Birmingham Friends of the Earth had its largest ever contingent at FoE Conference this year – 11 people in total! The weekend consisted of workshops, seminars, talks, presentations and debates, as well as a few socials of course!
Tony Jupiter (Executive Director of FoE) spoke a couple of times, giving an overview of the last year. I found him to be a particularly engaging speaker. He talked about our success over the past year with the Big Ask campaign, which has resulted in the Draft Climate Change Bill from the Government. This should be transformed into law by early next year. He also pointed out that whilst it’s great news we’ve come so far, so quickly, we still need to keep up the pressure on MPs to ensure that the final legislation is strong and meaningful.
A first this year was a guest visit from Hilary Benn (the current serving Environment Minister), who gave a speech to the conference. He encouraged us (and the environmental campaign movement as a whole) to keep asking questions and putting pressure on the Government,
because it does help drive awareness and policy forward. Despite this encouragement, he did dodge a few issues in the question and answer session. Most notable was the exclusion of international aviation emissions from the Draft Climate Change Bill, although he did raise a chuckle at the question; “isn’t not counting aviation emissions a bit like going on a diet, and not counting the chocolate bars?”
To round off, there was also the annual Earthmovers awards, where we heard all about the fantastic local groups, campaigns and people that are part of the Friends of the Earth network. BFoE was even nominated for Group of the Year (many thanks to Louise Hazan the Midlands Network Developer for nominating us), but alas, we were beaten to it by Leicester FoE – maybe next year ehh! But nevertheless, it was great to see some well deserved awards handed out, by none other than FoE’s Hugh Ellis, who always manages to raise a few laughs with the audience.
We all had a great time, learnt new things, and although feeling a little tired by the end of it, we’re positive and ready for another year of worthwhile campaigning!