Last week 50 local residents gathered together in Sutton Coldfield to consider the question: ‘How do we get fair and binding action on climate change?’. Jointly organised by EcoSutton, Equality West Midlands and Birmingham FOE, the event saw speeches from Mark Letcher of Operation Noah, Jamie Peters of Friends of the Earth and local MP Andrew Mitchell.

It’s fair to say that there were some contentious issues and lively exchanges of views on the panel and plenty of interesting stuff said, but the best points of the night came from the audience. There were some really incisive questions, showing how deeply attendees cared about the issue and how well-informed they were. The inconsistencies of the government’s energy policy came under particular fire, one questioner naming the local energy providers that had fitted her solar panels, now out of business due to the reductions in Feed-in Tariffs.

One audience member brought home the moral imperative of the question with the potent example of Malawi, where extreme floods washed away maize and livestock. Now there is a drought and the crops have failed, infertile sand has replaced the topsoil and there is famine in the country. Drawing on his experience as International Development secretary, Andrew Mitchell cited other examples of climate change exacerbating desperate situations in Darfur, Jamaica and Bangladesh.

The 16 and 17 year old members of the audience both spoke eloquently about the role of young people in demanding climate justice, and how there need to be more provision for climate education and more opportunities for young people to influence decisions. Jamie Peters agreed, stating that education should teach children to be global citizens, not just a production line.

Summing up, the speakers were in agreement that climate change has to remain a top priority, and that the talks in Paris are not the end of the process. Thanks to everyone that made such valuable contributions to what turned out to be an inspirational night.

Thanks to Paula Simpson for invaluable notes from the night