Why we continue to ‘Speak Up’….

The Climate Coalition – the UK’s largest umbrella organisation that encourages thousands of people to vocalise their concerns on climate change  – runs two main periods every year which focus on engagement. In June (an ideal time of political focus after any election) we ‘Speak Up’ to MPs and local councillors and in February we encourage the wider public to ‘Show The Love’ for our shared planet. ‘Speaking up’ is something I believe Sheffield Climate Alliance excels at and not just once a year.

At the beginning of 2018, it was decided that the main campaigning strategy for SCA would be on air pollution and the related challenges for public transport. A letter was composed for the citizens of Sheffield to send to their local councillors, asking for proper consideration to be given to greatly improving local transport and defining a Clean Air Zone in order to comply with safe air quality standards. Through sign-up at a few festivals and other events, 91 letters were sent to the council by the end of 2018. You can understand our enthusiasm when Sheffield City Council announced they were putting a plan for a ‘Clean Air Zone’ to the council cabinet just before Christmas. Similarly, this month’s motion to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ was a real cause for celebration. We stood in front of the Town Hall with other groups making our voice heard in support and will be working with the Council and other stakeholders on setting and achieving realistic targets for the necessary carbon reduction.

However, it is not just the matters direct to Sheffield City Council that SCA lobbies on. We continue to work with our sister group ‘Sheffield Against Fracking’ and other local anti-fracking groups to promote and support events and awareness-raising of this extreme form of energy extraction. The recently formed ‘Concerned Health Professionals of the United Kingdom’ (which mirrors a similar alliance to one in the US) reaches out to a whole body of people who may not particularly consider themselves as part of the environmental activist movement. Their open petition to the Prime Minister citing health reasons for opposing fracking is one which any health professional in the UK may sign. The 92 signatories collected at the time of writing show that they too don’t accept that this kind of energy extraction should be allowed to happen in our country.

Meanwhile, here in Sheffield, the SCA Food Group has already had meetings with Gill Furniss MP and is arranging to also speak to Paul Blomfield MP and Louise Haigh MP during the next few months to discuss many issues relating to food and climate change. The Food Group also showed their updated presentation to the meeting on 19th February, with much praise given at the end by a newer audience.  

The Divestment subgroup of SCA, ‘South Yorkshire Fossil Free’ continues to put forward an increasingly strong economic as well as environmental case to South Yorkshire Pension Authority for divesting from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy.  South Yorkshire Fossil Free took the lead in Sheffield’s main event for ‘Show The Love’ this time around, with a ‘photo booth’ at Moor Markets on Saturday 16th February. More than three dozen ‘Show The Love’ stickers were given out, another dozen signatures on the petition aimed at South Yorkshire Pension Authority and many people also ‘posed’ for photos in the ‘photo booth’ to send messages on action needing to be taken. And if that isn’t enough, there is the ‘Climate Communications Hub’ a whole new forum for people of all ages and backgrounds (some from Carbon Neutral University, some from Sheffield Climate Alliance, and some people just as individuals) to come and talk about climate change, or more importantly, how to actually go about talking about climate change to people you know and also those you don’t know. Some innovative projects have begun to take shape from this ‘hub’, such as a special Vlog series , social experiments in public places and thought-provoking games in an attempt to approach a difficult subject from a new angle that for some may be easier to digest.

There is still a long way to go to ensure no-one can ignore the subject of climate change and, while we continue to try and engage politicians and people on every level, I am proud to be working with such dedicated people trying to address every angle of the subject and continuing to make their voices heard.

You can find out more about ‘The Climate Coalition’ and ‘Show The Love’ here. For more information on ‘Concerned Health Professionals of The United Kingdom’ here and any health professional can sign the petition here. For more information about ‘South Yorkshire Fossil Free’, you may also check out their Facebook page here.