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Our comment: What we’ve learned this month……Pope, Porritt, and Elected Scapegoats

It’s been a busy few weeks for SWM both with internal activity, and developments in the region, nationally and around the world. Here we summarise what we’ve learned this month……

“Our Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”: The Pope’s encyclical on climate change

Pope Francis has called for his encyclical on the environment to be received with an “open spirit”, saying the unprecedented ecological statement should be seen as an appeal for responsibility. “This home of ours is being ruined and that damages everyone, especially the poor. Mine is an appeal for responsibility … I ask everyone to receive this document with an open spirit” he said. In the document the pontiff  issues a moral challenge to the global indifference to climate change, stating that humanity is failing in its God-given role to be a responsible steward of Earth, and time is running out to fix the problem. He includes calls to phase out fossil fuels especially coal, and encourages local community energy. Commentators are saying this will have a significant impact globally outside the secular UK.

Government to end onshore wind subsidies a year early…………

Thousands of jobs could be lost and millions of pounds in investment scrapped as a result of the government’s decision to end subsidies for onshore wind power a year earlier than planned, industry operators have warned. This means that power generators wanting to build onshore wind farms will have to compete for a strictly rationed system of subsidies. Renewables UK, speaking for the industry, warns that energy prices will rise as the governments cuts off the cheapest renewable energy supply, chilling future investment.

……….the greenest government ever?

Jonathon Porritt, who has supported SWM for many years, has produced his own personal review on the last Government “The Greenest Government Ever?” He believes there are signs of hope in terms of the recent appointments to DCLG and DECC. However, he also issues a challenge for the role of independent sustainability organisations and green non-governmental organisations to do a better job this time around of holding our elected representatives to account in building a better future.

Devolution requires ‘elected scapegoats’ and ‘stage names’….

The recent Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP AGM featured a great debate with local leaders and Lord Heseltine about the rush to devolution. What we took away was that central government will not devolve more powers unless there is someone high profile to blame locally. So, no new powers and money without some form of elected scapegoat. Several business delegates were very pragmatic in stating that they will call the area the stage name ‘Greater Birmingham’ to help win global business, even if the official registered name is likely to be the West Midlands Combined Authority. There were many great economic success stories down to the hard work of local partners, but also some selective reporting on local challenges. For example, as reported at our annual conference, although productivity is improving and carbon reduction is fluctuating, the gap in health inequality is growing. However we hope to be helping the new combined authority to harness this evidence and that of our members and networks later this year.

1:6 preventable deaths are caused by inactivity – let’s get moving!

At our Active and Innovative Transport day last week we had a fascinating presentation from Nigel Smith from Public Health England about the impact of inactivity. Physical inactivity is responsible for 1:6 of the preventable deaths in the UK and costs £7.4bn per year. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as there are some great initiatives around the region encouraging people to walk and cycle. All the presentations from the day are available on our website.

Local green business clubs really do make a difference

On 2 June we supported metnet and Resource Efficient Worcestershire at the Worcestershire Environmental and Energy Expo in Malvern and chaired a session on anaerobic digestion and biogas. Both organisations are members of our Green Business Clubs Network. The event was a shining example of the way that green business clubs can support their members and provide opportunities for networking as well as technical training on environmental issues. You can watch a video about the event here. Anna Bright and Simon Slater, on behalf of the SWM team.

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