Big Climate Connection – 5 November

Six of us went to see Peter Aldous MP last Friday (5 November) as part of the Big Climate Connection organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition.  In 2009 Stop Climate Chaos organised The Wave –the UK’s biggest ever demonstration in support of action on climate change which Sustainable Bungay took part in. This year the Coalition called for people to connect with others in their communities and lobby their MP on 5 and 6 November.

November is a key time for climate politics, giving everyone an important opportunity to influence world and local issues. A new Energy Bill is on the way, which could make it easier and cheaper to improve the energy efficiency of homes and clean up the emissions from the electricity we use. Lobbying local MPs strengthens this bill in parliament. It also comes three weeks before the UN Climate Talks in Cancun, so we can ensure MPs push for key policies for significant progress towards a fair global climate deal.

On Friday Charlotte, Daphne, Kate, Lesley, Mark, and Nick, car-shared to Lowestoft to meet Peter Aldous and raised the three key climate issues within the framework set by the SCC – energy efficiency, a cap on carbon emissions from power stations and support for low-carbon technologies in “developing” countries. Mr Aldous agreed to all these. We also talked about the need to create a “powerdown culture” and a working infrastructure for social enterprises engaged in community projects, such as microgeneration.

We cited a local community wind turbine project, Cookpole Energy Action (who are coming to talk at our next Green Drinks on Energy), who have struggled with planning demands (e.g. for expensive surveys based on large wind-farms) because there is no guidance for smaller projects. We urged Mr Aldous to allow microgeneration to be able to receive upfront public grants as well as feed-in tariffs.

We talked a great deal about how grassroots initiatives and low-carbon communities in general need greater backing in government policy and the creation of an infrastructure and resources to implement projects, for without these neither top-down government, nor bottom-up inititaves would get very far. Charlotte talked about the need for a communtiy approach for low-carbon measures, not just appealing to individual households to make big changes in the way they are powered. It was also important to direct the large proportion of the responsibility onto those who were using the most resources (i.e. the wealthier households) and not just focus on the poor. It was important that energy descent became mainstream, as well as be provided with the necessary information and expertise (on how to apply for grants etc). No matter how energetic social entreprises and community initiatives are they have little cultural acceptance or national policy to back them.

“You need to be enfranchised,” he said.

We covered many energy topics from the small (Lesley raised practical issues to do with funding of energy efficiency measures in low-income households, including window replacements), to the bigger picture (Nick spoke about resilience in the face of resource shortage and economic shocks). Key were our several concerns about the vulnerability of people in the face of cuts in public services and the dismantling of a support base. Charlotte questioned DEFRA’S proposed sale of 50 per cent of our national forests to private investors (Aldous is also part of the new Environment Audit Committee). Kate questioned energy efficiency measures being taken over by energy companies with too much vested interest.

“The Green Deal has very good intentions” he said, but questioned whether there was enough money to implement all its measures. Mr Aldous admitted he used to focus on creating energy but was now thinking about saving it.
“How far would the carbon restrictions be imposed?” we asked “Would we have a decarbonised electricity supply in the future?
“Yes,” he said but these things will take time.
“The longer you leave it the worse it will become,” advised Nick and Mr Aldous said he would see to it straightaway, and talked enthusiastically about “clean” coal and carbon capture (of which none of us were convinced, since it has yet to be tested on a large scale). Kate said all scientific research into this should to be matched by 50 per cent into renewables.

We all agreed that the UK had a vital role in reducing carbon emissions as the originator of the industrial revolution and was required to lead the way towards to a low-carbon future. “We have a high moral responsibility,” Aldous said and had already broached the subject of issuing grants rather than loans to developing countries in a letter to Andrew Mitchell and Alan Duncan.

All of us expressed a concern in regard to the privatisation of many public services: Kate raised the topic of corporate control and philanthropy in schools and how there was a clash between environmental and corporate interests. We talked about resilience in respect to local business, food systems (“not just shop local but think local”), using local builders, the increased saleabilty of “green houses” and creating jobs for the retrofitting of existing housing stock. At the end of the meeting we agreed to meet again in four months to see how these isses have been taken forward.

Stop Climate Chaos (SCC) is the largest coalition of groups and individuals dedicated to taking action in the UK on climate change and limiting its impacts. It brings together over 100 organisations, from environment and development charities to unions, faith, community and women’s groups to Transition initiatives, and has 11 million members. Here’s what the RSPB reported

Sustainable Bungay lobbying crew with Peter Aldous at his constituency office in Lowestoft; preparing at the Library cafe; queuing up with our questions