Over 10% of UK councils have declared a #ClimateEmergency

CTRLshift along with our Partners in the Permaculture Association and Ethical Consumer Research Association will be attending the 1st Climate Emergency Conference on 29 March 2019 in Lancaster.

Below we reproduce a recent Press Release from https://climateemergency.uk that shows how fast this movement is growing:

More than 40 UK councils have declared a climate emergency, with young people at the forefront of this growing campaign, which crosses the political divide.

Climate emergency motions have been passed by local authorities from all corners of the United Kingdom, and from across the political spectrum including those led by the DUP, the SNP and Plaid Cymru as well as Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats.

Green Party councillors in particular have been active is proposing motions which then gain support from other parties. While in some authorities Conservatives have abstained, arguing that the measures required are undeliverable or that they have too many competing priorities, several Conservative controlled councils have passed ambitious motions including: Wiltshire, Scarborough, Mendip, Somerset and Herefordshire.

The motions commit councils to work towards going carbon neutral: 25 of the 40 councils have committed to aim to do this by 2030, after last October’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  called for “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”  Nottingham City Council has committed to 2028, while others have set 2050 or left the date to be determined later.

Ten percent of the 418 first and second tier UK councils have passed motions in the four months since Bristol became the first council to pass a motion last November and the movement is gaining momentum, with five councils declaring last week. Town and Parish councils are also joining in and declaring their own emergencies.

Public galleries have been packed for many of the council meetings where climate emergency motions have been discussed, with both Extinction Rebellion activists and young people heavily involved.

Labour led Carlisle Council passed their motion after hearing from six-year-old Emily Graham, who told councillors that she felt like “politicians are stealing my future from me by doing nothing. We have 12 years left to stop making greenhouse gases if we want to stop climate change…..My future depends on the decisions you make in this room.”

In Lancaster 16-year-old Rosie Mills started a petition to call on the City council to declare a climate emergency and, with help from university student Millie Prosser, gained more than 1500 in a few days. Both young people spoke at the council meeting, where the motion was passed unanimously.

Ms Mills told councillors: “Despite us having been taught since a young age of the

dangers of climate change, the majority of adults in our community have not yet changed in the

ways we have been taught are available to us…. If our leaders do not make the change themselves or do not accommodate the change for others, then how can any progress be made to adapt to and mitigate climate change?”

Ms Prosser appealed for community involvement in the process of decarbonising her locality: “I feel passionate that the people of Lancaster District be considered and included in plans for climate action. Especially that the young people, whose futures and livelihoods are at stake, have a voice that is heard throughout the process.:

Lancaster, like several other councils, has promised a Citizens Assembly to discuss the issue. Both Millie Prosser and Rosie Mills are on the council’s Cabinet Liaison Group, which has been set up to come up with a zero carbon plan and also includes representatives from local business and universities, and other experts.

Councils can have a direct impact on carbon emissions in a variety of ways including: insisting that developers build to higher energy saving standards in all new residential and commercial buildings; ensuring their own vehicles are powered by renewables, and insisting public transport providers do the same; switching their energy supplier to renewables and investing funds in renewable energy; divesting council investment and pensions from fossil fuels; requiring suppliers to be low/zero carbon or to reduce their carbon footprint; expanding green spaces and planting more trees.

Some councils have been working on this for many years, with Nottingham District Council setting up 100% renewable Robin Hood Energy, installing energy efficiency measures in 4500 domestic properties and decarbonising its transport by investing in a fleet of electric, biogas and retrofitted buses, cycling facilities and bike hubs, part funded from a workplace parking levy. Stroud District Council claims that it is already zero carbon in own activities, and is now working towards decarbonising the district as a whole. Simon Pickering, the Chair of their Environment Committee said “Stroud District Council took a long term approach reducing carbon emission when it started auditing it’s annual C02e emissions in response to the Earth Summit in 1992 and was one of the first councils to gain EMAS* accreditation in the late 1990s. The aim was to embed carbon emission saving into the culture of the council, not just a nice to have add on.”

Cllr Kevin Frea, who proposed the Lancaster motion, is organising the UK’s first Climate Emergency Conference in the city on 29 March. Speakers include politicians and experts on a wide range of topics including local planning, citizen’s assemblies, health, rapid transition to a zero carbon Britain, food growing, land use, transport and climate jobs.

