21st century democracy, climate change, and Hope for the Future

By Wilkister L Kiyumbu

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Sheffield is a very exciting place to study, not just because of the universities but also because of the exciting activities that local organisations are doing in addressing local and global issues. I found out about Hope for the Future (HFTF) when Jo came to give a talk in my Democratic Governance in the 21st century class. In this module, we had talked a lot about democratic innovations around the world. Our teacher, Dr Matthew Wood, has extensive experience in the area of democratic theory and governance. By inviting Jo to come and speak about HFTF work, he intended for us to see how “bottom up movements of citizens can change how politics works”. From Jo’s presentation, I was fascinated by the fact that it met a specific gap of giving citizens practical support to address a controversial policy area: climate change.

While we all enjoy democracy as a system of governance, it is understandable that one can feel like there is very little they can do beyond voting, to actually get the elected leaders to address the things that matter to them. For example, whether you voted leave or remain during the Brexit referendum, following the subsequent parliamentary proceedings gives you the sense that it is a big mess now that is impossible to unravel (or even understand!). Democratic innovations help to meet that gap between elections. A democratic innovation could be anything from a one-off participatory budgeting task in a given region to an online platform that enables citizens to follow up with the activities of their leaders. It is those things that allow us to strengthen the core elements of democracy that we value such as participation, inclusivity, considered judgement and transparency. So how is HFTF a democratic innovation and what value does it add to the ways of democracy in the UK?

HFTF is a non-profit organisation whose activities are what would be called democratic innovations. If I could explain what HFTF does in a very simplistic way, it would be this: 

HFTF enables individuals and local communities passionate about climate change to engage their local MPs effectively and realistically.

In other words, they help the MPs and local communities deliberate to a common ground. So for example, you may be an individual, group or school that is frustrated because you feel that your local MP does not seem to share the sense of urgency in matters of climate change. Perhaps you either have been unsuccessful in the methods that you have used before or you have no idea how to go about making climate change a primary political agenda. In these scenarios, HFTF would be a great place to start. 

In 2018 alone, HFTF helped local citizens across UK engage with 70 elected representatives through its wide range of support and training activities. Some of the success stories are extremely encouraging and they remind me of how valuable it is to get relevant help to address the issues that we are most passionate about within the democratic structures that exist. Feelings of disenfranchisement and disillusions about what democracy can or cannot achieve, sometimes come from a limited knowledge of how things actually work. Maybe that explains in part, why climate change is not a main political agenda in all the major parties. Having worked on bridging the gap between citizens and MPs for over 4 years, I think that the activities of HFTF are just the right kind of democratic innovation that we need.

In my time volunteering here, I hope to engage departments, student societies and other groups in both The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam Universities to tap into the training resources that HFTF offers, in a manner relevant to those groups’ agendas for climate change. My personal goal is to have a total of at least 5 groups (from both unis) tap into this incredible resource in Sheffield that HFTF is to addressing the global issue of climate change.

 

 

Climate Communication Blog Series

Blog 3: Your MP’s values

Briony Latter, 25th January 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 third post, we share some information about the importance of values when discussing climate change with your MP.

Values, which can be defined as “principles or standards of behaviour; one's judgement of what is important in life”, can be an important consideration when talking to both groups and individuals about climate change. Listening to and having conversations with someone who shares your values can make a difference to how you respond to the subject and how much you trust what they have to say.

Laura D’Henin meets Guto Bebb, MP for Conwy.

Laura D’Henin meets Guto Bebb, MP for Conwy.

A good example of one of these “trusted sources” is climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who is an evangelical Christian and whose “lectures are effective at informing evangelical college students about climate change”. Another example of using trusted sources was at our recent event, Green Christianity in a Fragile Planet: An evening with Jo Johnson MP, which was held at Orpington Baptist Church. As mentioned in our previous blog post, climate change was discussed in a way that related to Christianity. But what can you do when you think your values are different to those of your MP?

Although you might not see eye to eye with them, it is important to find common ground with your MP so that you can start to have a constructive conversation and help them to take action on climate change. As Jamie Clarke from Climate Outreach states, we must find “shared values that unite us” and it is also important to remember that “effective communication involves listening as well as speaking”. Searching for shared values means that you can find topics that both you and your MP can have a productive discussion about and that you both agree are important to take action on. This article in The Guardian demonstrates some excellent examples of finding common ground. It details five pairs of friends in parliament from different political parties and despite their obvious differences, they have managed to find common ground from which trust can be built and friendships formed.

