ‘the coming together of parties to discuss’. We need more of that in politics. I’m a big fan of compromise and it’s something I had to think about a lot during my time as MP”.

John regaled to us various extraordinary stories from surgery meetings, including a time a constituent presented him with a suit to return to its retailer because he though MPs were short of work to do! “Constituents will come with their agenda” John explained, “and as an MP, I had mine. I was juggling so many different things, I had my party to represent, and the varying views of my constituents, as well as my own conscience. I couldn’t satisfy the needs of every constituent who came through my doors and we had to reach a compromise.”

Certainly in our experience working with MPs, we know that that the best MP-constituent relationships are developed by establishing common ground, however scarce it may be. John agreed with us that the first step is to find out what an MP is interested in- even if it’s just a positive photo opportunity- and design your local campaign around their agenda. (See our example illustration below drawn from our work with climate sceptics such as Philp Davies MP here).

Example HFTF training content for working with a climate sceptic MP. Click to enlarge.

Campaigners may have to compromise their own expectations, but the world of politics is one of compromise and small steps can lead to greater things.

Finally, we asked John for his top three lobbying tips;

  1. Relationship: “Don’t just stand outside Westminster holding banners”, John advised, “get stuck in and build a relationship with your local MP”. Invite them to your events, write them personal letters, make friends with their constituency staff- seek to build a relationship. (Read our resources on building a relationship with even the most challenging of MPs here).
  2. Research: “You cannot win a campaign without preparation” John insisted. Instead of turning up with your own agenda, research your MP’s and find out where your agenda meets theirs. Find the common ground and work from there. (Read our resources on researching your MP here).
  3. Refine: “Clarifying your questions is more important than finding the answer” John urged us, quoting Aristotle. The more focused a campaign, the easier it is to get off the floor. Know what you want your MP to do and make sure it’s realistic- play to their strengths. (Read our advice on choosing your campaign ‘ask’ here).
“The key to advocacy is building a good working relationship with an MP. Hope for the Future’s training is a step by step practical guide- and it’s the best I’ve seen”.
— John Battle


We were delighted to have John's endorsement for our approach! 

Hope for the Future’s approach is grounded in the real advice and input of MPs across the political spectrum, as well as our own lobbying experience with hundreds of MPs across the UK. We offer training and one to one advice for anyone interested in having their voice heard on climate change. Contact us for more information about how we can support you with your lobbying work.