Photo by Lorraine Fletcher | Article by Becky Gough
In September 2020, I attended the South Shropshire Climate Action (SSCA) conference. I had seen a post on social media, it sounded interesting and so I signed up to find out more. The conference was well attended and there were some interesting speakers at the meeting. I will admit that a lot of it went over my head initially but it definitely sparked my interest and I was keen to learn and find out more.
It took me a little time to get used to some of the terms and also to understand the set-up of the different organisations. I now know that South Shropshire Climate Action Group (SSCAG) was set up in 2019 and aims to write a plan for going zero carbon my March 2021 for the Ludlow constituency, this is a really large area and includes Bishop’s Castle, up to Church Stretton and also towns to the east of South Shropshire, such as Bridgnorth. It isn’t party political but our local MP Philip Dunne did attend and contribute to the conference.
I was also introduced at the conference to Shropshire Climate Action Partnership (SCAP) who are working with Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Councils and aim to write a ‘Zero Carbon Shropshire Plan’ for the entire county by January 2021.
Through attending the South Shropshire Climate Action (SSCA) conference, I became aware of Shropshire Climate Action Partnership (SCAP) and its website Zero Carbon Shropshire.
I was encouraged as a Shropshire resident to sign the pledge for SCAP’s Zero Carbon Shropshire Plan. I did this and then got invited onto their communication channel ‘Slack’ where you can view all the partnership’s information and events unfolding and can get involved in attending working groups if you wish, or are able to.
Following the South Shropshire Climate Action conference, I decided to join SSCA’s ‘Transport’ working group and have been focusing with a small group on walking and cycling to school in our area, the barriers to this and how these can be overcome to encourage more walking and cycling.
I have learnt about new projects that I was not already aware of in the area, such as Synergy Bike Hub. I was already aware of many of the community organisations in the area and I am pleased to hear that Shropshire AONB are now going to be working with South Shropshire Youth Forum to provide more opportunities for Young Ranger activities. I hope that this will see an increase in provision of extra-curricular activities in the south of the county for young people. I also note recently that SCAP have now linked in with Shropshire Wildlife Trust and intend to work with young people in the county fighting climate change. I look forward to seeing how this moves forward, in particular for young people in the south and I sincerely hope that this opens up the opportunity to work with and gain views from a diverse range of people within our communities, including those from BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) as well as different age groups and social backgrounds.
I have learnt about Let’s Go Zero, a UK wide campaign to encourage schools to unite to reaching zero carbon by 2030. I find this campaign of interest as it offers a potential opportunity for schools to unite together to support each other to achieve climate action. As it is a UK wide campaign, all Shropshire schools are able to sign up, as well as our neighbours to the west in Powys, Wales can join and those to south of the county in Herefordshire. South Shropshire has a history of working closely and sharing ideas and resources with our neighbours and this campaign could potentially offer a forum for schools to continue to work together across counties and borders.
The working group has led me to look at other areas in the south of Shropshire, in particular Bridgnorth which has some excellent examples of how they are coming together to tackle climate change and demonstrates the unique and individual identities that exist in the south of the county.
I am also reading more about different strategies that other countries and areas in the UK have taken to encourage walking and cycling and reduce carbon and I have started to look more closely at Shropshire Council’s proposed transport strategies.
Shropshire Council have recently announced new roadworks which will improve cycling paths in Shrewsbury and also the county’s first School Street which will also be in Shrewsbury. These are positive first steps and I hope that this signals the beginning of our council’s efforts to reduce carbon and that further measures will also include attention to the south of the county. It is also an opportunity for the council to learn and gain feedback from communities before ‘rolling out’ ideas across the county.
In joining these groups, I have met others who share a passion for climate action and it has given me great hope at a time when I could easily despair of what the future holds. When my young children, who are quite aware of climate change, talk with me and ask questions about what can be done, I now feel that I have some answers for them and I have enjoyed sharing the ideas and aims of the groups with them. I hope in the near future that they will also get involved in the community consultation and engagement side of things.
By no means can I claim that I am a fully-fledged eco warrior, I have much to learn and even more that I need to change about my lifestyle. Admittedly, swapping the car for walking the children to school regularly has to be my first priority but being part of these groups inspires and motivates me to want to make those important changes. Also, entering this from the perspective of ‘Jo Bloggs’, if you like, as opposed to someone who is already 10 steps ahead, I feel that my contribution is worthwhile as I am the exact person that this county needs to reach.
In that respect, for these groups to be successful in their aims, they need to be open and welcoming to a diverse range of people. I can honestly say that I have been welcomed within the groups and although many of the participants have far more experience of report writing, cycling and eco-friendly living, etc, I have felt valued and included and I would encourage other ‘Jo Bloggs’ out there, with an interest in climate action to sign up and dip a toe in. This is a mammoth task and it is going to take all sorts of people from all walks of life to unite together for change.
The commitment can be as big, or small as you choose but even a little knowledge can go a really long way. It can potentially assist in asking the right questions to the right people, in the right places, in order to effect the kind of change you may want to see, e.g. less traffic on your local roads, lowered speed limits, more services in your area.
Look forward to welcoming you when you take the leap!