I’ve worked on climate change for 20 years as an officer at local authorities, managing Climate South East and currently as Climate Lead for the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
During this time I had the opportunity to work on ground breaking and innovative sustainability and climate change initiatives at an organisational and community level as well as shaping several climate-related policies and strategies.
Climate change was high on the agenda until 2009 and councils worked collaboratively and measured their emissions methodically. Public perception of climate change was as high then as it is now and Lewes District Council (where I worked then) was fully engaged with local communities in many ways.
And yet, all of this was wiped away in the recession and the great ‘Bonfire of the Sustainability Officers’ that took place as councils facing increasing financial pressures whittled their climate change resources to the bone. As both a casualty of this time and as a survivor working in another council this was an increasingly frustrating time as the years of embedding sustainability practices were (ironically) wiped out overnight. It dawned on me (belatedly) that national and local politics were fundamental in shaping the local climate discourse and my decision to stand as a local councillor coincided with a renewed understanding nationally that more urgency was needed in addressing climate change.
What was previously a ‘Climate Crisis’ became a ‘climate emergency’ and was given new impetus with the UN Special report by the Independent Panel on Climate Change in December 2018 stating that temperatures would likely exceed 1.5 degrees C between 2030 and 2052 at current levels of CO2 with devasting impacts on humanity and nature.
This resulted in a number of councils declaring (with different timelines) climate emergencies.
“I was elected as a Green councillor in May 2019, joining the cabinet when – as an alliance between the Green Party, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – we took control of Lewes District Council. The first motion I brought forward was to declare Climate Emergency committing the council to reducing its emissions to Net Zero and being fully climate resilient by 2030.”