ACT Newsletter February 2024

Pauline Wynter 22/01/2024

Welcome to the first ACT Newsletter of 2024. We have a busy year ahead, with much of our attention focused on the ACT with the Arts Climate Festival planned for June this year. With the likelihood of a general election some time this year, we will also be taking a close look at the climate and ecology policies of the political parties expected to stand in our area.

Featuring:

ACT with the Arts Climate Festival dates and details

Working with schools on the Climate Festival

Newton Abbot Library presence

Carbon Cutters Lite programme

Council duty on biodiversity clarified last year

Where are we with climate change?

Dawlish’s Turn the Tide 2024

What we’ve been reading

ACT with the Arts Climate Festival dates and details

Action on Climate in Teignbridge (ACT) is to hold its first Act with the Arts Climate Festival in 2024.

ACT is inviting writers, poets, musicians, dancers, artists, actors, schools, and local community groups to join in creating events that engage, excite, illuminate, and explain what our changing climate means for people in the district and what we can all do to make a difference.

The Climate Festival runs from Saturday 22nd June to Saturday 29th June 2024. 

The climate and ecological emergency is the biggest challenge facing humanity and the natural world we all rely on.

We need to make it our priority to reduce the carbon emissions that create global warming and minimise our impact on the natural world that is causing the sixth mass extinction. 

Engaging with the arts can help us express our feelings. Many of us are fearful for the future if we fail to make the changes needed. We can share our concerns with family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours, and listen to theirs in turn.

Kate Benham, chair of ACT, said: “The idea of our Act with the Arts Climate Festival is to bring awareness via the arts, as we need to make tackling climate change our top priority. The festival will give the people of Teignbridge the chance to find out more and encourage them to help make a difference.”

There will be a wide range of events, exhibitions, workshops, performances, and films throughout Teignbridge, suitable for all ages. Highlights include the opening ceremony on Saturday 22nd June, the Forest of Children’s Wishes, Nature on the Green event, and workshops and performances throughout the week.

For more information, or to get involved, please contact Paul.

If you can help at the event with stewarding or in any other way, please contact Kate.

Working with schools on the Climate Festival

We are inviting all schools across Teignbridge to take part in our Climate Festival. We suggest students become involved through dance, singing or creative projects to share how they feel about their future and their vision of what it should be.

We are also inviting schools to create a tree from used plastic bottles and for students to decorate it with plastic leaves recording their wishes for the future. The trees will come together to create a Forest of Wishes, which we hope to make a centrepiece in the Festival’s opening ceremony, to be held in Newton Abbot.

For more information, or to offer help with contacting schools, please contact Val Compton.

Newton Abbot Library presence

We trialed a regular presence at Newton Abbot Library in November, manning a stand twice weekly between 12.00 and 14.00. We had interesting conversations with a range of people, some of whom visited especially to talk to us.

People quite often told us: “I’m doing everything I can,” but after chatting for a while, they went away with a new idea they were really pleased with, and that we thought they would act on. This often involved saving money as well as helping the environment, so a win-win! Technical advice about making homes more energy efficient was a common theme. And there was one lovely lady who was keen to talk about the health issues associated with synthetic fibres in clothing.

We hope the people we talked to gained new perspectives, even if they didn’t change their minds that dealing with climate change is all up to the government, or to China/America or big finance. We felt it was a successful trial and aim to establish a regular presence in the library, or another venue.

Carbon Cutters Lite programme

The Carbon Cutters scheme is set to launch a new Lite programme, with the first six participants asked if they would like to join in February. The short training course is a simpler version of the current course and takes place in one session rather than three. Once the course has been tested, we hope to offer it as a resource on the Carbon Cutters page.

There are other initiatives being proposed as part of a refresh of the Carbon Cutters programme, due to be announced in the spring. 

In total 26 people have now had Carbon Cutters training – with eight joining the ranks in the last few months.

Council duty on biodiversity clarified last year

Did you know that public authorities, including town and parish councils, have a duty under the Environment Act 2021 to do what they can to conserve and enhance biodiversity? Many councils will be aware of this, but not perhaps of the clarification of what this duty entails contained in government guidance issued last May.

This guidance set a deadline of January 1 2024 for councils to decide what action they can take, and said they must agree policies and objectives as soon as possible afterwards, and act to deliver them. Town and parish councils, unlike other authorities, are not obliged to publish a report on their actions.

Kate Benham, chair of ACT, says: “I think this duty is really important and we would be pleased to work with any councils developing these policies and actions.”

The SLCC, the membership body for council clerks, officers and others, issued a draft response to the biodiversity duty and a draft model biodiversity policy in October.

The SLCC said: “Whatever action is agreed, as a minimum local councils could ensure they address biodiversity concerns when commenting on planning applications.” 