“We need to make changes fast and to keep up the momentum, so councils and experts need to share their experience. The conference aims to give practical advice both to those who want to persuade their council to declare a climate emergency and to councils who have already declared and want to learn how best to turn their motion into action.”

The climate emergency motions also call on national government to change national policy and to provide more funding to support local authorities.

Councillor Kevin Frea, acknowledges that funding is an issue, especially with councils continuing to face cuts. “What has shifted is that deadlines are being set without the means to achieve them but with a recognition that this is the reality of what the science is telling us and that we have to act: but there needs to be massive increase in funding to support this and changes in national regulations such as planning and support for renewables.”

*EMAS= EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme

COBAL: The Cooperative Cabal

Founding COBAL

At the Ctrl Shift conference in Wigan where participants aimed to shift power over our democracy, economy and environment, from Westminster and multinational corporations, to people and communities across Britain.

COBAL: our working group was born out of a call for action by Julian Thompson who observed that the great appetite by investors for long-term low-risk ethical investments is disconnected from the huge requirement for investment in social enterprise and infrastructure. So our founding purpose as a working group was “To access capital & business model (market) building to scale quickly. Build investment vehicles.”

COBAL is a playful hybrid of Cooperative (autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations) & Cabal (a group of people united in some design, often secretively).

Our Aim

COBAL members agreed to come together as an unincorporated association with a simple founding constitution:

The Aim of Cobal is sustainable finance for the Common Good

  1. Build business models and markets
  2. Access capital, engage with an organisation ready to invest in change
  3. Scale quickly – design a replicable model that could work across sectors.

Cobal shall achieve its aim by:

  1. identifying and convening all stakeholders and partners necessary to create a platform bringing together finance with the enterprise;
  2. identifying and designing scalable legal vehicles, institutions and optimal instruments for sustainable finance;
  3. creation and testing of vehicles and instruments through proof of concept investments and initiatives on the Cobal platform.

Our Strategy

Our strategy is firstly, at the micro level to create proofs of concept of investment models by sector (e.g. care homes, food/farming & hemp products). Secondly, on the principle that networking successful micro leads to successful macro, we aim to identify common principles, templates and instruments and simple, effective narratives promoting viral spread of successful proofs of concept

Current economic problems cannot be resolved within the transactional commoditised economic paradigm which created them and our focus is on legal designs and investment instruments which are complementary to conventional investment such as debt, equity and derivatives.

We observe how collective investment whether public (state) or private (corporations) has led to alienation and conflicts of interests and we aim to create new relationships bringing together investors with investments using new equitable ways of sharing risk, costs, and surplus.

We therefore propose a new Nondominium framework agreement whereby productive assets may be held in common owned by all and by none, and value may be created, shared and exchanged equitably with no stakeholder having power of dominant control over another.

Our Progress

While we all have other commitments we have established a committed core team who meet regularly on zoom, and this has already led to project meetings in respect of possible proofs of concept in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Dumfries.

COBAL has also submitted an initial application to Friends Provident for grant funding to create a simple generic financial technology platform and we await hearing whether we will progress to the next stage.

Meanwhile, Summer is finally here, and the Wheel of Life rolls on.

CTRLshift Summit Report 2018

We have recently published our report from CTRLshift 2018 that seeks to collate findings and gather up some of the energy and connections built up at the Summit.

The report is free to view and download via Google Drive.

A few headlines from the event were:

  • 149 attendees
  • 90+ organisations present
  • A series of structured conversations and open space sessions that allowed us to share information and plans for how we might actually work together around a series of ‘cardinal questions’, ie those issues that if unlocked could allow breakthroughs that would lead to an increase in our potential – e.g. land access
  • Many new relationships and connections between attendees leading to new initiatives for their networks
  • A number of emerging projects related to taking the whole process forwards, with many people stepping forwards to help develop the CTRLshift process in the coming year.

More on all this can be found in the report.

The Road from Wigan Pier – CTRLshift Summit

By Naresh Giangrande

This article originally appeared at: https://gaiaeducation.org/news/the-road-from-wigan-pier/

For this is part at least of what industrialism has done for us.  Columbus sailed the Atlantic, the first steam engines tottered into motion, the British squares stood firm under the French guns at Waterloo, the one-eyed scoundrels of the nineteenth century praised God and filled their pockets; and this is where it all led – to labyrinthine slums and dark back kitchens with sickly, ageing people creeping round and round them like blackbeetles.

