SECA newsletter #15 – May 2020
Dear SECA members,
I hope this email finds you well. With so much of normal life on hold, this lockdown period has been for many a time of reflection. In this months’ newsletter we highlight two recent articles pondering a post-coronavirus future. Both strike a positive note. Tony Whitbread writes about the death of the ‘me first’ society. And I’ve put some ideas together on how councils can shape their post-coronavirus recovery strategies so we ‘Build back better’.
And for May’s joint action we’re suggesting we all take this lockdown opportunity to encourage those who haven’t done so to switch to a green energy supplier using a brand new SECA switching page.
Death of the “me first” society – saying no to our lizard brains
As Tony Whitbread writes in his recent blog, “The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of many people, and many more will be lost before the crisis is over. But one death that we will not mourn is the death of the “me first” society.” The aggressive, competitive, grab everything, me first approach is not human, he argues, “it is our lizard brain taking over.”
Tony celebrates how “COVID-19 has shown people around the globe naturally re-organising into mutually supportive groups”, and provides important lessons on the limits of the state and markets and the importance of the ‘commons’ and households as organising pillars of our economy and society. Read the full blog here.
Tony has written widely on nature and climate change themes. You can browse his blog archive here which includes a piece on ‘Pressing the Pause Button’ based on his inspiring recent talk to the Horsham Climate Café.
Building back better: how can councils spark a green post-Covid recovery?
As organisations and governments move from emergency response mode to thinking about the post-coronavirus recovery a wave of new thinking is emerging on how we can ‘Build back better’, or perhaps more specifically – ‘better, fairer and greener’.
The conversation up to now has focused on what central governments can do. But it’s equally relevant for local councils.
What would a climate-friendly recovery package for councils look like? In this blog article I make some initial suggestions, starting with an immediate move to create pop-up cycle paths to help commuters during lockdown, and bringing forward plans to roll out EV charging points and electric scooters.
Councils can also lead from the front in supporting a more localised food system, championing new ways of working, creating green jobs, revising planning laws, unlocking new funding sources for example by teaming up with community energy groups, and gearing up their communication efforts.
We’ll be sharing these ideas with all our council contacts and looking to pull together other ideas and examples we can help publicise. So let us know if you have any suggestions on what would make a difference right now. And don’t forget to share these ideas with your local Councillors too. As one council officer put it to us, “We desperately need councillors to hear direct from their residents as to what’s important to them, because this way, Councillors can bring questions to officers, into council meetings and into our decision making processes. If Councillors don’t hear direct from residents, they don’t know it’s important.”
Switch to a green energy supplier and help support SECA
For our joint action for May, we’re launching a brand new energy switching tool that will help people save money and choose 100% green energy, while at the same time chipping in to support the work of SECA.
Many of you will already be on a green energy tariff. But lots of people haven’t got around to it, or are uncertain where to look amongst the dozens of energy switching sites out there. How about we all give our members and contacts a nudge so they put energy switching on their lockdown to-do lists?
To do this we’re teamed up with the Big Clean Switch energy switching service which has created a special web page for us, which you can point people to. All you do is pop in your details, say which supplier you’re currently using, and put in an estimate of your current usage. It then comes back with a list of potential green alternatives and how much you’ll save by switching. You can click through to make the change in a few easy steps. Simple! And each successful switch generates a small commission for SECA, which we’ll use to underwrite our (very modest!) operating costs.
Sussex Green Living have been promoting the BigCleanSwitch service for some time. It only takes 5 minutes to compare a range of clean energy suppliers and make the switch. “All the people we have helped to switch have saved money” according to Carrie Cort from SGL, with savings have ranged between £90 and £366 a year.
Here’s a blog describing how it all works, but if you want to dive in and try it here’s the link.
Progress on climate action plans
Despite the lockdown, work on climate plans is still going ahead in many councils.
Surrey County Council published their climate change strategy just a few weeks ago. It sets out their plans for the Council to reach net zero by 2030, and for the whole county to achieve this goal by 2050. It includes specific step-wise targets – aiming for an ambitious 46% reduction in the county’s emissions by 2025. Paul Street and colleagues from Dorking Climate Emergency are taking a close look at the strategy and are putting together a detailed response, so keep an eye out for this on their website. While congratulating the Council on its overall ambitions, they question the ability to achieve these reductions without much more tangible, measurable actions.
We learned that Hampshire County Council has published an interim progress report on their Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan. This ties the Council to a target of reaching net zero for it’s own estate and the county as a whole by 2050. Thought light on specifics, it confirms decisions to reverse an earlier ban on building large wind turbines on county council land, approves a programme of tree and wildflower planting on highways amenity land, and establishes a Salix De-carbonisation Fund of £1million to fund a range of energy saving initiatives on the Council’s corporate estate.
After a lockdown lull, we are starting to pick up work again on our SECA survey of council climate actions. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/SECAclimateactionsurvey Please check the entry for your local district/borough council and send any updates that you are aware of to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are particularly thin on information about local councils in Kent, so it would be good to hear from you.
Take a look at the SECA Survey of Council Climate Actions, and let us know if you hear of any updates needed.
Online events to look out for
Mon 18th May: Climate Emergency Action Plans for District & County Councils. Climate Emergency UK are running a Zoom seminar looking at what is needed in an Action Plan to deliver emergency action in your locality. They’ve selected some of the best District & County Council Action Plans produced so far, which will be presenting and discussing these. Starts at 13.00. Here’s the booking link. For links to previous zoom seminars, including a recent one on communicating climate change, see their website.
Trying out Slack
And finally, if you’re ready to start engaging with other SECA groups around the area, this would be good moment to try out Slack networking platform, that’s been made available to us by Friends of the Earth. What’s on your mind and what would you like to kick off a discussion about? Why not take the plunge and sign up?
This blog post tells you all about it and provides a link to FOE’s excellent introductory page where you can find out more.
Stay well and hang on in there! The climate emergency hasn’t gone away, so let’s find some creative ways of using this lockdown period to keep the momentum up.
Newsletter & website editor
The South East Climate Alliance