Happy New Year to all supporters and campaigners of Birmingham Friends of the Earth. I hope that you all enjoyed the festive period and have enjoyed rather than endured the snowy start to 2010.
2009 was another busy year for our group and all other environmental pressure groups, as we all worked together to try to put pressure on governments to reach an ambitious binding agreement at the Copenhagen cop15 talks. It was very gratifying for Birmingham FoE to be able to work with all the other groups in the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and all their efforts are very much appreciated. Sadly we are all disappointed at the outcome of the summit, which failed to deliver anything near to the deal we were looking for.
We are part of a national organisation and contribute to both national and local campaigns, so for the Friends of the Earth EWNI’s annual review of their achievements for 2008/9. As a group, though, we have had another busy year with some notable achievements in 2009, so it is worth looking back at those before ploughing into 2010.
Over the year we have collected thousands of signatures from local people showing support for a greener future for everyone. Our main campaigns of 2009 includes:
Local Rail: – Over a thousand personal responses to a consultation on spending priorities for rail were collected from Birmingham residents (with the help of Moseley Forum and Kings Heath Centre Partnership) calling for the re-opening of local stations. This will make it much more difficult to ignore local people’s wishes for better public transport services. We also submitted a detailed response to centro giving reasons why this was needed. We spent time communicating with politicians and national transport planners to put the case for local rail and have received many supportive replies. There is reason for optimism!
20’s Plenty for Birmingham: – Working together with Campaign for Better Transport, we collected nearly 500 signed letters to Birmingham City Council for this campaign last year. While some people are hesitant about supporting it at first, the evidence is compelling and almost everyone is won over once they hear more about it. These letters are being sent off to the council this month along with associated press releases and covering letters to key councillors while we plan the next stage of our campaign; getting community groups involved, as detailed below.
Fix the Food Chain: – We got thousands of postcards signed last year to support planet-friendly farming and our Campaigns Support Worker has also been out to schools, talking to more than 200 children about this in the autumn term alone. We went out to hold stalls at farmers’ markets, festivals and other community events throughout Birmingham last year. More details on the campaign can be found here.
Get Serious About CO2 : – This national campaign by Friends of the Earth asked groups to get their councils to sign up to a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020. We were already ahead of the field in this with Birmingham City Council signed up to 60% cuts by 2026. This presented us with an interesting challenge in how to take action to ensure that they actually do what they promise and we used the expertise within the group to draw up our green manifesto for Birmingham, which brings together all the policies that we feel should be implemented to bring down CO2 emissions, create a better environment for everyone in the city and create jobs. We have sent details of this to the council as we await the publication of their action plan detailing how they will achieve the promised CO2 emissions reductions further to what they have published in the Birmingham Declaration.
The Wave : – Along with other members of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, we publicised the march in London on 5th December which was the biggest Climate Change demonstration ever held in this country. We took a full coach down to London with blue props to wave and join in this great demonstration of the rising tide of public feeling and the threat of rising sea levels if we don’t act. Even though the outcome of the COP 15 summit in Copenhagen was a huge disappointment, we have built links with people who will not stop in their efforts to achieve Climate Justice for all the world and if anything it has made us more determined to keep going.
Public Engagement: – We have organised 3 speaker events with high profile environmentalists, a hustings for the European elections, discussion meetings on everything from water footprints to High Speed rail and 2 city centre parades. In the media we’ve had front page and many other prominent articles in the local press, appeared frequently on radio, written nearly 60 blog articles and developed into one of the most influential local users of social media. So, well done to everyone from our group who’s been involved with those successes and let’s continue to raise our profile even more in 2010.
So what are we looking to do this year?
We have big plans to not only continue with what we’ve been doing, but also go further and get more people involved in the democratic process of making politicians in Birmingham and the UK aware of the need to take more steps to be greener.
In terms of local transport, we will be rolling out the 20’s plenty campaign to community groups and getting them to use the grassroots knowledge that they have to promote the message of safer streets being beneficial to all. This, along with the change in the cabinet at Birmingham City Council, makes us feel that 2010 could be exciting for this campaign, where we might finally make progress in reducing the risks for pedestrians and cyclists and encouraging more people out of their cars. On January 30th we’ll be holding a meeting with representatives from neighbourhood forums all over the city to talk about how to achieve our aims and how people can get involved. If you are a member of a neighbourhood forum or another community group and would like to come along please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
We will continue to monitor the situation as regards the re-opening of local stations on railways all over Birmingham and push for a response from the organisations to whom we have responded in their consultations. As the clamour for High Speed Rail goes on, we will keep stating our position that low carbon, accessible transport for local people on short journeys must be the priority.
We plan to publish new suggestions regarding the best way to run buses in Birmingham to ensure that they are as efficient and attractive to people as possible, giving a more immediately possible alternative to car use for thousands of people across the city. We intend to use case studies from all over the world to illustrate our case that road-based public transport can be as good an alternative as rail.
As you are all aware, there is a general election coming up, so we will need to ask all the relevant questions that will allow people to make their choices as to which prospective candidates are taking environmental issues seriously. This includes getting them to make firm commitments on supporting our food chain campaign for legislation supporting planet-friendly farming and also on carbon budgets, which ties in with our Get Serious campaign.
In terms of Birmingham City Council’s CO2 emissions reduction targets, we will be monitoring what they publish and pushing for the strongest possible action to be included in their plan. We have our manifesto ready and a team of experts ready to examine the document when it is finally published, which could be as early as next month. Our manifesto contains many elements and it could be that we launch a new campaign based on one of these if it is ignored by the council, but we await more information first.
We will also continue in our efforts to push politicians for a global deal on climate change that goes much further than what we already have. We must continue in raising awareness of the issues surrounding climate change and ensuring that we have a safe climate to pass on to future generations.
We will be running more fairs, practical events designed at making things out of recycled materials which can be used again and again and organising more talks, reaching more people in all areas of Birmingham in person and over the internet. Through the Future Jobs Fund we have a couple of 6-month placements for Environmental Outreach Officers, who can help us to achieve this as well as picking up skills they can take on to use in further employment.
It all promises to be an exciting year in which we can put the disappointment of the Copenhagen summit behind us and re-focus our efforts on doing everything we can to make our city and the planet a better place.