Meeting Notes - January 2021

Notes from Sheffield FoE Local Group meeting - 18th January 2021 by Zoom

Attendees: Lindy S (chair) Richard S, Liddy G, Julie A, June B, Helen F, Sean A, Shaun R, Claire B, Dawn S, Phil W, Beatrice G Rachel S, Sue C, Tammy, Joan M, Jerry S, Ian C, S, Geoff C, Chris W, Chris S, Anna P, Rachel, Sandra FS, Saleema I.

Ecological Emergency presentation “Nature is in Trouble” from Liz Ballard
Lindy welcomed Liz Ballard, chief executive of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust to the meeting. Sheffield FoE has launched a petition calling on Sheffield City Council to declare an ecological emergency. This was in response to concerns being expressed by the Wildlife Trusts and Liz presented the Trusts’ reasoning behind this.

Liz shared a presentation and started by highlighting the 2019 UN report on Biodiversity and the UN 20 targets for 2020 (originally established in 2010) which 6 have been partially met while the other 14 have not been met. The Sheffield State of Nature report presents the local picture and is available on their website. She shared some specific examples where the report identifies local drivers of change. Examples include the fragmentation of ancient woodlands such as Smithy Wood, Owlthorpe Fields as a potential wildlife site if it can be protected from development, declining populations of some birds and mammals, invasive non-native species (like Japanese knotweed), disease and pests (like Ash Dieback). Climate change impacts and flooding are additional risks. The Biodiversity COP will be setting future targets and there is an opportunity to influence these at national level. Locally, building on the Lawton Report, we can focus on initiatives joining up areas with different landowners which could be facilitated across the city to improve connectivity (eg mapping harvest mouse habitats). Overall plan is a nature recovery strategy including nature-based solutions and there are opportunities for FoE to contribute to this.

In response to questions, Liz discussed what the council could do and what local farmers are doing to protect environments. Opportunities for developing skilled jobs in this area to support a National Nature Service launched in July 2020 by the 53 organisations within the Wildlife Link. Liz mentioned capacity development including training opportunities (Green New Challenge Fund). Community mobilisation and engagement is a key element of the strategy (eg gardening, composting, nesting boxes); the need to engage and educate/enthuse people was discussed.

Major current campaign is the petition to the Council on tackling the Ecological Emergency which aims to get more commitment from the Council on this agenda.

Business items

Owlthorpe Fields Update – Claire gave an update on the Owlthorpe Fields Public Inquiry which started last week and has been cross-examining expert witnesses; there is a site visit this week; a decision is expected at the end of March. We commended the excellent work that has been done by OAG supported by Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust and wished them well in the closing days of the inquiry. Judgement due mid March.

Council education strategy update – Richard said that environmental and biodiversity issues need to be included in this through Learn Sheffield and has discussed this with their chief exec. . Lindy agree to suggest the Wildlife Trust also provided input.

Ecological Emergency petition: Lindy asked that all supporters share the link to the petition with others as well as signing it themselves. It is intended to combine it with a very similar petition by Sheffield Green Parents and deliver it to the council at the end of Jan/beginning of Feb. There is a developing “Roundtable” approach to ensure a co-ordinated campaign. Sean A suggested a campaign on biodiversity as well as climate change is likely to be well received by politicians if they are reminded that public support is very much in favour of local, green measures.

Green Resolutions: A number of green resolutions had been shared on the Sheffield FoE Twitter and Facebook pages around the New Year to help get 2021 off to a positive start.

Supporters: Followers on Facebook and Twitter continue to grow and the recent petition has resulted in a significant boost to the numbers signed up to the database which now stands at 205.

Future Plans

1. Sheffield Council’s ‘Pathways to Decarbonisation’ report is due to be published mid/late January which we will consider at our February meeting.

2. On 27th February (with Rotherham Climate Action) we are hosting an online event focusing on actions people can take to reduce their own/their community’s/their workplace’s carbon footprint. Lindy and Helen are leading event planning.

3. Friends of the Earth are launching their new Nature campaign which we can consider being part of. Plans for our own tree planting event with Sheffield Council Forestry team are on hold because of lockdown but would need to happen before the end of March and Lindy is discussing. Catherine Nuttgens, Forestry Manager has also offered to speak at our March meeting.

4. The postponed local elections still planned for May 2021 and there is a need to ensure candidates from all parties are encouraged to put forward environmental policies. It was proposed to consider organising an online hustings with representatives of all political parties.

5. A Schools website has been launched today and the online Schools Conference organised by Schools Education South Yorkshire will take place in July. Richard is organising and asked for ideas for willing potential speakers and for volunteers to join the steering group.

6. COP26 in Glasgow in November will be a very significant event and plans are likely to develop which we can be part of in the lead up to this. The Climate Coalition has an annual public engagement event in February that we can potentially contribute to when plans are made.

7. The Sheffield Renewables AGM is taking place on 27 Feb 10-12, and Lindy will share papers and identify who can represent Sheffield FoE at the meeting if those interested let her know.

Next Local Group Meeting – 7:30pm on 15th February 2021 – meeting on Zoom

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