Five years ago, a small group of friends who attended the same church, decided that something must be done about climate change – and that that something must be influencing politicians to take action. From this initial conviction came the idea of helping others to challenge our elected representatives on what is surely the most urgent problem facing the world. After four years of hard, voluntary work, testing out our ideas on how that might be done, we finally became a registered charity in the summer of 2017. Since then, our small team of paid staff and our much larger group of volunteers have become recognised as leaders in the field of training citizens to petition their MPs and councillors about the dangers of global warming.
In May, I met with my MP Tommy Sheppard at one of his surgeries to discuss climate change with him. It was great to meet Tommy in person and know that my elected representative is a real person, who is working hard to represent our constituency.
With Community Energy Fortnight approaching, why not choose community energy as one specific issue to approach your MP about? Community energy involves small-scale renewable energy projects, where citizens come together, take control and reap benefits from their energy. The many benefits of community energy can make it easier to find common ground with your MP over an area of shared interest. For example, if your MP’s main concern is lowering energy prices for their constituents, you can highlight how community energy can help with this.
In April 2018, Claire Perry MP, the Minister for Clean Growth and Energy announced that the government will call on the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to lay out a route for tighter carbon controls, in a move towards a net zero emissions target. Net zero refers to the balancing of emissions produced and emissions sequestered or offset, so that overall zero emissions are emitted. A zero emissions target would be a positive step towards meeting the 1.5 degree target, as well as showing ambition from the government.
Jo and I ran a workshop for a group of schoolgirls on a residential trip at Whirlow Hall Farm with the Sheffield Environmental Movement. The Sheffield Environmental Movement is a charity that aims to promote health and well-being by working to provide Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic & Refugee (BAMER) communities in Sheffield access to the natural environment. This was my first opportunity to run a workshop so it was really exciting, but also slightly nerve wracking sitting in silence with a group of 11-14 year olds before we got started.
Talking about the Government’s recent move on single use plastics Mr Jenkin remarked that ‘the establishment is playing catch up’ with public concern for greater environmental protection, listing as an example the range of eco-friendly lifestyle choices he has made over the years. The issue of climate change specifically, however, is one that has evolved for Mr Jenkin, not least due to the work of one of his constituents, Jill of the Women’s Institute.
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?
For anyone worried about meeting their MP on climate change, I would 100% recommend that you give it a go. There is almost always something that you and your MP can find common ground in. For myself and my MP, it was renewable energy; before our meeting I didn’t know that Mr Bebb was an advocate for Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. From initially being worried about approaching my MP on an issue such as climate change, to Mr Bebb attending a workshop at the local school on the issue, I feel that building a good relationship with your MP goes a long way.