Lively cafe conversation

Steady State Manchester (SSM) welcomed many new faces to a lively and exciting  conversation on 20th October: ‘Climate change is an emergency: what do we know about the best way of influencing decision makers?’ It was a hopeful and inspiring evening. Our next café conversation will be on Monday 21st November for SSM members to influence our strategy for 2017.  If you are not a member and would like to come, join now.

Participants at our October conversation included an architect, a fire officer, local government and business personnel as well as valued ‘usual suspects’ including activists and academics.

Two brief provocations from SSM collective members introduced the conversations. Mark Burton outlined the scale of the emergency and suggested that the problem of creating momentum for the necessary change is not fundamentally a communication issue.  Judith Emanuel argued that we can learn from many examples of cultural transformation and avoid costly and time consuming mistakes which have been made before.

Participants energetically engaged with these provocations and identified a wide range of scenarios, positive and negative that we can learn more from. These included :

  • Tactics used by successful lobbyists including the oil, gas and fracking industries
  • Developing a greater understanding of how legislation-driven change, for example around drink driving, seat belts in cars, smoking bans and climate change, has been achieved.
  • How measures to change the context of individual action, such as practical facilities, fines etc., can make the change an easier choice, for example bins for dog mess.

Some interesting stories emerged :

The Premier Inn story

The Construction Manager at Premier Inn politely declined an invitation to an exhibition about Eco Building. That evening he told his wife and daughter about it. His 14 year old daughter urged him to go. As a result he changed his mind and attended with one of the company directors. Attending the exhibition led to transformational decision making. Rather than defensively complying with building regulations every couple of years, Premier Inn decided to improve their sustainability building standards in one go and use this as a marketing attraction.

Waltham Forest Local Authority Pension Fund fossil fuel divestment

This is the first local authority pension fund to divest from fossil fuels. The decision has partly been led by recognition that there is an increasing financial risk in investing in fossil fuels.  It illustrates the value of aligning the climate change message with that of improved economic security (where it is appropriate to do so).

A first in Leeds

Leeds City Council and local businesses will replace the use of gas with hydrogen power in the next 10 years.   Hydrogen gas is significant because it can be generated by electrolysis using surplus power at times when renewables are generating strongly.

These stories illustrate a range of possibilities for influencing decision makers to address climate change

We concluded by acknowledging the shared learning which had taken place including:

  • The value of appealing to what is important to others, for example, family, financial security.
  • Whether our focus should be decision makers; the need to connect with their concerns as people-as well as professionals /politicians, etc.
  • The possibility that change is and will come from the cities with the absence of the lead needed nationally and internationally.

It was a hopeful and inspiring evening. Our next café conversation will be on Monday 21st November for SSM members to influence our strategy for 2017.  If you are not a member and would like to come, join now.

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