COP26: Mission accomplished?

There are differing opinions on whether Cop26, the climate conference held in Glasgow last month, was a success or failure. There was progress on some areas and an agreement was signed, but there is little expectation the governments that signed it will take the action necessary to keep global warming to 1.5C.

Jessie Stevens, the Ogwell teenager who founded the People Pedal Power movement and cycled from Newton Abbot to Glasgow for the conference, says the event felt to her like a business meeting not a climate conference. “It was a sterile environment, and such a contrast with the outdoors life I had been leading on the cycle trip.”

Photo credit: Catherine Dunn

Jessie describes her bike trip as “a life-changing experience”. She had nine full days of cycling, two rest days, and the last day was a short one, covering the final 20 miles to Glasgow. “I met lots of amazing people and learned lots of new skills.”

Photo credit: Catherine Dunn

She was supported on her trip by Adventure Syndicate, a collective of women endurance cyclists, and was accompanied on her first day out of Newton Abbot by 50-60 cyclists. The rest of the time between 10-40 cyclists joined her, for anything from an hour to the whole day, which was more than she expected.

“After the isolation of lockdown it was just great to be with people and the miscellaneous encounters I had were really special. It showed me just how much good there is in the world and how kind people can be.”

Jessie had trained for the trip on Dartmoor, and says that proved a big advantage, as she found the rest of the country relatively flat! But although the cycling wasn’t too arduous, long days on the bike, twinned with long evenings of media commitments proved tiring.

Asked about her first impressions of Glasgow and the conference venue, Jessie says it’s hard to say as she had few expectations. “There was the culture shock of being in a big city after having gone nowhere bigger than Exeter for two years, and the venue itself was smart, massive and corporate. There was a lot of greenwashing, by which I mean lots of company stands and brand placement. It felt as if there was an agenda to how it was all laid out.”

Jessie had a coveted pass for the blue zone, where the negotiations between world leaders took place, as one of four Young Reporters for the Environment from the UK. “The blue zone [closed to the public] looked from the outside like it was somewhere you could move around freely but it was strictly segregated,” says Jessie, who spent much of the first week there.

“It felt like the youth representatives were there as a token. There were very few instances when we were allowed to speak, and when we were there was a strong feeling that young people were speaking but not being heard. It was upsetting. It didn’t feel fair to the people who had come from the Global South to share their stories.”

Jessie also observed a striking lack of diversity. “There was little female representation, or people of colour or different social classes. It was mostly middle class white men in suits. My impression was the event was chaired by the Global North without giving the Global South the spotlight they needed.”

She was sufficiently disillusioned that on Friday 5th November, on what was billed as Cop26 Youth Day, she and around 30 other young people walked out of the blue zone and joined the Fridays for Future protest march. “We felt the streets were the only place we could get our voice and message heard,” says Jessie.

Jessie also spent time in the green zone, which was open to the public, and spoke at an event about education representing the organisation Eco-Schools. She found the second week a much more positive experience. “I felt ground down by the whole bureaucracy in the first week. But in the second week when I was out on the streets I felt the power and energy of the people, which for me highlighted the power of collective action.”

Back in Ogwell, this is the key insight for Jessie. She has to give priority to her school work, with exams coming up next year, but will also devote time to community action and connecting with other social organisations. “One of the positives of Cop26 was the media coverage of the event, but there is still a lot of work to be done on awareness, and I’m passionate about getting more voices heard. The key point for me, though, is that we shouldn’t underestimate the power of people.”

Beach labyrinth reflections

Around 100 people walked the labyrinth created on Teignmouth Beach last weekend for the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice. Plenty more watched the walkers from the promenade. 

The construction effort, directed by labyrinth artist Andrew Nicholson, was tough work as the chosen location, below the lighthouse, was particularly stony. Still, the stones added to the attraction of the finished artwork as they were used to mark the labyrinth pathways.

Passing families with children joined in enthusiastically to place the stones. “That building effort with the parents and children was my favourite part of the experience,” said John Watson of Action on Climate in Teignbridge, which organised the event. “All in all, it was quite a spiritual event which I think connected with people in a most original way.”

Labyrinths have a long history. People have been creating and walking them since the times of the ancient Greeks. In medieval times, Christian monks would walk them to reflect on the journey of their lives.

The idea of the Teignmouth Beach labyrinth was “to reflect on our concerns for the environment and be thankful for the special places in our lives”, said Andrew Nicholson (pictured above). 

Those walking the labyrinth were invited to pick up a piece of rubbish found on the beach at the entrance, reflect on their concerns as they trod the meandering path to the centre, then leave the rubbish and their concerns there. They could then take a stone from the centre and walk back thinking of places precious to them.

