I received an email on Tuesday with details of a last minute constituency meeting with Jeremy Quin MP. Of course, I jumped at the chance to accompany for the meeting because, well, we exist to support constituents in these meetings and to help them get the best out of their MP in that short amount of time. What’s more, each MP meeting contributes to our approach of what makes for effective climate campaigning. This meeting was no exception, I learned so much and it was a real inspiration to hear about the fantastic work going on in Horsham and the surrounding areas.
Carrie Cort was the constituent who invited me, and we were joined by Jenny Edwards who, along with Carrie and others from the area, were trained to be Climate Reality Leaders by Al Gore. The group had met Jeremy Quin recently at a Share Fair in the local area where Carrie, her son and husband had presented Jeremy with the net zero letter from Simon Clarke MP, asking him to add his signature in support. Jeremy recently became a junior minister in Government as Assistant Whip. Due to this new role he felt that signing would go against the ministerial code (ministers are not allowed to do certain things that other MPs can do such as sign EDMs or submit written questions), so in the meeting we asked him in what ways he could support the letter. Jeremy is very new to the role so was unsure of what exactly he would be able to do, but said that he would write to Claire Perry MP to alert her to the contents of the letter – which we felt was an excellent outcome.
We spoke with Jeremy about solar in the UK, including the viability of installing solar panels on all new buildings and whether schools with solar panels receive an exemption from the recent increase in solar taxation. He was particularly interested to hear about the Solar Power for Schools project in West Sussex which has a £2.99m budget to install solar power in schools before March 2019. You can read more about solar energy here.
Where Jeremy’s interest was really sparked was talking about the fantastic work Carrie and her group are doing locally. Carrie runs a Repair Cafe which offers a free monthly repair service for broken and worn out items, encouraging a culture of ‘remake, repair and reuse’. The cafe was opened in October 2017 by Jeremy himself. Carrie says “I am known locally for my collection of clothes made out of neckties, conveying the message about reuse”. In fact, in 2016 Carrie won the Guinness World Record for the person wearing the most neckties and currently holds the record at 270! Jeremy Quin was one of the official Guinness World Record judges - the first time he came across Carrie and her environmental work.
At the repair cafe, they also offer energy cost comparison and switching to 100% clean and renewable energy. In the meeting with Jeremy, Carrie told a story of a local lady, a 2-bedroom flat owner in Horsham, whom she had helped to save £100 per year by switching to a renewable energy provider. The lady had been owed over £1,000 by her previous provider so was in tears at the news that the new provider would be able to sort her repayment. Jeremy, unaware that it was even possible to purchase renewably sourced energy through the national grid, showed great interest in this story, and promised to attend the Repair Cafe’s first birthday in October.
Towards the end of this productive meeting, having built a great rapport with Jeremy, he shocked us by casting doubt over whether the extreme weather events the world has been facing recently is due to climate change or some other explanation such as sunspots. The three of us present at the meeting simply raised our eyebrows and moved the conversation along. But the comment was a stark reminder of the need to continue engaging, informing and encouraging our political leaders on climate action. Jeremy is lucky to have Carrie, Jenny and the rest of their group as dedicated constituents who will continue great work in Horsham, keeping him updated with news and progress. Jeremy will learn more and more about the issue, building in knowledge and confidence until he is able to have nuanced, informed debates and make constructive decisions around the topic of climate change.