George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier

Eighty years ago George Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier, which detailed the horrors of 20th century capitalism in what was then the richest country in the world, Great Britain. The appalling conditions he described were not atypical of any industrial city in Great Britain, and indeed the world. The Road to Wigan Pier woke up the world to the hidden (at least to the wealthy in London) results of a system that was immensely profitable for a small minority while bringing misery to the many.

A few weeks ago a group of representatives of UK grass roots social, political, and economic change agents met in Wigan to challenge the current abuses the system (arguably the same system as George Orwell wrote about) visits on the many for the benefit of a very tiny minority, the infamous 1%. Only this time ‘round there is a new twist in the narrative of social and economic injustice. This new twist is the ecological degradation that the Industrial Growth Society visits on the Earth ecosystems. Gaia Education was one of the organisations represented.

It is no great secret that while 21st century industrial capitalism is extraordinarily successful and resilient and has provided many with a decent way of life in the Global North at least (a far cry from the conditions that George Orwell wrote about 80 years earlier) but at a cost to many around the world and the afore mentioned ecosystems. It is also no secret that the deleterious effects of this social, economic, and political system are no accident or mistake, but rather part and parcel of these systems.  

The reason why this gathering of grass roots organisations was so important was the recognition that we are facing systemic problems, problems which can only be solved at a systemic level. There was a general recognition that as we are facing a large, well resourced and powerful system which those who are profiting from can and will defend, that our individual efforts are bound to fail. However our collective and coordinated efforts just might be more successful.

CTRLshift – En emergency Summit for Change was held in Wigan, in a effort to highlight the enormity of the tasks we are facing, and to issue both a rallying cry to others to join us, but also to sound an alarm that as grass roots change agents we are failing to stem the tide of ecological destruction, social and economic inequality, and political inertia. We are seeing the failings of our system in many ways; making many of us sick both physically and mentally, the early effects of climate change, and economic and political systems run for the benefit of the few.

As with any new initiative this is an experiment, and there is no guarantee that the good will and hard work that was in evidence over the three days of the emergency summit in Wigan will make a difference. However we created six working groups who are all tackling some of the deeper systemic issues facing us. These working groups are mapping grass roots change initiatives, creating light touch, low resource but highly functioning ecosystem of organisations and initiatives and networks, to the planning of another gathering and imaginative actions that will bring publicity, and fire the public’s imagination and yearning for a better world for all.

As one of the organisers and movers of the Wigan Summit, I am astounded with how far a group that had never met, and who embodied many diverse ways of working and collective cultures were able to create the framework for the work ahead. Now the hard work of establishing our collective ways of working (which must be robust enough to enable workers in multiplicational, virtual work teams) creating a functional organisation capable of taking this initiative to the next step. Both our internal and external communications must be co created by the new partners.

Governance structures which so far have been fine for our small group will need upgrading. Questions of power, ownership (and indeed membership), and accountability all need addressing. We have a way to go, but as other networks or ecosystems of grass root change agents emerge in other parts of the world (see here and here), I feel hope and optimism that we can do what we have set out to do. Visit CTRLshift Summit for updates. And join us for our next summit, which we are planning for the day the UK Brexit’s the EU (or not!), 29 March 2019.


A report back from Rob Hopkins on #CTRLshift2018

It was billed as “an emergency summit for change”, and it was a call that drew around 150 people from across the UK, and even some from further afield.  Hosted at The Edge, a community-funded church building in the centre of Wigan just round the corner from the actual Wigan Pier (yes, that one, the one with the road famously leading to it), the event, exactly a year before Brexit becomes (or doesn’t) a reality, was co-presented by at least 40 organisations.

The #CTRLshift partner organisations.

At the opening, Andy Goldring of the Permaculture Association presented the event as an opportunity to “step out of our silos and connect” and to create “a cunning plan for how to change the country for the better”.

The aim of the event was to share the successes and potential of the different movements, from permaculture to community ownership, from the solidarity economy to rethinking governance, to build new coalitions, create and deepen relationships, understand each other and our different work better, map a common understanding of key issues and opportunities to align and work together, and identify things we can do together to realise a real power shift towards greater local and regional autonomy.

The opening mapping exercise, asking “how long have you been doing this stuff?”