Scott Williams, an ACT member, said: “It was amazing and moving to see the flow of people travelling through such an ancient symbol. The solemnity and peace it created within those that walked it will stay with me.”

Of course, the sea claimed the labyrinth as the tide came in later in the day. Watching the water engulf the construction, a vicar from Dawlish remarked how appropriate the image was; a symbol of the threat of climate change to many people around the world.

“There were lots of people watching as the tide came in,” said Audrey Compton of ACT. “People of all ages. People who wanted to talk. It was obvious to me that we have suddenly reached a tipping point of understanding about the environment and desire for change. COP26 may not achieve nearly enough politically, but it has galvanised ‘people power’!”

For more on beach labyrinths visit the facebook page.

Local teenager on a mission to COP26

Newton Abbot resident Jessie Stevens is heading to Glasgow for the COP26 summit in November, and plans to pedal the whole 570 miles! She will be cycling under the banner of the People Pedal Power mission she has created. This aims to inspire people (particularly young people) to join her on her journey and deliver a message to the climate conference on the need for urgent action on green transport infrastructure, and much else.

Jessie, 16, is a climate activist determined to make the voice of youth heard at COP26. Such events have long been dominated by adults, she says, many of whom may not live to see the worst effects of the climate crisis. “The youth are rarely a part of these talks despite the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown impacting them the most.”

After looking at her travel options, Jessie found the easiest, cheapest, but most polluting way to get to Glasgow would be by car or plane. Taking the (less polluting) train looked complicated and expensive. She decided she would like to travel under her own power and resolved to cycle, and make as much noise as possible along the way.

“To me, cycling is a very community orientated mode of travel. This perfectly fitted my visions of #ride2COP26 as it gives space for many individuals to join the ride, gathering force and power,” she says.

Jessie will be supported on her trip by Adventure Syndicate, a collective of women endurance cyclists, who will accompany her on a cargo bike, carrying everything she needs.

“The cargo bike will not only provide physical support, but will also tangibly represent one of the viable solutions to developing a more sustainable transport system,” says Jessie. “After all, this journey is not just about highlighting what is wrong, but also about demonstrating solutions.”

Adventure Syndicate will also co-produce a film documenting the journey and the stories of those involved and the people Jessie meets along the way.

Jessie will set off on 20th October, covering between 50-70 miles a day, and invites people to join her for a few miles to highlight people power—both in terms of active travel and political voice.

To find out more visit:

https://httpspeoplepeddlepower.wordpress.com/

or email people.pedal.power@gmail.com

Electric cars line up in Newton Abbot

Newton Abbot’s first electric vehicle (EV) roadshow held on 25th September was well attended, with lots of people stopping to chat to members of the South West EV Owners Group and others who had brought their cars along.

The event, organised by Action on Climate in Teignbridge (ACT) and ChargeWorks, a local electric vehicle consultancy, lined up 11 EVs by the clocktower.

Some of the cars were almost new, others already up to six years old. Those on parade included Nissan Leafs, Tesla Models S and 3, a Renault Zoe, Hyundai Ioniq, Kia e-Niro, VW ID.3 and a VW e-Golf – just a small sample of the EVs available today.

One Tesla owner, John, had come from Bridport in Dorset for the day to share his enthusiasm for the joys of going electric. He bought his first Tesla in 2016 and recently switched to  a newer model. He decided to buy an electric vehicle to be greener, he says. He also has solar panels, runs a wood chip range for his central heating, and is investigating a solar thermal panel for hot water.

John’s Tesla (the burnt orange one in the picture) has a range of 300 miles, but he confesses on long journeys he has to stop every 150 miles for personal reasons, and the car only takes around 15 minutes to charge on a rapid charger anyway.

David, another Tesla owner from Plymouth, says his running costs are much lower than on his old diesel car – £250-£300 a year for his 12,000 mileage, down from £1,500. Another advantage is the lack of any scheduled maintenance. Electric vehicles still need servicing regularly, to replace windscreen wipers, change brake fluid, etc, but with no emissions test and fewer parts, repairs are minimal. “You can expect to do 300,000 miles without any problem,” says David.

His enthusiasm was infectious as he talked about the technicalities of charging and the price of new cars. He says EVs may appear expensive but hold their value better than petrol or diesel cars, and as they have more space inside you can consider a smaller model than you might otherwise have done.

Emma Fancett of ChargeWorks estimated around 800 people walked past the cars and stopped to chat throughout the day. “Some hadn’t previously talked with others about the electrification or decarbonisation of private transport,” says Emma. “Others had, but were keen to find out more and debunk some of the myths they had been harbouring.