“If somebody you like and respect has a point of view, you can’t ignore it”.
— Anne Milton MP

As stated in an article by Adam Corner, Ezra Markowitz and Nick Pidgeon, “disagreements about climate change are more likely to be about values than about the underlying science”. Our page about working with Conservative MPs runs through some useful narratives and values to think about and use if you are working with Conservative MPs.

As we say in our vision, ultimately our language must speak to the values of those we seek to engage. Understanding your MP’s values can help you to better communicate with them about climate change. In order to find common ground, research your MP to get an idea of their interests and political values. Trying to identify shared values can help you to build a meaningful relationship with your MP and we can help you to get there. Visit our training pages for more information about how we can help you to work with your MP.

Hope for the Future Case Study

Karen Lee, MP for Lincoln

Karen Lee, MP for Lincoln

We delivered training for a group in Lincoln who are keen to engage several MPs in the area on climate change. Hope for the Future did background research on all the Lincoln MPs to try and uncover their existing interests and identify the main values that the MPs might hold. We were lucky to be joined by local MP, Karen Lee’s office manager who was able to give an insight into Karen’s core values. A local advocate, Karen’s key concern is alleviating poverty in Lincoln and beyond. Climate change is predicted to have the greatest effect on society’s most vulnerable such as those living in poverty, so we recognised this as the key issue with which to engage Karen. The group are now working to organise a constituency event on climate change and poverty with Karen Lee MP in attendance.

The G20 and Climate Change

By Tom Wymer

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A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to Argentina to cover the G20 Summit for Global Policy, an international affairs journal. Our team were there to produce in depth analysis of the policy decisions and outcomes from the Summit. We produced blogs and policy briefs on everything from cryptocurrencies to Sino-Japanese relations. In particular though, I was really pleased that so much of our work looked at what the G20 are doing on issues related to climate change, like food sustainabilityenvironmentally sustainable infrastructure, and the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies

Unfortunately, however, the 2018 G20’s commitments on these issues left a lot to be desired. The collective leaders’ statement at the end of the Summit allowed the US to reiterate “its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement”; it included some very weak language on how to reduce the world’s emissions, which was widely regarded to be an attempt to appease oil rich member states like Saudi Arabia; and finally, the leaders failed to mention how they will meet the funding targets set out in the Paris Agreement to support climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. 

This failure is particularly disappointing given that the G20 can and should be central to the fight against climate change. Indeed, the G20 has proven to be at its most effective in times of global crisis. This was most clearly seen in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis where the likes of Gordon Brown, George W Bush, Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel were incredibly successful in using the G20 Summits to create an effective global response and avert a far bigger economic depression. 

 But now the world is facing another, much larger crisis: climate change. As some of the leading investors in the world reminded us this week, climate change could lead to a financial crisis many times the size of the 2008 crash. But it also presents a crisis to our homes, our health and our natural environment, to name just a few. 

 So why is the G20 so important in the global fight against climate change?

 While the COP talks are still vital, we have seen over the last few weeks in Poland that achieving consensus between every country on the planet is incredibly difficult. Indeed, the countries failed to even endorse the recent IPCC report that they themselves commissioned. The G20, by contrast, can be a lot more effective. While it is highly exclusive and unrepresentative of the world’s population, it is a far smaller and less unwieldy body with a greater prospect of building consensus. Reaching an agreement between 20 countries will always be far easier than between 197. Furthermore, the G20 is made up of the countries with the most political influence, economic clout and, crucially, responsibility for a disproportionate amount of the world’s emissions. Therefore, if we are to tackle climate change it is primarily going to be down to action taken by these countries.

 Overall, the 2018 G20 Summit was a disappointment on climate change. But that does not mean that the G20 cannot play a key role in tackling climate change. The G20 can work alongside the existing COP talks, acting as a forum for the largest emitters to reach agreement. In future the leaders of the world’s largest economies must use these summits as an opportunity to be a driving force behind the fight against climate change.

Climate Communications Blog Series

Blog 2: The Importance of Framing

Briony Latter, 29th November 2018

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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 second post, we share some information about framing and why it’s important to think about when discussing climate change.