South Gloucestershire has produced a useful Nature Action Plan Field Guide to help those with little or no ecological background. The guide will help councils assess a site for wildlife, identify opportunities and understand how to make sure site management benefits nature.

Read more here.

Where are we with climate change?

It’s gone a bit quiet after the much-heralded breakthrough of COP28. Is it the usual moving on to the next news story and our immediate post-Christmas concerns or was COP28 just another tick in the climate box?

Our government has announced that the UK needs to slow down on climate change and has rowed back on previous commitments. They, and at least one of our two MPs in Teignbridge, Mel Stride, assure us we are ahead on our Carbon Budgets. 

We are told that things will be fixed by 2050 and we can carry on with life as usual. They say there is climate warming caused by our greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions, but there are technological solutions to reduce these emissions and safely capture/store the remaining gases. In any case, it’s not the UK that’s causing the damage, it’s the rest of the world that’s creating 99% of all ghg emissions.

I think it’s time to tell the truth: the government is lying! You may say that’s nothing new, but when it is being dishonest about an existential threat to life on earth, it’s important to speak bluntly. We need the message to be much more direct, science-based and honest about the necessary actions.  We can no longer wait for government to do this, we need to take direct action.

This is not a call for protest and civil disobedience; there are other organisations that already do this. I believe we need to act much more locally and personally, and we need to do it this year.

Rather than making disingenuous claims about the UK’s emissions, the government may want to point to a strategy on how it will ensure that the UK remains within its legal Carbon Budgets. Better still, they should launch a public information campaign to explain the need to halve our per-capita consumption emissions from the unsustainable 10t CO2e/year.

You have more control over your greenhouse gas emissions than you think, both as an individual or part of an organisation. Use 2024 to talk to anyone and everyone you know about what effective actions to take. Before you do this, it helps to be familiar with the basics and understand how to communicate this information. ACT can help with training, methods and ongoing support. Contact our Carbon Cutter coordinator to organise a 30 minute online introduction to see what is available to you or your organisation.

You can also contact fuad@actionclimateteignbridge.org

Dawlish’s Turn the Tide 2024
This festival, run by Scott Williams and Dave Hutton ( both ACT Wildlife Wardens) in association with Dawlish Town Council, returns for a third year, this time over three days from June 7th-9th. Featuring community groups and schools on Friday, the traditional event on Saturday (as it’s the start of Great Big Green Week and the 8th is World Ocean Day) will include ACT and the Wildlife Wardens and a “Get Active” theme on Sunday.

There are two fundraisers for the event in February on Saturday 3rd and 10th, 7.30pm, at Shaftesbury Theatre in Dawlish. Tickets are £10, available online or by calling the box office on 01626 863061.

Please tell us about events in your area

We want to take advantage of any opportunity to engage with the public so please let us know about events taking place in your parish or town where we could set up a stall. You can add an event to the events page if it relates to the climate and ecological emergency, or contact Pauline to let us know about events of a more general nature.

What we’ve been reading

Several stories caught our attention recently. The first, From CoP 28 to CoP 29: The Road to Hell by Jonathan Porritt, a well-known sustainability campaigner and writer, is damning in its condemnation of the CoP28 agreement (“another toxic suicide note” is Porritt’s description), and of governments, businesses and NGOs claiming the agreement as “real progress”. It’s time they told the truth, he says, and lists a “harsh and sometimes unbearable set of truths”.

These include that the aim of keeping global warming within 1.5C is “definitively dead”; the CoP process almost as dead; and that the IPCC’s Assessment Reports do not tell the truth.

His disillusionment is why he is “taking a different path – in advocating on behalf of those who believe that civil disobedience is now the only way forward: Just Stop Oil, XR and so on.” And if you can’t join them, he suggests “contributing as generously as your circumstances allow”.

It’s a depressing, but essential, read.

The second story, Human ‘behavioural crisis’ at root of climate breakdown, say scientists in the Guardian recently, covered a new paper on the behavioural crisis at the root of planetary overshoot. The paper proposes that climate breakdown is a symptom of ecological overshoot, which in turn is caused by the deliberate exploitation of human behaviour. Essentially, the marketing and entertainment industries drive our over-consumption, so the solution is to use the power of these tools to tell a different story.

The paper is relatively short and well worth a read.

The last is linked to the second as it covers the contribution we in the UK make to deforestation elsewhere through our consumption of products such as soya, cocoa, palm oil, beef and leather. Apparently, the UK’s deforestation footprint per tonne of product consumed is higher than that of other countries including China.

Of course, there are many more stories to read about the effect of our lifestyles on nature and climate. They all underline the need to make change happen.