“Some walked the length of the line up, chatting to each owner to quiz them on their experiences, tips and tales, some went straight for a car they were interested in to scope it out for a future purchase or lease. Others enjoyed more general conversations around carbon emissions, the fuel crises, technology or fast cars.”

Julian Stringer of ACT says: “The selection of available EV models is expanding all the time, so we are thinking of arranging another event in the future, and would be particularly interested to hear from owners of other types of EVs at the more affordable end of the range who would be interested in sharing their experiences.”

Cars weren’t the only vehicles on show – some electric bicycle owners were also around to spread the word about the joys of two wheel travel. Richard from Newton Abbot uses his Cube bike, with a powerful 500w motor, to commute to work in Ashburton. It has cut his journey time by 10 minutes compared to his regular bike and allows him to arrive at work cool, calm and collected instead of in a lather from pedalling hard.

Richard still goes out for leisure rides on his ordinary bike, and has persuaded his partner to accompany him on the electric one. She was so impressed with the ease of cycling on it they ended up in Moretonhampstead when they had planned on just going to Bovey Tracey on the cycle path.

Electric bikes are often an addition to the household collection of bikes rather than a replacement. Once you have made the switch to an electric car, though, it seems there is no going back. “You will smile every time you get in the car,” says Tesla owner David.

Wildlife Warden September Newsletter

This month’s newsletter covers a talk on Cirl Buntings by Cath Jeffs, a conservation officer with the RSPB; information about upcoming webinars; the Great Big Green Week events held in Dawlish and Newton Abbot; plus a summary of the projects Wildlife Wardens have taken on around the district.

Wildlife Warden Podcast Episode 5

Emily Marbaix is back with another podcast (which you can also read) in which she talks about her latest wild camping trip, orienteering training with Emma Cunis (aka Dartmoor’s Daughter), and notes that 68 wildlife wardens across 34 parishes and wards have received introductory training. There is also:

  • An update on the Wildlife Warden Scheme
  • An interview with Paul Martin of Ogwell-based Ogwild on the group’s experiences so far
  • Wildlife watching and outdoor ideas for the summer holidays
  • Information about Sustainable Bishops’s wildflower art competition, which will be on show on the 11th September
  • Information about Defra’s new campaign, Plant for our Planet
  • Information about the Teignbridge Local Plan Consultation

Last Chance to Influence Where New Housing is Built

You have until noon on Monday August 9th to give Teignbridge District Council (TDC) your views on the 100 plus sites around Teignbridge proposed for new development. If you don’t respond to this consultation you won’t get another opportunity. It is difficult, if not impossible, for plans to be changed further down the line.

Government proposals for a new approach to planning rules will prevent even the local authority from making adjustments in response to changing circumstances in the future. It’s our last chance to influence where new homes are built. You may think your views won’t count. They definitely won’t if you don’t make them known. The more people who respond the better.

The current Local Plan Part 2 consultation follows on from Part 1 in 2020, which focused on the policies that guide developments. The two parts will together form the Local Plan 2020-2040, which will replace the current Local Plan adopted in 2014.

How to respond

The consultation is online at teignbridge.gov.uk and is available chapter by chapter. You can comment using the online survey or the downloadable response form. The survey looks technical, but if you have local knowledge about particular sites it’s vital you share it. You can only comment on one site at a time and give comments in relation to eight criteria, although there is an opportunity to comment on “anything else”. You may want to prepare your comments before you go online and then copy and paste them in. Make sure you go all the way to the end of the survey, even if you don’t give all the personal information requested, and press the Submit button.

The printable pdf form only asks for comments, with no prompts for specific criteria, but you have to print it out to use it or convert it from a pdf to a word document or similar.

It is also possible to download the questions and send your comments by email to localplanreview@teignbridge.gov.uk or by letter to Spatial Planning & Delivery, Teignbridge District Council, Forde House, Newton Abbot Devon TQ12 4XX. All comments made in writing will be considered. 

What to say 

The number of homes proposed for each town or village is stated at the beginning of each ‘Housing Site Options’ chapter. If a town or village has several sites on offer, which together are able to more than cover TDC’s suggested housing numbers for the settlement, then stating in your comments which site/sites would be better is helpful. The suggested general comments below may be useful here.

If you think your village has no allocated sites, make sure it hasn’t been included in Chapter 4 of the consultation, the Heart of Teignbridge. This is true for several proposed sites in Ogwell and Kingskerswell, for example. Check this map to see where all the proposed sites are. You will also need to look at Chapter 9, Employment Site Options, for land which may be developed for employment.