Aiming to create that “cunning plan” in just 2 and a half days was a big challenge, but a challenge that needed taking up.  The event had been 12 months in the planning, and the facilitation was very well thought through.  I saw one comment on the feedback board at the end of the event that read: “it must be tough trying to facilitate so many people”.  Having been part of facilitation groups for similar events I can attest that yes, it is tough, but thrilling and rewarding too.

Here is my podcast, a gathering of voices from across the three days, presented in the sequence they were recorded during the flow of the event.  Hopefully it gives a sense of the feel of the event, and of some of the people who attended.

The event featured many of the facilitation techniques that regular attenders of Transition events will be familiar with: Home Groups (here they were called ‘hives’), Open Space, Fishbowl, workshops. Alongside these were techniques I hadn’t experienced before, such as a Design Charette, of which more later.

Jay Tompt kicks things off.

We kicked off on the Tuesday afternoon with a mapping exercise, seeing where people had come from, how hopeful they felt about things, and the degree to which they felt they had the answer to the problems.  We were welcomed to Wigan by Donna Hall, CEO of Wigan Council who thanked the event for coming to Wigan, and talked about the work they are doing in a similar vein.

We organised ourselves into Home Groups, who we would then check in with throughout the event.  We ended the first day with ‘Solutions Sessions’. I went to one on Participatory Budgeting with Jez Hall of Shared Future, and then another with Unltd about their thinking on how to support social enterprises with more of a sense of being in a ‘place’.  Both were fascinating.

The workshop on The Preston Model with Matthew Brown (centre) of Preston Council, Julian Manley and Sarah McKinley. I really wanted to go to this one. I missed it. Doh.

Wednesday morning started to identify particular areas that we wanted to focus on, getting us thinking about the Open Space events.  It started with Jay Tompt inviting us all to pause for a moment to meditate on the importance of broadmindedness, and how it’s ok to live with the uncertainty that we may not have all of the answers.

Introducing Open Space at #CTRLshift2018.

Open Space was introduced, and questions were harvested.  I went to one discussion about narrative and story, and how our movements might become better storytellers.  We explored the kinds of language that can connect and galvanise people and how, as one person put it, “you don’t fear someone whose story you know”.

In the other, we talked about local economics, hosted by Mike from Newcastle Under Lyme, who talked about the CounterCoin, a fascinating local currency experiment.  Here’s a photo of some of the coins and a video about it:

The Open Space was followed by a Fishbowl.  For the uninitiated, this is where a few people sit in the middle of the concentric circles of chairs and add their thoughts to a conversation, then stepping out and allowing other people to step in.  It was a very insightful discussion, which ended up also being a powerful reflection on actually how much courage it takes for some, especially women, to step into a circle and speak.

The Fishbowl in full flow.

Lastly there was another batch of Solutions sessions.  I went to one led by Zarina Ahmad called Diversity Adds Value, an excellent overview of issues around diversity and inclusion.  After this I went to one led by Lucy Antal of ‘North West Food Stories’.  Again, really fascinating too get a sense of what’s happening in different parts of the UK.

The second day opened with a live video link discussion with Caroline Lucas MP, and with Hilary Wainwright, editor of Red Pepper, who was with us in person.  It was a very useful discussion about the relationship between grassroots movements and politics.  Caroline Lucas said that “the power of good examples all around the country is that when the government says that “things are impossible”, it means she is able to say “no, they’re already happening around the country”.  While there is a lot that we can do, it is also true that policy changes can enable activities currently in pockets to spread.

Hilary Wainwright said that we need to recognise power in two senses, firstly power as domination (i.e. that wielded by governments) and secondly power as what she called “transformative capacity”, which we have, and need to make the most of.

Andy Goldring then set out to draw out a sense of urgency for the rest of the day, inviting people to share what they’re angry about. “The world around us is dying”, he said.  “In this context”, he went on, “do we demonstrate against?  Or demonstrate?”  (I liked that line, might have to use it myself).

In the first session, we were invited to suggest projects we wanted to see come out of the event.  Not ideas, not “someone should”, but actually achieveable, ambitious things that could be started tomorrow.  When about 8 ideas were gathered, groups formed around each one, and we had just over an hour working in ‘Design Charettes’ (a charette, according to the dictionary, is “an intense period of design or planning activity”) to come up with a worked up, beautifully presented proposal.  It was amazing to see, when working under such tight constraints, and Jay cracking the whip to keep us focused and hard at work, to see what people came up with.

Groups hard at work preparing their presentations during the Design Charette.

