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As the new US administration re-adopts the terms of the Paris Agreement and plans to attend COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow later this year, the climate emergency is, thankfully, back on this global leader’s agenda.
In November 2020, the UK government announced ten measures to tackle the climate emergency, including banning new diesel and petrol cars by 2030 and quadrupling offshore wind power: their aim to launch a ‘green industrial revolution’ and aid recovery from the pandemic.
However, although environmental agencies like Friends of the Earth initially welcomed the measures, they have also said the plans do not go far enough to reduce emissions, failing in areas such as addressing fuel poverty or adequately resourcing local community-based action, and more recent news of the government’s failuire to halt plans for a new deep coal mine in Cumbria, as well as the postponement of the Environment Bill do not bode well.
Though we look to global leaders to take radical steps to tackle the climate emergency, and leadership at the international level is crucial, failures or limitations there should not dampen our own efforts, or prevent us from making our own commitments to tackle the climate emergency.
Climate change impacts people and places differently, leading to inequality within countries and across the world. Those who suffer most from climate change are likely to be the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Climate Just, ‘an information tool designed to help with the delivery of equitable responses to climate change at the local level’ has an excellent resource on who is most vulnerable as well as a range of very informative and helpful data, resources and advice, including a comprehensive flow chart of ‘who needs to do what’ whether you work in health and social care, housing or voluntary action, to name just a few.
Whatever sector we work in, as charity leaders, we can make a difference. Attending carbon literacy training was an important step for me to take, not only for my own awareness but to demonstrate our level of commitment as an organisation. Setting a benchmark to see how we were doing in terms of our carbon footprint and energy usage, travel and fuel usage, recycling and using plastics, and the amount of vegan meals we provide at events was essential to know our starting position. We used Julie’s Bicycle’s free online carbon and environmental calculator to work out our footprint. Then we looked at setting targets for reductions, adopting an environmental sustainability policy and agreeing an action plan. Being open and accountable too by reporting each year in our annual report and regularly at board level helps keep us on track.
Building awareness and sharing knowledge across the wider community is also fundamental. Every year we train volunteers across the country to set up and run local community cinemas, building skills in everything from marketing and audience development to programming and equipment, to volunteer management and sustainability. It made sense to build in environmental sustainability to these sessions too. Introducing advice across all our training wherever possible reinforces the importance of environmental considerations at every level, whether concerning how their audience gets to a venue, switching from flyers to digital marketing, building audience awareness of environmental issues through what they programme, or even changing the type of cup in which refreshments are offered.
This guidance’s response has been very positive with most volunteer groups commenting that it felt more achievable to incorporate. They could see lots of small ways to adapt their activities to become ‘greener’ while improving their own sustainability.
It’s something I will continue to champion because, in the end, helping tackle the climate emergency can only be good for all of us.
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