If you have local knowledge of a proposed site, check the information given about it in the relevant consultation chapter for accuracy and omissions. If you have the time and inclination, it is also worth looking at TDC’s assessment of the sites in the appendices to the consultation. Appendix D(a) is for town sites while Appendix D(b) is for villages. To understand the scoring and colour coding for the sites, you will need to go to page 14 of the Stage B Report – Sustainability Appraisal (SA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). To dig further into the scoring assumptions, check out Appendix A. You might need a stiff drink or two to see you through all this!

Here are some examples of the sort of comments you could make on issues relating to wildlife:

  • It is essential that mitigation measures taken to protect wildlife habitats and avoid extinction of local species are completed before site clearance and building starts.
  • All the hedges around this site are biodiverse and should be protected and buffered.
  • A wide buffer strip is needed alongside the public footpath beside the stream, to ensure habitats are connected’.
  • Protect Greater Horseshoe Bat flyways and ensure there is no artificial lighting on the development.
  • Protect the nearby SSSI/ CWS (Site of Special Scientific Interest/County Wildlife Site) from polluted run-off from the new estate.

These are more general comments you could make on the subject of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions:

  • New developments should be about meeting local needs in the most sustainable way. Delivering a pre-set number of housing units to boost the economy should NOT be the driver. 
  • Many of us nowadays live in one or two-person households, so the need is for smaller homes than the three to five bedroom houses typical of new developments. Building on a smaller scale would deliver lower greenhouse gas emissions as well as the housing numbers required. 
  • Greenhouse gas emissions for people living in urban areas in Teignbridge are typically 30% lower than for those who live in rural ones, as is true throughout the UK. The benefits of housing people within, or close to, urban areas are clear. The emissions associated with the provision of goods and services, as well as travel, can be minimised.

You can find more information here.

XR Protests at the G7

When you think about an Extinction Rebellion (XR) activist, you probably don’t think of someone like me, writes Amanda Cole. A 68 year old grandmother, with a 44 year history of NHS work in a responsible and respected position. But I attended the protests at the recent G7 meeting in St Ives and joined hundreds of other people rebelling against the failure of governments to act on the dual climate and ecological emergencies.

100 Penitents carry the sins of the G7 through Cornwall. Photo: Tristian Herbert

A sixth mass extinction of wildlife is already underway. Studies show a 60% decline in wildlife populations since 1980, while the world’s natural ecosystems have lost about half their area, all largely due to human action. Climate change is already affecting our weather, bringing more frequent floods and heatwaves. If we don’t allow ecosystems to recover and expand, as well as massively reduce our carbon emissions, it will all get worse. Other parts of the world with more vulnerable communities are suffering these effects more acutely than Britain is right now. 

Attending the XR events at the G7, a meeting of the Group of Seven richest nations, was a great experience in many ways. The protests were creative, inspiring, sometimes sombre, and sometimes fun. There was lots of media coverage; it was great to engage with the public and the police. The reception in my experience was pretty much 100% friendly. There was one woman muttering at a bus stop, but I didn’t catch what she said. There were no Rebel arrests. But of course we were securely separated from the official goings-on in Carbis Bay, so I’m not sure how much we were listened to. The government resolution to pledge a £500m Blue Planet Fund for marine conservation had already been announced last year. About US$2bn is to be provided to help countries worldwide to phase out coal-fired power generation. This may not even be new money. The summit failed to set us up for a successful COP26, the UN climate talks to be held in Glasgow in November, as trust is sorely lacking between rich and developing countries. Overall, these outcomes were more than disappointing. 

So yes, you are right; I am not a typical Rebel. Extinction Rebellion members do come from a particular demographic in the main. But with the richest nations in the world failing to provide leadership and finance to tackle the climate crisis, it falls to each and every one of us to make the changes we feel able to make.

People sometimes think individuals cannot make a difference, but that is wrong. Look at how the British public responded to the challenges the pandemic brought. We were far more responsive and able to change than the government, and even the scientists predicted. And there is some evidence that if you feel good about making a little change, you will go on to make another. What is vital is to choose something you want to do, and are able to do. I would never ask my beef farmer friend to give up meat or suggest my friends on benefits buy expensive eco-products. But we can all start reusing plastic, sorting our recycled waste, and picking up litter, for example. We can all do something. 

I was heartened at the end of the visit to St Ives to hear the speaker at the closing ceremony for the XR events say: “Some people say we’re preaching to the converted in XR. Well let’s make it our pledge before COP26 to talk to people outside this group. Ask what they think. Find out what makes them sceptical or hesitant. See if you can help.” 

So that’s what I’m doing. Let’s all take some climate action today and build towards a happier and healthier future.