Parish councils across North Devon have declared or are planning to declare a climate emergency. This is a good start but the biggest challenge is working out what to do next. How do we adapt to the changes we will face? How can we cope with their effects? What can we do now to reduce our carbon footprint at the local level?
The answer is “work together”: forty representatives of sixteen North Devon parishes met at The Cedars Conference Room, Barnstaple, on Saturday 26th October to exchange ideas. The event was organised by 361 Community Energy CIC (361) and led by its Chair, Gwen de Groot, and independent science journalist, Myc Riggulsford; the idea developed when Gwen, Cllr Netti Pearson and Rural Alliance Chair Cllr Frank Benbow met for a coffee just 6 weeks ago.
Twelve year-old Hannah Burge, 361 Youth Ambassador, opened the workshop with a moving call to action which set the tone for the day. There was a great buzz at each of the tables where discussions ranged from how parishes can help to reverse the loss of habitat for insects and animals, reduce waste, reduce energy costs whilst creating warmer homes and buildings, improve rural transport, and monitor our carbon footprint. The discussions were facilitated by members of 361, the North Devon Biosphere, and Plastic-free North Devon.
“The North Devon Climate Action Planning event was a hugely valuable meeting” says Bideford Town Councillor and Chair of Decarbonisation and Environment Committee, James Craigie. “The ideas and creativity on display from Parish Councils across the area provides me with hope that together we can meet the challenges set to avoid catastrophic climate change. I felt that this was one of the most significant events in moving our communities towards meaningful and impactful action.”
The output from the day was a list of actions parishes can take: these will be included in a template action plan for all North Devon parishes to adapt. The plans are working documents and to be effective will need to involve residents of the parishes and not just councils. There was also enthusiasm for parishes to continue working collaboratively, with support from North Devon Council.
The day was rounded off with an extraordinary speech from 361 Youth Ambassador, Seán O’Callaghan; this thirteen year-old sees the climate emergency as a parallel to WWII thus “There’s a quote from Churchill that I want to be able to say earnestly to my child ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’ The difference from the original meaning is that the ‘conflict’ is against our self-destruction; the ‘much’ is our salvation and our quality of life; the ‘many’ are us humans, our species; the ‘few’ are to the people like you and me who did our bit to help save our planet!”.
Notes for editors: Councillor Netti Pearson is North Devon Council Lead for the Environment. 361 Community Energy is a community energy group and social enterprise working in low carbon energy initiatives at the community level www.361energy.org.