After our three bunting stalls, gathering many messages from the people of Brent, we thought we should let Alok Sharma MP know what we had been doing, and something about the messages we had gathered. The following email was sent on Monday 18th October:
Dear Alok Sharma MP,
I am contacting you in your capacity as President of COP 26 on behalf of the Brent Group of Friends of the Earth.
Over the last few weeks we have been publicising the COP 26 Conference in our area, and have encouraged people to write short messages to the Conference, in the form of colourful pennants on strings of bunting.
This has led to considerable engagement with local people at the locations where we set up our stalls, in Harlesden, Wembley and Queens Park. Hundreds of people have written messages, which have been displayed for days or weeks. You can see some of these on our website at https://brentfoe.com/buntingstalls and https://brentfoe.com/QPBunting. We have also had messages from the Mayor of Brent (who spent some time on the stall) and local MPs Dawn Butler and Tulip Siddiq. The pictures give a good indication of the sort of enthusiastic responses that we got.
Without going through each message in turn, we can clearly see a number of themes of concern:
- The single commonest comment is that people are impatient with this process, and feel that the time to talk is over, the time to act immediately is here. 'No more blah blah blah' is a recurrent theme.
- Fossil fuels should no longer be part of our energy mix - 'No more fossil fuels!' is a recurrent message. To this end there were also calls for more encouragement of renewable energy, including a call for support for the local energy bill, and many calls for more investment in green technology.
- The urgency of the situation is apparent. 'There is no planet b', was another recurrent message.
- People feel that we are too reliant on cars for transport - many messages to get people using bikes, which means we must have safe and efficient infrastructure for cycling. And for those who can't cycle, we need efficient and cheap public transport.
- Calls for an equitable solution to the climate crisis, between rich and poor countries, summarised in the message 'Climate Justice Now'.
- Calls for more recycling, and less consumer waste - in particular the ubiquitous single-use plastic, which is causing drastic harm to our oceans.
- Calls for people to eat less meat - while this may not be entirely in the control of governments, the encouragement of plant-based diets is perfectly possible, and this should be made a priority.
These many messages were gathered in just a few hours at three locations in Brent. People were eager to put their point of view.
You will see from the photos that among the most enthusiastic to send a message were children, from primary school age to teenage. Of course, they will have to live with the results of adult action or inaction for longer than the rest of us. It is imperative that we safeguard their future.
On 12th November, last day of the COP 26 conference, we received the following reply from the Cabinet Office:
Our reference: TO2021/20284
12 November 2021
Dear Ian Saville,
Thank you for your email of 18 October to the Cabinet Office, regarding COP26.
There is no doubt that climate change is one of the most profound global challenges we face. The decisions we make today will affect the future of our planet for generations to come, and the Government fully recognises that action is urgently needed in our own country and across the world. This is why COP26 is a priority for the UK government, with Cabinet Ministers and our entire diplomatic network focussed on driving up ambition both at home and overseas.
Together with our Italian partners we will work to prevent global temperatures rising above 1.5C and protect our planet and people from the intensifying impacts of climate change. Success at COP26 will require all countries coming to Glasgow prepared to commit to action which will limit the global warming rise, enable communities and natural habitats to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and work together to deliver action.
We are fortunate in the UK to have a passionate, visible and vocal civil society with organisations who are among world leaders at demonstrating and promoting climate action. Securing a brighter future for our children and future generations requires action from all of us, both at home and abroad.
As we continue to work hard towards COP26, let us seize the moment together. Every country, business and part of society must embrace their responsibility to protect our precious planet and keep the 1.5 degree target alive. As individuals, we all have a part to play. We can all go one step greener.
For more information and to keep up to date on COP26 developments, visit the COP26 website at: https://www.ukcop26.org/.
Thank you, once again, for taking the time to write to us.
Public Correspondence Team I Cabinet Office