Happy New Year to all supporters and campaigners of Birmingham Friends of the Earth. Forget the doom and gloom about the economy and let's look at some positives. 2008 was a really good year and we should celebrate some of the achievements, but also look forward to the exciting times to come in 2009.
Firstly, if we look at 2008, we helped to put in place the first ever Climate Change bill anywhere in the world – it took some time, but was finally passed in the autumn. Thank you so much to everyone who went out there getting postcards signed, talking to MPs and pushing it forward. This was real people power and although it's only the very start of what needs to be done in order to prevent runaway Climate Change, it is a very impressive first step considering where we were before.
On national, or international, level we also spent a lot of time and energy campaigning to stop EU targets for the use of biofuels being set at unsustainable levels. With a world food crisis and massive deforestation occurring all over the world, it was important that legislation which would worsen this was not put into place. Thanks to our efforts, the EU has substantially reduced the target and is reviewing the viability of growing crops for fuel rather than food production. Once again, well done and thank you to everyone involved.
The final big national campaign of the year was to push the government to set ambitious targets for renewable energy and not water down EU targets. Again we did very well in getting cards signed and public support was forthcoming on the streets (right). The next stage is now under way as we try to build a coalition of support to show the government how much businesses, community organisations, faith groups, educational establishments, sports clubs and anyone else I've missed out wants a secure future energy supply which will not damage the environment or well-being of people on this planet. Again thank you to everyone who has put in so much effort so far and if you want to get involved the next meeting of the energy action group is on Monday 12th January at 7.30pm.
On a local level, one of our highest profile campaigns this year has been in opposing the extension of the runway at Birmingham International airport (or London Elmdon, as it has recently become known). Our “Flyagra” campaign, which played on the idea of dodgy extensions not bringing any real benefits, managed to make the application a controversial issue and generate a lot of debate. We got over 1000 objections to the application signed by members of the public and handed in to the council before the planning committee meeting (left). Despite the very dubious claims regarding the benefits to local business on which the airport built its case, the committee was minded to approve the application at its meeting on December 15th. However, before it does this the decision will go before the Government to see whether it should be called in for a public enquiry. The committee also requested a tighter section 106 agreement – the legal requirements of the conditions of granting the application – to be negotiated. Therefore, once again, we have made a big difference and prevented this application from being pushed through with no thought to the health of the people living close to the airport or anywhere else on the planet. A huge thank you to everyone for the support you gave us on this campaign. We will continue to fight for the best deal we can.
The transport group has been pushing for better rail services around the West Midlands, the retention of bus lanes, better cycling facilities and safer streets throughout 2008. The issues of the reopening of stations in Moseley and Kings Heath and the preservation of the Frankley line have been brought to the attention of local and national politicians. There is huge public support for improved rail services, but little will on the part of train operators or infrastructure planners. Thank you to everyone who has made this a high profile issue and let's keep up the pressure in 2009. Our other campaign now is to try and get 20mph speed limits in place all over Birmingham on unclassified roads – not “A” or “B” roads. We hope to make real progress on this and work together with different organisations to get a public movement going for safer roads to encourage more cycling and walking. Join us next Monday at 7.30pm for this action group.
The local shops group also had a productive year highlighting supermarket developments and successfully campaigning against them while encouraging the use of local producers and retailers, as well as preparing for the new campaign for this year by renaming the group local shops and food. A national campaign this year will look at the impacts of livestock production on the environment and you will be able to find out about that at the regional gathering on 17th January. Come along to the next action group meeting on 26th January if you want to get involved with this campaign.
This year looks to be one where we will be delivering a lot of positive messages, building relationships with new groups of people and showing leadership in terms of living in a better greener way. If I haven't said it enough already, thanks for your support last year, but also please come and join us to help make 2009 an even better year for Birmingham Friends of the Earth and all its partners.