The way in which climate change is framed can mean that the topic appeals to different audiences. The panel at our recent Green Christianity in a Fragile Planet event discussed climate change in a way that related to Christianity. This is different to what a climate change discussion with a Muslim or Hindu audience would be like, for example. Climate Outreach have produced an excellent guide which provides some good examples of how to do this well with the major religions. However, framing isn’t only something to think about when talking to faith groups. Would you talk to a teenager about climate change in the same way that you would discuss it with the elderly? How about someone living in a city compared to someone living in the countryside, or a friend with conservative values compared to someone you know who is more left-wing? As Adam Corner from Climate Outreach explains, “Climate change has been consistently ‘framed’ in the language of those with left-wing values and this is one of the biggest barriers to engaging wider groups”. You can read some suggestions about how to communicate with people on the centre-right of the political spectrum on our first blog post in this series here.

Photo by  Jes

Photo by Jes

Photo by  Andrew Bowden

Photo by Andrew Bowden

Climate change is often framed as a security issue, with phrases such as ‘the fight against climate change’ or ‘the war on climate change’ used regularly in the media. Research has shown that using war metaphors can highlight the importance of climate change but could also lead to a lack of concern. This could be seen as framing climate change in a fearful way, which can be problematic. Research by Saffron O’Neill and Sophie Nicholson-Cole has shown that although fear can make people take notice of climate change, it tends to be unsuccessful for engaging people with the subject in a meaningful way. An interesting example of this is the language used by the group Extinction Rebellion, who have been in the news recently for blocking bridges and roads in London to draw attention to inaction on climate change. Their name alone is very evocative, and their website uses words and phrases such as ‘fight’, ‘global emergency’, ‘survive’, ‘destruction’ and ‘annihilated’. While framing climate change in this way certainly highlights the seriousness of the issue and draws attention to it, it is not an approach that will work for everyone.

Think about how you might frame a discussion about climate change with your MP. This could depend on whether you have a Conservative or Labour MP, or what climate-related issues there are in your local area. If you meet your MP, think about what action you would like them to take and what you will ask them to do. On our What can I ask my MP to do? page, we suggest that you frame your ‘Ask’ around your MP’s main interests and values such as their role in government, or frame your Ask around a local issue such as air pollution.

Although it’s important to think about how you frame climate change for particular audiences, finding the right way to do so isn’t an easy fix. It can take time to get people engaged with the subject and it’s important to find a way to have meaningful conversations with them. Building a good relationship with your MP may involve having contact with them on several occasions, from writing a letter to meeting them in person and following up after the meeting.

Hope for the Future Case Study

Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield.

Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield.

To Sutton Coldfield MP, Andrew Mitchell, tackling climate change meant possible detriments to his local economy as a huge base for car manufacturing. With this in mind, we knew going into a meeting with Mr Mitchell focusing on reducing emissions from vehicles would only be received badly. Instead, we re-framed our conversation to talk about the huge opportunities of electric vehicles in the UK, and the possibility of the West Midlands being the manufacturing base for greener cars. The meeting was a success and Andrew Mitchell went on to campaign on a fleet of electric taxis in his constituency.

Brexit and the Environment

By Logan Robin

One of the things which sets Hope For The Future apart from other organisations is its location. Being situated in the heart of Sheffield has enabled HFTF to access large pools of talent at the city’s two large universities - Sheffield Hallam and the University of Sheffield - and forge links with key academics and think tanks, of which there is a large number. One example is SPERI - the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute - which has produced a lot of research on the links between growth and the environment. A further example is Brexit & the Environment whose co-chair, Professor Charlie Burns, is based at the University of Sheffield’s politics department. 

Professor Burns gave her inaugural lecture on Wednesday the 21st of November, titled ‘Can the Awkward Partner be a Green Leader? Brexit and the Future of UK Environmental Policy.’ The lecture dedicated itself to the EU Withdrawal Agreement which had been published just one week earlier. The quick turnaround time from the information being made public to Burns presenting the lecture speaks to her ability to quickly condense huge swaths of information, and this was also in evidence in the way she presented the information. She was kind enough to summarise her answer to the lecture’s title before it even officially started: “yes in principle but probably not!”

Professor Burns began by pointing out that three of the policy areas most impacted by Brexit - environmental, farming, and fisheries policies - fall under the purview of the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs [Defra]. This is further hammered home by the fact that Defra has received £100 million in extra funding, out of a total of £400 million put aside by the treasury to deal with Brexit (including the creation of two new departments: the Department for Exiting the European Union [DexEU], and the Department for Industry and Trade [DIT]). With this money Defra intends to have hired 1,200 new members of staff by March 2019. (Institute for Government). 

Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs 

The focus of the lecture then turned to Defra’s Secretary of State Michael Gove. He has been a far more environmentally active secretary of state than many had expected. Prior to his arrival in post, the Government had pushed many key environmental policies in to the long grass. But within a very short time of his arrival the Government announced a new 25 year action plan. It is highly likely that having a “big beast” politician like Gove is a huge asset to Defra in terms of getting policy moving (where less experienced ministers might succumb to inertia or outside influences), and in terms of fighting for his department’s interests in cabinet so it can get the money it needs and time in parliament to pass its bills. 

However Defra can come unstuck in the detail of policy. Professor Burns pointed out that whilst the action plan gives the impression of phasing out all waste by 2050 (and all plastic waste by 2042) the document often uses qualifying phrases. The pledge is actually to “work towards eliminating all avoidable waste by 2050 and all avoidable plastic waste by end of 2042”. Key words here being “work towards” and “avoidable”. It could be argued most current waste (plastic or otherwise) is not “avoidable” and therefore the pledge is already largely achieved. 

Agriculture Bill 

This slight weakness is detectable in other Defra areas also. For instance, the Agriculture bill is currently on its way through parliament. The purpose of the bill is to replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) - the mechanism by which subsidies are given to rural farmers (helping maintain the countryside). The CAP has been heavily criticised over the years for giving money indiscriminately and often to large landowners at the expense of small scale farmers. Replacing the CAP then is one of the major ways Gove has pledge to achieve a “Green Brexit” which will put “environmental policy at the heart of England’s domestic and international priorities.” 

The problem lies in the weakness of language. For instance, the opening of the bill reads: 

The Secretary of State may give financial assistance for or in connection with any of the following purposes—

(a) Managing land or water in a way that protects or improves the environment

(b) Supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland or woodland and better understanding of the environment;

(c) Managing land or water in a way that maintains, restores or enhances cultural heritage or natural heritage;

(d) Mitigating or adapting to climate change;

(e) Preventing, reducing or protecting from environmental hazards;

(f) Protecting or improving the health or welfare of livestock;

(g) Protecting or improving the health of plants

The problem here lies in the word “may”. Indeed it has been suggested by MPs on the public bill committee responsible for line-by-line scrutiny of the legislation that this word should be replaced with “must” to ensure that current and future Defra Secretaries of State continue to pay money towards these worthwhile goals, especially climate change mitigation and adaptation (point d). If the bill passes in its current form there will be no such obligation. 

The Withdrawal Agreement : Back Stops & Governance Gaps 

By this point Professor Burns has set up much of the background of UK environmental governance, so begins looking to the future about what the Withdrawal Agreement could mean for UK environmental policies if it comes in to force. 

The important part of the Withdrawal Agreement is the ‘back stop’ which will come in to force if no long term relationship can be agreed after the end of the transition period, some time between 2020 and 2022. What the agreement and its accompanying political declaration does say is encouraging. Not only has a non-regression clause been included in the agreement, but also specifies that new bodies will need to be created to oversee this, creating accountability. The point of the non-regression clause is to ensure that the UK maintains separate but equal regulations after the end of the transition period, and stop either side undercutting the other or creating a ‘race to the bottom’ on environmental standards. 

Defra has already been reluctant to spell out exactly what this new body might look like, but has done so in response to pressure from NGOs, especially the umbrella organisation Greener UK. The details showed that they had made a body which only covered England, not the entire UK. So - as plans currently stand - if the back stop comes in to force there will be a governance gap where Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland’s situation and obligations vis-á-vis environmental regulation will be entirely unclear, and maybe even unregulated. 

Additionally, it is unclear what will happen if either side improves their environmental standards - as both have pledged to do. If both sides had committed not only to non-regression (i.e. neither side may let its environmental regulations get worse) but also to parity or ‘dynamic alignment’ (i.e. if one side improves its regulations, so must the other) then it could create a “race to the top” instead of a ‘race to the bottom’. (ukandeu.ac.uk) 

Next Steps 

No one can know at this stage if the Withdrawal Agreement will even be passed by parliament. Burns herself made the point that she may have to come back in a few weeks to give the lecture all over again as the political situation changes. But notwithstanding the possibility of the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement on 11 December there are some key messages to take away from the research. Brexit will have enormous consequences for environmental governance. Whether or not that will be a good thing depends highly on the political developments of the coming months and years. Defra and its leadership have made a public effort of trying to achieve a “Green Brexit”, but they seem unlikely to deliver without external pressure. Much of this pressure will have to come from parliament and the MPs who sit in it. And those MPs will not create that pressure unless they themselves are being talked to by NGOs and concerned constituents. 

