This special meeting concentrated on getting input from CA-WN members and supporters about our progress to date, and where they would like to see us focus our efforts going forward. It was a very productive discussion, thanks to everyone who participated on the night and provided their views in advance.
Apologies: Alan Mawer, Clare Slater, Leonie Beale, Naree Lee, Teresa Cox
Present: Carol Blake, Clare Robertson-Marriott, Dave Anderson, Dave Musson, David Garlick, Ella Mansfield, Emmie Williamson, Harry Mellor, Jane Wood, Jonathan Harris, Julie Fagan, Mike Longman, Peter Doveston, Peter Nalder, Rupert Knowles, Russ Hickman, Stan Quirey
CA-WN made some changes early in 2023:
- Introducing regular guest speakers to our meetings.
- The CA-WN Exchange, which started in 2022 as a newsletter, moved to an online forum. This has enabled us to be more responsive and flexible with the timing and nature of articles published.
Addition of guest speakers to the meetings has made for informative and interesting meetings but with less time for input and discussion from CA-WN members. Hence this special meeting to give everyone a chance to have their say.
It has always been an important part of CA-WN’s ethos to be inclusive and collaborative. We have a main steering group that takes some key decisions, but CA-WN isn’t for one group of people, it’s for all of us. Attendees were asked to be honest in providing a steer about what CA-WN is doing well and not so well, and what direction they wanted to see the group take in the future.
Poll 1: I am worried that climate change will….?
[Select the item from the list which is of MOST concern and the one which is of LEAST concern]
This poll is based on research and reports from Climate Outreach Labs, valuable resources for public engagement and outreach, and which we use to shape CA-WN outreach work.
Consensus was that people were reluctant to nominate any of the possible outcomes as being of least concern. The ones selected by most people as being of most concern were 4 and 5, and the ones selected by most people as being of least concern were 1 and 3.
Poll 2: When did you last read an article on CA-WN Exchange?
The results showed that most people had read an article within the last month.
Poll 3: What sort of articles/content on CA-WN Exchange interest you the LEAST and which interest you the MOST?
One of the innovations this year was taking CA-WN Exchange online. This is delivered by a small editorial team alongside regular specialist correspondents. This poll asks for feedback to inform future content.
2. Council Watch
3. Essentials of Life (Air, Water, Food, Housing)
4. 'Lifestyle' - Books, Podcasts, Recipes
5. Local events and whats on
6. Nature and biodiversity
7. Personal stories and opinions (My 3 Things; Councillor My View)
8. Reports of CA-WN meetings and events
10. Something else
About half of people chose item 4 as being of least interest, the item chosen by most people as being of most interest was 6.
CA-WN has been in existence in some form for over 3 years now, and organisationally has matured – for example we are now formally constituted and have a bank account. Our second AGM is coming up in October. All good, but being a well-run organisation is not an end in itself, it’s just a necessary foundation to enable us to work on what we all care about – getting local government, communities and organisations not just to recognise the severity of climate and ecological breakdown that we are facing but to actually do something about it.
Attendees were split into 4 breakout groups to discuss two questions. The questions had been circulated in advance to enable those unable to attend in person to contribute; points raised in response by email are also included.
1. How much difference is CA-WN making in terms of climate action in West Northamptonshire, and how?
- CA-WN is talked about in WNC meetings and by other Council groups. We are being listened to and not just heard, as a result sustainability, climate change and biodiversity are more prominent in the council's thinking. WNC as a group and individual council members are ready to engage with CA-WN
- We are more effective than most voluntary sector environmental organisations - WNC ask us to attend various events. We also get invited by parishes to go to their meetings
- CA-WN’s apolitical stance fills a gap that brings people together: the general public, experts in different fields, councillors, members of different political parties find a space to meet in CA-WN
- Attendees were keen for CA-WN to be involved in politics, whilst remaining clear of party politics
- We have a bigger voice by working together with other climate groups and need to do more of this
- Retrofit programme
- Try to widen our engagement so more people outside of the environmental movement are aware of us
- Value of the climate cafes, there is a real need for psychological and emotional support
- Need to do more to make people aware of us. Stan found out via SCE and Unite, so existing connections are one avenue
- Involvement in air pollution public actions. It’s valuable to be seen in public spaces, and also to be present at events where we will encounter the general public
2. Where should we concentrate our efforts and resources in order to make the biggest difference in the future?
- Need to set out very clearly what our strategy and objectives are so people can get behind us
- Getting together with other environmental groups
- Importance of f2f engagement
- Build on work with council – what does the law say about the powers the council has as a whole, identify which councillors have a role in any way related to climate change individually and as committees
- Hold the council to account - what impact is their work having?
- Public engagement – not just other environmental groups but everyone including unions, charities and voluntary groups
- Bring all environmental groups together once a quarter on a specific issue (eg air quality, rewilding etc) to write a letter or email to the council/councillors asking for action and encourage individuals to participate
- Importance of climate cafes and how they can connect with people who are less aware of our wider activities
- If we all bring one more person along to a CA-WN meeting or get them involved in some way that would make a big difference
- Make sure we follow up on climate meetings in villages etc to keep the engagement going
- We recently attended a careers fair and could do more of that to engage young people and talk to them about green jobs and relevant qualifications
- Awareness/mobilisation/pulling organisations together is important but we must not forget that how people feel about the climate crisis is key too. We need to talk more about wellbeing, which is very much affected by climate change. Could we focus on an aspect of wellbeing that is relevant to CA-WN? For example food security and growing.
- Council Local Area Partnerships are looking at wellbeing, so this could be another area of engagement and influence.
- Remind people that as individuals our collective actions add up to a lot, therefore they should not give up.
There was then a wide-ranging discussion, this is a summary of points raised:
- Organising a form of climate assembly is still on the agenda for Transition Town Northampton
- We need to promote more progressive ways of thinking eg doughnut economy, particularly educating councillors and local authority to think differently and move from a purely reactive approach
- Education - promoting a curriculum which is more progressive and appropriate. School assemblies are another option.
- Emissions reduction/achieving Net Zero is not enough, communitiies also need to have resilience to the impacts of climate breakdown
- Climate adaptation, there appears to be lack of planning for extreme events by the council – this should cover a range of measures and guidance. There should be an emergency hub for every parish – Emmie Williamson is working on this in Flore. Potential food and water shortages are a particular concern.
- There is a small emergency planning team at WNC, who have been trying to connect with parishes. We could invite someone from the team to talk to us.
- When we start experiencing extreme heat, will there be drinking fountains and street trees to provide shade? For example in the newly redeveloped marketplace.
- Northampton Climate Change Forum has met with Nicola Clark from ID Verde. The 14 trees proposed for Market Square and Abington Street won’t provide shade or any wildlife benefit. They are Galitzkya, a thorny non native species. Clare Robertson-Marriott and David Garlick are pursuing this as part of the CCF, though no response to written enquiry so far. Jonathan Harris offered to support this in his role as WNC councillor.
- There are 380 trees for every person alive – planting trees (if carefully chosen and cared for) is a way people can make a real difference and feel empowered
- We could start a CA-WN tree nursery – it is hard to source good quality trees, and smaller trees have a better survival rate
- Don’t forget the four important things people can change - flying, diet, home heating and over-consumption
Thursday 21 September 2023 (we are taking a break for August). September's guest speaker is Simon Derrick, Global Head of Sustainability for Blueskies and founder of the Sustainable Business Alliance.