Letter to Supporters & Gill Furniss MP meeting update - December 2020

December 2020 update
To start; an announcement - with a special shout out to FoE supporters living in the Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough constituency. We finally hope to meet with Gill Furniss MP on Wednesday this week (9th December) from 6-7pm. Everyone is welcome– as part of the session we are planning on asking her about Labour’s attention to climate policy and the influence she can bring to action by local councils and the region – but local constituents might be particularly interested in what Gill has to say. It will be on Zoom, of course, so if you would like to attend (just observe or ask a question) please get in touch with me at admin@sheffieldfoe.co.uk and I can send on the link. 

Picture Credit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Sharing the positives
Despite the way that so much in our lives has come grinding to a halt this year, there has been a lot of energy shown on the environmental front. There are many good news stories of promising developments, some of which we highlight on our Twitter and Facebook pages – from a startup in Spain that has developed a way of turning waste paper into construction boards to a liquid air energy storage facility in Manchester. We have also pointed followers to some of the best nature books of 2020 for when you have time to relax! Do consider following us on social media if you would like to keep up to date.

National & international round up
There are many very serious issues to be addressed of course and lots of grand statements have been made over the past month about action on climate change. While it is a relief to see that no-one is giving time to the views of climate change deniers, or even climate change sceptics nowadays, it is widely agreed that we need to move further and faster.

Next week should see the latest report from the UK’s Committee on Climate Change which should be pushing the agenda forward and the PM did announced a Ten Point Plan recently. Unfortunately, neither this plan nor the spending review announced by the Chancellor do enough to ensure the UK plays its part in tackling climate change. Friends of the Earth’s analysis sets out where the PM could and should have done better. Last week Boris Johnson additionally announced targets designed to significantly reduce the UK’s emissions but these also fell short of what is needed, particularly given the lack of specific action to meet even these targets. The Labour party are stepping more seriously into the debate fortunately and have published their own paper on a Green Recovery which goes some way to setting out a greener, fairer agenda

We should (and do!) welcome the attention being paid to the climate crisis but must continue to push for action to match the rhetoric. Much of the current activity is linked to the UK hosting COP26 the major international climate change forum (think ‘The Paris Agreement’) which was due to meet in Glasgow last month. It was of course cancelled due to the pandemic but it should (will!) go ahead next November. In the absence of the actual conference this year there is about to be an online climate ambition summit – see this short video

In a different (but related) issue, the Government published proposals to radically reform land use planning in England and we believe these changes are a serious threat to the environment and local democracy. Local community groups are campaigning hard in Owlthorpe, Loxley and Bradway against proposals which are damaging under current planning rules and this is set to get worse. The initial consultation has closed but the campaign continues. It would be great if you are able to contact your local Councillors to ask them to join hundreds of others and sign an open online letter to the Government objecting to the plans.

Local and regional roundup

Looking locally, Sheffield City Council will be publishing a climate action plan in January – a much belated follow up to the declaration of a climate emergency in February 2019. We also want them to consider the implications for biodiversity, an issue which has been increasingly highlighted this year and we intend in the new year to launch a petition asking them to declare an ecological emergency. We hope to be working with other organisations on this, including Sheffield Green Parents, whose own petition can be signed here.

Sheffield City Region has also been responding to lobbying by ourselves and our partners in Sheffield Climate Alliance, particularly GND UK, in relation to developing better economic plans for the region which reflect the need for a step change in the way we address the issue of the climate crisis. The outline of his response to us was reported by the Star last week, but you won’t be surprised to know that we are following up with him!

One of the ways in which the tiers of local government are working together on this is through transport planning. The South Yorkshire wide ‘Better Buses’ campaign is an active campaigner and some of their concerns are reflected in Sheffield City Council’s ‘Connecting Sheffield’ strategy whose intention is ‘to transform the transport infrastructure that people use to get around the city as part of their everyday lives’ For much more detail and a chance to have a say on the proposals, see the Connecting Sheffield website.

Sheffield Friends of the Earth plans
We are continuing to meet online monthly (next one Monday 21st December 7pm – Zoom link will be sent out just before then) and are busy working behind the scenes with our partner environmental organisations in Sheffield, mostly through Sheffield Climate Alliance, to lobby for change through better measures to tackle the environmental issues that confront us. We have found it frustrating not to be able to be out and about more but are in discussions about how we can work on some tree planting schemes in the new year – more details to follow in January (we hope!)

Meanwhile – we send you our very best wishes for as festive a season as is allowed and look forward to seeing you in 2021 (or on the 21st December if you can make it!) and if there’s anything you’d like to ask, comment on or draw to our attention to, please email us at admin@sheffieldfoe.co.uk

Here’s to 2021!

Lindy Stone
Coordinator – Sheffield Friends of the Earth