Globally, we need to address the climate and nature emergency – we wanted to know what part Sheffield is going to play in this.
Responding to a call from Friends of the Earth nationally, in April 2021 Sheffield Friends of the Earth led a group of partner organisations in organising a set of six hustings events, covering the whole city, in the run up to city council elections on May 6th.
The online events were attended by nearly 250 people who questioned candidates standing for election on their intentions regarding action on the climate and nature emergencies, if they were elected.
While the Conservative Party turned down our invitation to take part, Labour, the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats were represented at all the events.
Participants were invited to pose questions on a range of topics such as Waste & Recycling, Nature Recovery, Green Jobs and the recently published 'Pathways to Zero Carbon in Sheffield' report. The broad topic areas were often repeated at sessions, though always focussed on a slightly different question from the audience.
Everyone recognised that 2021 is a very important year with the vital COP26 global climate talks happening in Glasgow in November where world leaders will make global decisions to cut CO2 emissions. Importantly, all candidates recognised that many of the actions needed will be at the very local level.
The speakers were well prepared and thoughtful and many good ideas for progress were shared but for many participants the most heartening aspect was the level of agreement between the candidates from different political parties and the willingness they demonstrated to work together to tackle the climate and nature emergencies facing us.
We were pleased too that the candidates and their party 'bosses' all felt that in opening up this issue for debate in this way had revitalised an aspect of local political democratic debate which is often missing, and additionally that they felt the hustings were well organised, fair and well chaired. (We were also delighted that the tech didn't let us down!)
Many promises have been made which we hope will come to fruition whatever the political landscape in Sheffield post-election. We know that too often pre-election commitments don't always survive the challenge of reality – but we will be there to hold their feet to the fire!