Striking the Balance on Climate Action

How can we achieve the energy generation we need from renewables whilst protecting our treasured natural environment? What risks does the Government need to take to achieve our emission reduction targets and how far are they willing to go? Is our current political response to the danger of climate change encouraging or is there still a lot to do?

St Buryan WI in Cornwall had a fascinating discussion with their MP, Derek Thomas, about climate change, wildlife and efficient housing among many other topics, following training from Hope for the Future. Regional Climate Ambassador, Pippa Stilwell reports on the meeting in this guest blog. 

Pippa Stilwell (left) with Derek Thomas MP and Sarah Robinson

Pippa Stilwell (left) with Derek Thomas MP and Sarah Robinson

On 04 May, 30 WI members and friends who live in the St Ives constituency , plus 3 members of the RSPB, met in St Buryan Village Hall to discuss climate change. They were joined by St Ives MP Derek Thomas, and also by Sarah Robinson from the organisation Hope For The Future, based in Sheffield, which specialises in training citizens to work with policy makers on climate change. Sarah opened the evening with a fascinating presentation on how to engage with your MP and hold a constructive conversation by finding common ground (for example the goal of ensuring that all new homes are energy efficient) and then asking for action which the MP can realistically take, from a request to pass a letter to the relevant minister, through various levels of ambition ending with a commitment to launch a national campaign.

Derek Thomas then gave a talk around topics including the future of a local Wave Hub, geothermal energy in Cornwall, future plans for infrastructure to protect West Cornwall from flooding in the face of rising sea-levels, and also a question about energy efficiency for new homes and retrofitting insulation for old ones. Mr Thomas answered all these questions in detail, and undertook to send us copies of the briefings he had obtained. He agreed that levels of funding for improving our inefficient homes are disappointing, given the huge potential gains in terms of reducing fuel bills, reducing carbon emissions, and keeping people well. He also outlined his vision of introducing variable tariffs, with low energy users paying less per unit and high energy users paying more: although the method is complicated, if combined with grants for insulation for low income households this may be an effective way of helping with energy bills.

Other questions from the audience included one about whether the new town planned for Truro would be well supplied with charging points for electric vehicles. Pippa Stilwell asked if Mr Thomas would press the Government on the importance of introducing energy efficiency standards into building regulations, which he agreed to do. Barbara Curnow from Carbis Bay WI described her son’s big savings on energy bills since moving to an energy efficient house. When asked to what extent the climate agenda is a priority at Westminster, Mr Thomas said that politicians are aware that green energy initiatives present huge opportunities to create new jobs across the UK, and that this will drive change.

Sarah Robinson mentioned the upcoming Speak Up Week of Action campaign organised by the Climate Coalition, of which both the WI and the RSPB are members, which will take place between 30th June and 8th July this year, when members of the coalition (about 15 million individuals) will contact their MPs and ask them to press the Government to commit to the target of zero emissions by the year 2050.

Finally, Pippa Stilwell stressed the need to take action urgently, and asked people to encourage their friends in other Cornwall constituencies to approach their own MPs as part of the Speak up Week of Action, in the hope of getting a united voice in Westminster from all 6 Cornwall MPs.

The evening finished with tea and cake in true WI fashion.


Pippa Stilwell Zennor WI

Climate Ambassador, Cornwall Federation of Women’s Institute: 05 May 2018