Climate Communications Blog Series

Blog 1: Communicating Climate Change with the Centre-Right

Briony Latter, 8th November 2018

Briony Latter

Briony Latter

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 first post, we share some potential ways to communicate about climate change with people on the centre-right of the political spectrum who tend to hold conservative values such as the importance of family, continuity and cultural heritage.

This graph from Carbon Brief illustrates the political divide on climate change in the UK.

Climate change is an issue often associated with those on the political left, but it’s important to engage people from across the political spectrum. With 315 Conservative MPs currently in the House of Commons, it’s likely that many of you reading this will have a Conservative MP. With climate change scepticism usually higher amongst those on the political right, it can feel like a challenge to discuss the topic if you have different political viewpoints.

Just last week, the government budget was announced by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. There was no mention of climate change. So how can you talk to your Conservative MP about climate change in a way that will interest them? Climate Outreach, Europe’s leading climate change communicators, have produced a number of resources about how to communicate climate change to those on the centre-right. Their research has identified 11 core centre-right principles that can be used in conversations about climate change.

One of the announcements from the budget was that fuel duty would be frozen, saving car drivers money. One way of talking to them about climate change in relation to this topic could be to discuss the impact of cars on air quality and how this affects children. This links to two of the core centre-right principles identified by Climate Outreach: ‘intergenerational duty’ and ‘the good life’ – “an aspiration to happiness, good health, and wellbeing”. There has been plenty of recent news coverage about air pollution and how this has a negative impact on children, particularly during the school run and whilst outside at school. Framing this in a way that emphasises the impact on children’s health and the responsibility we have for younger generations may be a suitable approach to take with your MP. For further information about air pollution, read our air pollution resource.

Torrential rainfall in South Yorkshire on the 25th June 2007 led to the beck flooding in the afternoon. Photograph by Wendy North.

Torrential rainfall in South Yorkshire on the 25th June 2007 led to the beck flooding in the afternoon. Photograph by Wendy North.

Bright Blue, a think tank for ‘liberal conservatism’ published a response to the budget last Tuesday. In it they state that “the Chancellor was wrong to bring forward tax cuts for higher-paid workers whilst the poorest are still being squeezed”. This is a good example of another key centre-right principle identified by Climate Outreach: 'fairness'. By framing climate change issues in a way that reflects this, you are more likely to connect to your MP’s values. For example, you could talk about how unfair it is that people living in certain areas have to bear the brunt of flooding.

As we note in our tips for preparing for a difficult conversation with your MP, your overall aim should be to find a way to work together despite any disagreements you might have. For more information, see our page about working with Conservative MPs or contact us about getting a tailored strategy for your MP.

Hope for the Future Case Study

We worked with Philip Davies MP, one of the 5 MPs who voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008. Tapping into the centre-right values of ‘common sense’ and ‘fairness’, we decided to raise with him the high levels of fuel poverty in his constituency and the common-sense solution of improving housing efficiency. Following the meeting, Mr Davies submitted three written questions on improving housing efficiency in the UK, and in March this year we held an event in his constituency on the role of renewable energy in alleviating fuel poverty.

Green Christianity in a Fragile Planet: An evening with Jo Johnson MP

Guest blog from Alison Dennis

It’s been long journey but finally, more than a year after it began we have arrived at the start! 

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In Summer 2017 an email went around the Orpington Churches asking if anyone would like to meet their MP to talk about climate change. Eventually in December, three responders from different churches met each other in the flesh. With invaluable preparation from Jo Musker-Sherwood, we set out together meet with Jo Johnson MP. 

‘Oh no, not climate change!’ Didn’t seem like a promising start from Jo Johnson but with the help of the notes from Hope for the Future, we managed to sound like we knew what we were talking about. To our surprise he agreed (in principle) to come along to a meeting to discuss environment issues with Churches Together in Orpington. 

Much advice from Hope for the Future, hundreds of emails and a couple of planning get-togethers later, we found ourselves somewhat nervously waiting to see who would turn up to our Friday evening event on Oct 12th 

We were rewarded with 175 attendees, a very positive atmosphere and lots of interest in the exhibition of local and national environmental groups. 29 people signed up saying they would like to take things further. 