Ideas included a model for accelerating place-based wealth building, a co-op of co-operatives for the Wigan area, a think and do tank for accelerating these ideas, an ‘Imagination Intervention’ – a one day event which transforms a place in such a way as to bring the future to life, and a couple of others I didn’t make a note of!  The final session then attempted to nail these down into final commitments for actions that would arise from the projects.

One of the groups presenting their work at the end of the Charette session.

That’s a brief sense of the event, hopefully gives you a sense of the flow.  I’d like to give you a sense of what felt to me like highlights, and what felt to me like the challenging bits:

Highlights

  • I have never been before at an event with so many organisations under one roof all with similar aims and wanting to find new ways to connect and collaborate. It felt like an historic occasion, a brave thing to attempt, and I made lots of great connections
  • Spending time with so many what one person called “positive deviants” is wonderful, and very life-affirming
  • It was great to be in Wigan, with its long radical history, and with its Council attempting to do some very interesting things, and to have the Wigan Diggers Festival entertain us on the Saturday night, and to have Fur Klempt feed us deliciously using surplus food from local businesses. Bard Company’s (described as “the oldest boy band on the circuit”) reinterpretation of the Beastie Boys’ classic ‘You’ve got to fight for your right to party’ into a Jeremy Corbyn anthem of ‘You’ve got to fight the right in your party’ will stay with me for a long time.
  • There was lots of social connecting time, and it was great to spend some quality time with old friends and new ones too…
  • The graphic note-takers did an amazing job, capturing the event’s many nuances and debates with colour and flair (see below).

Challenging bits

  • It was fascinating how hard it was to coax people away from their key peeves, their soap box issues. It felt like for some people, it was a struggle to let go and listen enough to allow things to go where they might go because they kept pulling it back to some distant and overarching concern
  • Likewise, it was interesting how hard it was to get some people to move away from vague generalisations like “we must reform the financial system” or “we need to transform the political system”, to something more tangible, achievable, focused. It felt like there was a default position that we often fall back into without even realising it
  • Diversity and inclusion was an issue that kept coming up. We were honoured to be joined by a group from the Glasgow Multicultural Centre, who got very involved in the conference, and ran a great workshop on diversity. What was fascinating was that there seemed to be a particular issue with younger women saying they felt it difficult to speak up, to get involved, not a problem I’ve seen at previous such events.  I noticed a comment on the feedback board at the end that simply read “be aware that people are at different starting positions”, which felt like a really useful observation for future events. What could happen at the beginning to make sure that everyone is given as much confidence as possible to chip in?  It would be useful to hear what other people do around this..

But what was so intriguing about this event was that all of the above was really to be expected.  Bringing such diverse organisations, a mixture of grizzled battle-scarred community/sustainability veterans and younger, more idealistic activists, and people with very varied degrees of anger/exclusion/distress about the state of the world was always going to be a very charged field.  And to try, in such a short period of time, to get them to actually not just meet and talk, but to work together to come up with actual, tangible, achievable projects, was close to trying to put a man (or woman) on the Moon.

Bringing these people together to attempt something so ambitious, with their very varying levels of familiarity with and comfort with process and the more ‘touchy-feely’ work like exploring grief and anger, was always going to be difficult.  As the title of the event says, this is an emergency.  We have lost more than half of the living creatures we share this planet with since 1970.  Climate change is accelerating.  What does a bottom up response look like, and how can the bottom up movements become the drivers for it?  There are few more timely questions.

For me, this was an amazing event.  It was messy, sure, with its bits that didn’t work, its tricky edges, its blind spots.  But putting on this event at this time was an amazingly brave thing to do.  The facilitators sailed into unknown waters, and it took all their navigation skills to keep the ship on course.  For some people I spoke to, they were frustrated that it didn’t feel tangible enough, that they had heard many of the discussions before, that they needed bigger responses than could be achieved at such an event.  But that’s a bit like blaming a lawnmower for making lousy toast.

This was an event that set out to mark a moment, a historic moment when everyone who heeded the call headed out from the towns, the cities, the hills, the woods, the fields, to meet and try to figure out what to do, how to use what they have more effectively.  That really matters.  I felt honoured to be there.  We won’t know for a few years just what impact this event had.  But I’ll bet you now that it will be looked at as a key moment, a watershed, from which much flowed that had previously been unthinkable.

This article was originally published at https://www.robhopkins.net/2018/03/31/a-report-from-ctrlshift2018/

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