Notes from Sheffield FoE Local Group meeting & AGM - 17th April 2023 by Zoom
Attendees: Lindy (chair), Richard, Shaun, Nick, Greg, Claire, Saleema Apologies: Liddy, Sean,
Annual Report: Lindy reported on the Sheffield FoE activities April 22 – March 23.
Regular meetings had been held, with the exception of September (cancelled for the Queens funeral) and February. Three in-person meet-ups in May, August and December had sought to draw members in but had just a few participants (4-8) The regular online business meetings averaged 6-8 supporters, though more attended the talks/events that had preceded the meeting in April (the film ‘Burned’), June (Clean Air Sheffield), Graham Turnbull July (Warm Homes campaign, Simon Bowens, FoE) and March (Energy – Mike Childs FoE) The most well attended session had been the online Green Heating Solutions organised by Shaun in November, advertised nationally and attended by over 80 people.
Volunteers are not forthcoming for events and the only active campaigning opportunity had been the COP27 March for Climate Justice in November which despite extensive promotion, only brought 6 people to the FoE banner. This was disappointing. However, online presence via Facebook (+33 over the year) Twitter (+95) and our mailing list (+205) has grown well.
Facebook posts by Shaun continue to focus on positive news stories of new developments and possibilities. Twitter posts reflect information bout events and comments on developments. Campaigning via Twitter has focused on energy (against new FF developments, promoting renewable energy, enhanced home insulation, against biomass particularly at Drax) . Instagram has not been used this year since Izzy moved away. The FoE led United for Warm Homes campaign has been featured regularly in the past 6 months.
In the past 12 months 19 mailings have gone out to subscribed supporters. These have included a) links to petitions at national level (FoE petitions on plastics, retrofit and renewable energy, Climate Coalition on emailing MPs re prioritising CEE in the budget) ) as well as local (to SYMCA on retrofit & better buses, and SCC on urgent local action on the CEE) b) links to information sources such as the FoE explainers, the FoE/Ashden Council Climate Action case studies, SYCA papers on Community Climate Action groups and reports such as in the Guardian. The mailings also contain some signposting to events being held by partner organisations such as film screenings, hustings and talks.
Lindy reflected that the campaigning side of FoE was disappointing (see below for subsequent discussion) but that the profile of Sheffield FoE was still high as evidenced by the social media/supporter nunbers and the fact that as coordinator of the local group she had been contacted by local press, local BBC TV and radio for comment and additionally by Sky News (though passed that on to national media team.)
A plus for the year was the donation of £800 by Waitrose and partners in January, £575 of which had been used to purchase a thermal imaging camera.
Liddy as treasurer had sent in a finance report for the year. Complications of the account were linked to two SCC ward pot funds that we had accepted on behalf of Clean Air Sheffield and Plastic Free Sheffield Central which had both run into difficulties of delayed spending. Liddy & Lindy had agreed that we should avoid acting as an intermediary in this way in future to avoid these complications. Current balance of our own FoE funds stood at around £1500 (approx. £130 more than in April 2022.)
Discussion Participants gave their thoughts on why active participation was so low:
· People are increasingly pressed in their work/home lives
· Multiple crises, Brexit/Covid/Ukraine/cost of living crisis sap energy and cause difficulties for people compounding busy work lives. Just getting through becomes the all-encompassing priority.
· Energy is sapped by the multiple crises facing us. Adding climate anxiety to the mix is distressing; many people cope by shutting off from it.
· The multi-layering of different critical issues to address within the CEE – anti fracking, divestment, food systems, biodiversity, single use plastics, Green New Deal, active travel, public transport – has led to increased fragmentation of the movement.
· The arrival of XR some 4 years ago disrupted the ‘market’, bringing in some additional people to the movement but also drawing in some active campaigners from other groups.
· Shaun & Nick both pointed to the success of campaigns which had small measurable steps to take – eg the peat campaign last year with identified people contacting specific garden centres. This model could be tried more regularly. (NB: We noted that the peat campaign is beginning to have some effect with much greater variety of non-peat products in stores this spring)
· Politically we need to pressure Labour politicians locally to ensure the CEE is uppermost in their mind – on the assumption a) that the Conservative Party isn’t responding well, despite some strong supporters of the environment as individual level) and b) that Labour will attain power in the next election. With Ed Miliband (Energy & Net Zero) and Louise Haigh (Transport) as key members of the shadow cabinet, we are well placed.
· We agreed that there was little point in trying to convince Miriam Stoppard to change her views and promote action on the CEE, so we will not seek a meeting.
· It is important to keep trying to engage with local councillors and the FoE/Ashden case studies provide a good link for this.
· If we are to continue to work on the United for Warm Homes campaign, we need to build more alliances with wider groups. Richard suggested looking to identify the part so S Yorks that new supporters have come from and see if it is possible to build support there. Lindy will try to work with GND S Yorkshire on this too.
· More regular opportunities to meet in person would be welcome.
Next Meetings: Lindy to invite Sandra Bell, FoE lead on the FoE/Ashden case studies to speak to the group in either May or June, soon after the local elections. If this can be an in-person meeting, that would be good. If not, the other meeting would be.