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.

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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 Wales?
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.' - Bangor University
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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 more ethically.

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?

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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.




Shape Your Future!
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.
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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 and 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 answer.


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.

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'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.

Zero Carbon: 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
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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.

What's Next?
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 environet@wcva.org.uk

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