Orpington Churches Together

The discussion ranged from ‘How will Brexit affect future government environmental policy?’ to ‘Why is the government permitting fracking when both local and country-wide voters are against it?’ We were elated to hear Jo Johnson say that he saw Churches Together as a place where the most important issues were discussed and to realise that he saw us as a force to be reckoned with. 

You can catch a flavour of what went on from the Livecast on the Orpington Baptist Church Facebook page.

So we begin the journey of influencing our MP, strengthened from 3 of us to 32. As we have seen from the very timely IPCC report – there is not a day to waste. 

The Future of Solar Energy in the UK: An evening with Alex Chalk MP

On Friday 5th October, Stoke Orchard Eco-Community Centre hosted a panel discussion on ‘Government and the Future of Solar Energy. We were delighted to welcome Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham to the panel. Alongside Alex, the panelists included; Dr John Henry Looney of Sustainable Direction, Dr Peter Boait from Gloucestershre Energy Co-op and Sophie Franklin, of Tewkesbury Town Council. Hope for the Future supported local Tewkesbury constituent, Jerry Barr, to organise the event which was chaired by our own Assistant Director, Sarah Robinson. In this guest blog, Jerry, reflects on his Hope for the Future journey which began back in 2017…

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Engaging with Laurence Robertson, MP for Tewkesbury Borough, Gloucestershire

I was delighted to meet with Jo and Sarah on their visit to north Gloucestershire early in 2017 and hear how Hope for the Future were helping citizens and churches to work with their local MPs on climate change issues.  As a citizen in the Tewkesbury area I had met with Laurence Robertson, our MP on a number of occasions but with frustratingly limited response.  However, HFTF had  established that Laurence had in the past asked a number of questions in the Commons on solar power and suggested that he be invited to chair a panel of experts at a public forum on the subject.  

The event was held in Stoke Orchard Community Centre with 198 solar panels on its roof.

The event was held in Stoke Orchard Community Centre with 198 solar panels on its roof.

The event took place with Alex Chalk, MP for Cheltenham present as Laurence Robertson was unable to attend.  The venue was nevertheless in Laurence’s Tewkesbury Constituency and appropriately in a new Community Centre built on the site of the old National Coal Board Research Centre in Stoke Orchard.  A building fitted with an array of 198 solar panels, a low carbon heat exchange system and other impressive sustainable features. Furthermore with all the residences constructed on the rest of the site fitted with PV solar panels.

Alex Chalk was joined by Dr John Henry Looney of consultancy ‘Sustainable Direction’ who advises businesses in making smart decisions about reducing their carbon footprint. Among his examples was the possibility of using the energy stored in the batteries of electric cars when not in use, how might this be made available at times of peak usage?  Also on the platform was Dr Peter Boait who is at the forefront of research into energy and sustainable development.  He suggested that communities might form cooperatives such as the one under discussion for residents of Barton St in Gloucester, where neighbours could buy and sell surplus energy to each other.  Alex Chalk spoke about the need for government to take the lead on carbon capture and storage.   Alex sees climate change as one of the biggest threats to our future and one that the UK government needs to take at least as seriously as terrorism and antibiotic resistance.  

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The following week two of us, myself and Sophie Franklin, were able to meet with Laurence Robertson in his Tewkesbury office and share the content of the forum with him.  We were delighted that Jo Musker-Sherwood was able to join us for that meeting and guide us in developing the conversation.  He has undertaken to raise some of the issues in the House and to join us in a visit to a newly constructed Zero Carbon Home in the Constituency.

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As the panel discussion drew to a close, Sarah asked each of the panelists that action they planned to take following the event. To which Alex Chalk responded “I’m going to focus in Parliament on how resources are recalibrated – we could do a lot more with tax payer funding. I’m going to carry on cycling and eat less meat – it’s probably healthier for me too!” Sophie Franklin left the discussion on a positive note as she promised to “convince the whole of Tewkesbury Town to become greener” Since the event, Hope for the Future have suggested some questions to Alex Chalk’s constituency office which we hope he will raise in parliament. Alex has already asked a question on energy meters earlier this month. We are delighted that Jerry and Sophie have secured a visit with Laurence Robertson and look forward to staying updated on their progress to a zero carbon Tewkesbury!