26 Jul 2017
In contrast to the usual doom and gloom scenarios around climate change, the Zero Carbon Wales events were designed to inspire attendees and to open up new ways to collaborate. In this blog, Chloe Jenkins gives a summary of 2 events, held in Bangor and Cardiff, and her personal reflections on the Zero Carbon Wales message.
To achieve the latest international targets on climate change we
know that radical action is needed yet evidence that this action is
happening seems very hard to find. Is the target for an 80%
reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 just too ambitious?
Are we - the public, the media, the government - burying our heads
in the sand waiting for a miracle new technology to save us? Or,
despite mounting evidence to the contrary, do we not really believe
that catastrophic climate change is going to happen?
Tackling our high energy and resource demands in order to take
control on climate change can seem daunting so it was important to
us at Environet to re-energise people through positive messages
whilst getting to the heart of the problems we are facing.
Why Zero Carbon
We kicked off our events with Paul Allen from the Centre for Alternative
Technology examining the story of how we have become locked
into our high energy demand lifestyles whilst emphasising that it
is not about waiting around for a new technology to save us, it is
about tackling the other political, cultural, psychological and
sociological barriers which prevent us changing behaviour. It is a
real treat to hear Paul speak; he is very knowledgeable about low
carbon technologies but more amazing is his ability to help people
recognise that this future is possible.
'Fascinating introduction to built in obsolescence and how
businesses make a quick buck at the expense of the environment.' -
The falling price of solar was highlighted as just one example of
how the market is changing in the environment's favour - the trend
really is our friend, we just need to continue spreading the
advantages of environmentally friendly behaviour changes.
Personally I love how consumers can use digital information to
challenge previous marketing norms - demanding to know 'who
made my clothes' or the percentage of
green energy suppliers are producing, is slowly resulting in
more commercial responsibility whilst empowering people to consume
Through the groundbreaking Zero Carbon Britain
research Paul was able to demonstrate that a zero-carbon future is
possible whilst enhancing, rather than sacrificing, quality of
life, particularly around health and lifestyle.
What's the current plan and is it enough?
We had some inspiring talks on Welsh legislation gearing us up for
a Zero Carbon future. The carbon budgets set out in the
Environment Wales Act and the ambitious goals of The
Well-Being of Future Generations Wales Act provide individuals
with the tools to challenge governing bodies to create a future
Wales for generations to be proud of and thrive within.
'Good to see Wales using European best practice and tailoring
it to our own devices.' - Bangor University
The third sector has a role to play too within this new framework
as an advocate for meaningful behavioural change - I believe
charities have been and will continue to be a crucial lifeline for
communities in Wales and this new legislation provides a framework
to showcase good practice established by many frontline services.
To learn more about the Well-being goals and how you can get
involved, check out our WCVA
goal factsheets and video.
Anna Nicholls from WCVA led this session discussing what can be
done to build resilience for long term challenges such as
demographic change, citizen disengagement and depleting natural
resources through community-led action.
The pub quiz in this session to highlight emerging factors was
well received - the question about when the UK will leave the EU
struck a particular chord with both audiences responding with a
mixture of groans and laughter.
The Shape Your Future WCVA reports are available online here
they explore emerging trends include globalisation, climate change,
fast-changing technology, demographic changes and new relationships
between citizens, community groups and public services. Exploring
scenarios under different circumstances is becoming an important
tool for future planning - I have already used these reports in my
academic studies and recommend them as a useful exercise enabling
creative thought around difficult topics with no definitive
Postcards from the Future
Imaging positive versions of a Zero Carbon future is an important
practice in order to turn this vision into reality. Delegates
really engaged with this exercise as we are frequently bombarded
with apocalyptic scenarios from the media but often the exciting
opportunities of a low carbon lifestyle are overlooked.
'2040 Postcards great idea! So important to get people to imagine
positive futures!' - Sheffield Climate Alliance
There were common themes (which I found lovely to hear about) of
safer streets full of bicycles and nature, more time for leisure
activities as work becomes less onerous, community ownership and
responsibility of our natural and energy resources, and, perhaps
most importantly, leaving a planet which can be enjoyed and
stewarded by future generations.
Making It Happen
The afternoon was spent getting to grips with how we can turn
these positive visions into action. The delegates split into groups
covering themes of 'Supporting Individual Action', 'Systemic
shift', and 'Culture, Third Sector and the Arts'. This session was
generally positively received with many important ideas about
utilising available networks and digital tools but there was a
sense that preaching to the converted and debating minute details
can miss the bigger picture - which is that we need to be having
these discussions with those not already on board with a Zero
Carbon future. Much of the discussion became about how to spread
the positive messages and moving away from scaring people with
climate doom scenarios.
'Oil is not the problem, electrical demand is the problem. Go
back to basics; do we all need 3-4 computers? Dishwashers? Washing
machines?' - Anonymous
Getting people to understand the demands they place upon the
planet and how they can improve their well-being by utilising and
enhancing nature are big communication challenges, but I believe
through legislation, arts, and people we can create the Zero Carbon
future we want and deserve.
Many attendees are already working towards Zero Carbon but working
together enables greater and faster change - and also crucial moral
support. Until low-carbon becomes the new 'normal', it can feel a
lonely task to be the one demanding change. We hope these
events have been a spur to encourage these people to continue their
work and that future collaborations will help them take the
positive messages about the path towards a Zero Carbon future
further and deeper. If you would like to see the
presentations from these events or find out more about what you can
do for a positive Zero Carbon Wales future, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org