Shropshire’s countdown to zeroSeptember 25, 2021
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CAT works with a number of county-level community groups to help build action on the climate and biodiversity emergency, including the Shropshire Climate Action Partnership. Kevin Oubridge gives us an overview of the group’s impressive achievements and ambitious plans.
At the end of 2019, various people from in and around Shrewsbury attended a presentation by CAT’s Paul Allen on Zero Carbon Britain.
It was a strange and life-changing experience for many of us – informative, challenging, terrifying, enraging and, ultimately, uplifting. It gave the audience a potted history of how, over the last couple of hundred years, humans have merrily burned fossil fuels, pumping out huge volumes of carbon dioxide that has caused the climate of the planet to change, threatening humanity and much of life on Earth. It was uncomfortable listening.
However, Paul went on to say that we could do something about it. All is not lost, it isn’t too late, too difficult or too expensive. We have the knowledge, technology and ability. We just need the will.
Building an action group
Inspired by this, and perhaps a little driven by the fact that we’re all doomed if we don’t do something, a small group of people set up Shropshire Climate Action Partnership (SCAP), involving local councils, businesses, charities, farmers – basically whoever agreed that reducing the county’s greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2030 was a good idea.
This turned out to be something like 100 people from a variety of backgrounds and locations within Shropshire, all giving their time freely as volunteers working on SCAP’s first project, Zero Carbon Shropshire.
A plan for zero carbon
By the time I joined the group in October last year, SCAP was already up and running. We had our overall aim of achieving zero carbon in Shropshire by 2030 and there was already a steering committee attended by council members, leaders from local organisations and businesses, and other interested parties.
Our short-term goal was to develop and publish a zero carbon plan by the end of the year. We used CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain scenario as a starting point, and CAT and others provided additional support and training along the way.
Working groups – such as consumption and resources, transport, land and biodiversity, energy and buildings – met weekly via Zoom to discuss what to put in the plan. We also had communications, editorial and other groups thinking about how to present the plan and engage with the people of Shropshire, and a website containing supporting information. And, vitally, we had lots of connections and friendships between organisations and people throughout the county.
We hit our target and published the zero carbon plan on 31 December 2020 – much to everyone’s relief!
We were all exhilarated and exhausted by our efforts so far but also keen to build on what we had done. If the pre-2020 activity had been frantic and invigorating, the early 2021 activity was complicated, complicated, complicated.
We had set up a big organisation, with the biggest and most important of goals, and we were developing big plans as to how to get there. But we didn’t have all that we needed to support this. We were all volunteers, working without premises, policies or procedures – and without any funding.
To help address some of these issues, we’ve now decided to set up Zero Carbon Shropshire as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), which will require us to have a stated aim, trustees and at least a few paid employees. It will enable us to apply for funding to undertake all the projects we’ve identified as needing doing, such as recruiting more volunteers, building a better website, energy mapping across the county, supporting local projects, and so much more.
It will also enable us to act as an organisation that connects organisations – there are so many charities, companies, not-for-profits and public institutions out there, all offering advice and support, there is an urgent and vital need for something or somebody to connect the dots for people and signpost them to where will be of most use to them. For example, a resident in Pontesbury might want advice on recycling, a company in Telford might want support with switching their fleet of vehicles to renewables, and a charity in Oswestry might want help with rewilding.
The journey to date has been energising, positive, painful, frustrating, exhausting, interesting, and a whole lot of other things. And we’ve only just begun!
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Generation Zero Carbon Shropshire
Keen to get more young people involved, we set up ‘Generation Zero Carbon Shropshire’. Connected to but independent from SCAP, the group is run for and by 16-30 year-olds. With a fantastic website, they are engaging with young people all over the county via social media, blogging, running competitions and developing a schools’ pack on sustainability for KS3 students.