Meeting with the RT Hon Alec Shelbrooke MP on the Challenges of the Climate Crisis.
By Trish Sandbach, Vice Chair J&P Leeds
At first a few of us felt daunted by the thought of meeting with our MP. Having looked at the Parliament in Your Parish on CAFOD’s website and being blessed with someone on our team who was experienced our anxiety levels fell.
Over the years we have established a reasonably good relationship with Alec Shelbrooke in that he has visited Garforth and signed CAFOD petitions on development campaigns and been the recipient of emails on many issues. We contacted his office and his secretary, after some negotiation, set up a zoom meeting to discuss Climate Change issues and COP26 which, as you know, our Government is hosting in November this year in Glasgow. We are only too aware that time is short and we are in a climate crisis.
We sent him a copy of the CAFOD leaflet suggested questions to ask your MP to give him some idea of what we might be looking at and taking further.
Our next step was to decide who would be involved. Originally we thought we might invite a lot of people for support us but after discussion among ourselves, and negotiations with his secretary, we decided a small group would be better as he had already met some of this group. The Zoom was for 55 minutes because he had another meeting following ours.
Before meeting with him the small group of 5 people met in a flower-filled garden, in the sunshine outside, suitably distanced and discussed what questions we would each raise. It was for me my first real- life social encounter for quite some time and I found it very energizing! While I appreciate the
person in my Bubble it was great to be with a few more friends!
Having made those decisions, we took responsibility for making sure we would be informed, not duplicating anything, and had facts and figures to hand if we needed them, as well as additional information that would help to probe further or make links between the issues.. We agreed who would chair the meeting, take notes and on the order of the questions.
He spoke very briefly to begin with and we introduced ourselves. The questions were focused but had the possibility of broadening out depending on his responses. The opening question related to Information from the latest report from the Climate Change Committee. He said he had read what the media said about it but not had time to read it himself. He said he would. He was also straight-forward in his response to the question why the promised $US 100b. to Developing Countries for Mitigation and Adaptation to Climate Change by the wealthiest counties at the Paris COP had not been delivered –it had been promised again by the G7 in June- so what had changed this time to make it happen? His reply was unexpected!
He said he did not know how to answer the question but he would try and formulate a Parliamentary question about it and let us know. We discussed the need to move away from fossil fuel and agreed on some of the unethical production processes of fuel from biomass. He was first to raise the evils of child practices associated with the mining of rare earth elements in DRC used in batteries for electric cars however we did not agree on the Cumbrian coal mine re-opening!
His thinking was the UK should a leading position in the world when it came to environmental issues. We will hold him to that!
We touched on a number of issues such as plastic waste and its overseas disposal i.e. dumping and burning which is horribly unsafe. Farming issues were raised and he learned from one of our team about farmers sequestering carbon in grass and clover lays which he knew nothing about but said he would look into the possibility of encouraging farmers to adopt the practice. We briefly touched on cancellation of debts and cuts in Aid but time went quickly.
It was a positive meeting in that we felt we have been listened to and he had taken in our concerns. He was complimentary as to our mutually respectful conversation, our level of knowledge of the issues and had enjoyed meeting with us. In our follow-up we were specific about the questions we wanted answered. We had a debriefing meeting to discuss how it had gone and what to do next,. How we felt about it and how to ensure that Alec Shelbrooke would follow up on the issues we raised.
We will contact him again around the time of COP 26 to see how things are developing with the actions that he agreed to forward and arrange another meeting after COP26.