Together with approximately 150 people I spent a precious Saturday at New Century House in the centre of Manchester, at a conference organised by Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, Oxfam and the Co-op. After a swift introduction from the organisers, Penney Poyzer, the “Queen of Green”, after starting off rather slowly got into her entertaining stride. She urged us to step back, think clearly and not be blinded by our passions. She described how she had converted her house to harvest rainwater, “low fat water2, a few years ago, but had recently found out that this used more carbon than it saved.
Elvis Sukali, the Communications and Media Officer for Malawi Oxfam, spoke about the impact of climate change in Malawi. The rainfall season is shorter, more intense and more destructive and the cold season has been reduced to a few days. This has lead to water and food shortages, and increase in disease and poverty. Oxfam are helping farmers to use drought resistant crops and develop irrigation.
The message from Kevin Anderson, from the Tyndall Centre, was stark. Economic growth and reducing carbon to a safe level are incompatible. The United Kingdom Climate Change Committee estimated that a 3% per annum decrease in carbon production was compatible with economic growth. More than 10% per annum decrease is needed for a 3 degree average increase in climate temperature. Radical action is needed within the next 18 months.
In question time, George Marshall from COIN (Climate Outreach and Information Network) was asked about how to persuade people to change. He said that, in a sentiment echoed by other speakers, that the climate change movement needs to widen out from the activists. We need to identify people like the people who need persuading, and work with them, not try to take people on directly.
During lunch there was time to go round the stalls and attend discussion groups followed by a performance from the Low Carbon Shakespeare Company.
Lucy Pearce from the secretariat to the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition spoke passionately about their work but mostly about the preparations leading up to The Wave on December 5th, urging everyone to go and tell everyone else they know. She showed a great short film prepared by the UK Youth Climate Change Coalition of “The Wave Dance flash mob” which you can see here.
The conference ended with discussion about what action we could take in our local communities to encourage people to change their behaviour.