On Saturday 13th July, Wera Hobhouse MP hosted the sold out ‘Climate Crisis: Bath Conference’ at the University of Bath which featured a wide range of national and local speakers.
The exciting lineup of politicians, experts and activists included the Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato, Hugh Knowles from Friends of the Earth and young speakers from Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Climate Alliance.
The purpose of the conference was to help Bath’s residents, groups and businesses understand how they can act now to make a difference.
The overarching message from all of the speakers was that the present climate emergency requires urgent actions from businesses, governments and individuals. All the speakers agreed that Extinction Rebellion and the School Strike for Climate have been game-changers that have significantly shifted the dialogue regarding the climate crisis.
Wera Hobhouse opened the conference with a positive and powerful speech, saying:
“I hope that we have finally reached a tipping point whereby organisations, national governments, local governments and people themselves are understanding that we are experiencing a climate emergency and that we have to act very quickly.”
The MP for Bath expressed her gratitude to her constituents for being particularly engaged in the climate change debate:
“I am very privileged to be the MP for Bath because I know that my constituency is full of engaged people and that is what we need across the country.”
Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party MEP for the South West & Gibraltar was the first keynote speaker. Whilst she acknowledged the dangers of climate change, her optimistic presentation was aimed at educating the audience about what needs to be done to address the climate emergency.
She insightfully spoke about the importance of farming in the South West and the amazing potential for land-based carbon-capture, a theme which several other speakers took up.
Molly also emphasized the importance of the EU in leading the fight against climate change and the threat Brexit poses:
“Brexit is an enormous threat to climate change. It’s good that our government has passed the Climate Change Act but if we leave the EU, we must ensure that it is enforced...If we leave the EU, we will lose funding from the European Investment Bank which was £3.6 million in 2015.”
She ended her speech with a call for more people to take up non-violent direct action to increase awareness.
The conference’s second keynote speaker, Paul Allen, is the Project Leader of Zero Carbon Britain. Paul presented the audience with ‘A Climate Emergency Action Plan’, outlining what people in Britain can do to reach net zero carbon emissions.
Paul’s key message was that a cultural shift is happening and that local councils are driving the change:
“We have everything we need to create a climate emergency plan. There is a cultural shift happening now. Leadership is coming not from the national level but from the local levels. Local councils and groups are taking the lead.”
Paul went on to highlight the importance of people changing their diets for the benefit of the environment as well as revitalising peat bogs to extract carbon dioxide.
Mr. Allen ended his speech by urging people to put pressure on local councils, central governments and their own communities to take urgent action.
Hugh Knowles, Director of Innovation for Friends of the Earth, was the next speaker and stressed the importance of building bridges with people and avoiding polarisation on the climate crisis debate:
“We need to get out of our comfort zone. We all need to become leaders in our communities. We need to tackle climate change and the polarisation in our society at the same time, by building bridges with people. We must move beyond the concept of ‘Them and Us’ to a larger ‘Us’.
Ian Barrett from the Avon Wildlife Trust used his presentation to highlight the devastating impacts of the climate emergency on wildlife. Like previous speakers, Mr Barrett emphasized the importance of peat in extracting carbon from the air:
“Peat is a fantastic habitat for locking up carbon and taking it out of the atmosphere.’”
Mr Barrett also spoke about vital EU legislation which protects the environment and encouraged the audience to write to their local councillors, MPs and government officials to ensure this legislation is protected.
Young activists from Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Climate Alliance called for continued non-violent protest to raise awareness. Jessica Johannesson from Extinction Rebellion said:
“Activism is about bringing the climate emergency home to people before it is brought home to them in the form of famine...We need something alongside politics to create change.”
Wera Hobhouse MP concluded the successful conference:
“Today has been an inspiration. There is so much we can do to play our part, and it is so important the we, as engaged citizens, act as leaders in our communities.”
Other speakers included ‘building pathologist’ Simon James Lewis who gave the audience advice regarding how best to insulate their homes, Hamish Evans from More Trees for BaNES, Professor Marcelle McManus from the Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment at the University of Bath, Vipul Patel of ChangeMakers and Peter Capener from Bath and West Community Energy.
We will be sharing more content from the conference over the coming weeks.