"Towards a Zero Carbon Community"
Sustainable Youlgrave gets Invited to No 10 Downing Street
Posted Wednesday, September 23, 2009
On 22nd July, Sustainable Youlgrave’s Andrew McCloy and John Youatt were invited to a reception at 10 Downing Street hosted by Gordon Brown.
It was, the invite said, an occasion to celebrate the role of volunteers in championing wildlife and environmental projects, and as such there were over 100 community activists from the likes of the WI and Wildlife Trusts, as well as a handful of other community ‘green’ groups including Bollington Carbon Revolution from Cheshire and Low Carbon West Oxford.
It has to be said that beforehand we had something of an inner moral dilemma. Frustration at this Government’s lack of progress over action on climate change, despite all the fanfare, and an inevitable cynicism towards career politicians was tempered by the chance to step inside the doors of No 10 and meet the PM. We concluded that the invitation itself was a measure of the achievements of Sustainable Youlgrave and a pat on the back for the efforts of all our supporters; and also that this was clearly a chance to get a word in about our work at the very highest level. It turned out, of course, that Gordon Brown simply did a bit of glad-handing, made a short speech, then disappeared. For what it’s worth, he told us that Britain is stronger as a result of our work and that we are making a difference as we are inspiring people to make changes to protect the environment. “We want you to contribute to a national policy which makes sense to future generations,” he said “We are determined to lead the way to getting an agreement at Copenhagen .We want to make this year a year of the environment, where we come together and recognise what needs to be done to combat climate change and persuade other countries to also make the change. Thank you for what you do, for transforming Britain for the better. We are very proud of you indeed.”
More usefully for us, two Secretaries of State were also in attendance and spent a little longer talking to the invited party. We managed to have quite a decent private chat with Defra Secretary of State Hilary Benn, who providentially was about to visit our neck of the woods at the end of the week on an official visit. We briefed him on several issues, most notably Sustainable Youlgrave’s dialogue with the Peak District National Park over policy interpretation concerning our aspirations to develop anaerobic digestion facilities. Mr Benn was attentive, knowledgeable and made notes as we talked. We also had a very brief chat with Ed Miliband, Sec of State for Energy and Climate Change, who seemed rather less focused on the whole occasion.
So what did all this achieve? Wasn’t it all a little bit showy and tokenistic? Perhaps, but rarely do small community groups get the chance to speak directly to our most senior politicians – we would simply not have had the chance to brief a Secretary of State about key local issues; plus it’s a ‘well done’ for all the hard work that our committee and grass roots activists continue to do. And, of course, the exposure does no harm for our publicity and standing back home, whether raising local consciousness or attracting new supporters.
At the end of the day we are striving to make a difference locally, of course, but these are national and global issues and the inter-connectedness of it all should be clear for everyone to see, whether it be in the bustling heart of Government in London SW1 or deep in the green hills of the Peak District National Park. We all need to move with the times - standing still and doing nothing is not an option.
Photo: Andrew McCloy and John Youatt of Sustainable Youlgrave are joined by
Nicola Percival of Bollington Carbon Revolution outside the door of No 10
Downing Street after the reception with the Prime Minister.