Holyrood 350 — H35O

4 Action Points For Holyrood To Avert Climate Chaos

Personal Reflections on Holyrood 350’s Sept 10th event in Parliament (by Justin Kenrick)

September 30th, 2009 · No Comments

As peo­ple from com­mu­ni­ty ini­tia­tives cam­paign­ing in sup­port of the Scot­tish Government’s cli­mate change tar­gets – and propos­ing the rad­i­cal mea­sures required for them to ful­fil and sur­pass those tar­gets — we appre­ci­ate every help­ful tar­get they estab­lish, every pol­i­cy that helps, and pos­i­tive­ly insist that they (and we) must (and can) do far more so that we can dras­ti­cal­ly cut emis­sions, and build a thriv­ing soci­ety through enabling sus­tain­able com­mu­ni­ties.

Rather than point­ing to oth­ers fail­ings, we can recog­nise what is of worth in every­one who we work with – includ­ing politi­cians — and start from there. This is about build­ing rela­tion­ship, rather than appor­tion­ing blame.  We are all com­plex peo­ple, with our strengths and weak­ness­es. To build the rela­tion­ships, move­ment and polit­i­cal process­es we need as fast as we need, there is no point tak­ing the blame short-cut to nowhere, and every point in recog­nis­ing what is of worth in those we meet and in our­selves, and recog­nis­ing our weaknesses/ vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties – and con­nect­ing (rather than divid­ing) through both.

We can be per­suad­ed that THEY (in this case, politi­cians) are pow­er­ful and we are pow­er­less, or that they are fixed and stuck and immov­able expres­sions of the struc­tures we are up against, where­as WE (who­ev­er ‘we’ are) are com­plex respon­sive evolv­ing human beings. This divi­sion between politi­cians and peo­ple is incred­i­bly paralysing for both. What we need (and what we are attempt­ing through Holy­rood 350) is to not get sucked into the glam­our of pow­er, (as in “I’m important/ effective/ worth­while because you’re not”) but nor to get sucked into the abdi­ca­tion of pow­er (as in “I can do noth­ing, I’m not to blame because you are politically/ organ­i­sa­tion­al­ly stupid/ malev­o­lent”).

Tak­ing this approach, we have to believe we can find the cre­ativ­i­ty, respon­sive­ness and pow­er­ful vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to sit with oth­ers as equals (what­ev­er they think of them­selves, what­ev­er they think of us) and insist that the days of post­pone­ment are over, action is now and here and nowhere else.

When peo­ple from com­mu­ni­ty car­bon reduc­tion ini­tia­tives from across Scot­land went to the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment on Thurs­day 10th Sep­tem­ber, we went to ask them to imple­ment a 4 point pol­i­cy frame­work that can work with the grain of com­mu­ni­ty action, rather than us always work­ing against the grain of the over­all eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal frame­work. We argued that these first steps – although com­plete­ly insuf­fi­cient in them­selves – can enable us to break the dead­lock. These steps can enable us to begin mov­ing in the right direc­tion, not only at the com­mu­ni­ty lev­el but at the nation­al lev­el. Just as com­mu­ni­ty ini­tia­tives can inspire oth­ers to take response-abil­i­ty and act, so one coun­try act­ing bold­ly can help break the inter­na­tion­al dead­lock and kick-start the race out of car­bon.

On Thurs­day Sep­tem­ber the 10th 2009, peo­ple from across Scot­land who are work­ing to reduce their com­mu­ni­ties car­bon emis­sions, came togeth­er in the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment at Holy­rood to ask the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to put in place a rad­i­cal pol­i­cy frame­work to ensure that we col­lec­tive­ly decar­bonise soci­ety fast.

This had been billed as ‘A Cli­mate Active Par­ty in the Par­lia­ment’, and it was extra­or­di­nary that we had a com­plete­ly full house of peo­ple, pas­sion­ate about their com­mu­ni­ty lev­el work and want­i­ng to take this work to the nation­al lev­el too, aware that with­out that our work will come to noth­ing, and aware that with that, we can become an exam­ple to the world of how a soci­ety can address cli­mate change and peak oil, and improve our qual­i­ty of life in the process.

The day was orga­nized by peo­ple from a range of com­mu­ni­ty car­bon reduc­tion ini­tia­tives – we’ve called our­selves Holy­rood 350, since we aim to ensure that Holy­rood cre­ates the right frame­work to enable us to play our part in get­ting emis­sions back down to a safe lev­el below 350ppm.

We offered food, and Hamish Moore played his bag­pipes beau­ti­ful­ly slow­ing the pace as peo­ple entered the largest com­mit­tee room in Holy­rood (it can take a hun­dred folk), a room with a real sense of space: high up with high ceil­ings, and stun­ning views to Arthurs Seat and the Pent­land Hills beyond.

We were warm­ly wel­comed by Aileen Camp­bell MSP, and we then wel­comed the MSPs and every­one to a cel­e­bra­tion of com­mu­ni­ty action. We began by offer­ing them sto­ries of what is pos­si­ble if peo­ple put their ener­gies into mak­ing change hap­pen – sto­ries to let them know what we’re doing, and sto­ries to give them the courage to join us in act­ing bold­ly. The sto­ries were from a range of com­mu­ni­ties across Scot­land: Lucy Con­way spoke about com­mu­ni­ty-owned renew­ables and liv­ing with­in lim­its on the Isle of Eigg, Mike Small spoke about how peo­ple had been inspired to eat local through the Fife Diet, Tom Black spoke about Portobello’s Tran­si­tion Town ini­tia­tive on the edge of the cap­i­tal, and Dan­ny Alder­slowe spoke about a range of relo­cal­i­sa­tion ini­tia­tives across Glasgow’s inner city. The last sto­ry end­ed with Dan­ny voic­ing our resound­ing thanks to this Gov­ern­ment and this Par­lia­ment for two extra­or­di­nary pieces of leg­is­la­tion. The first being the £27.4 mil­lion Cli­mate Chal­lenge Fund to sup­port com­mu­ni­ty car­bon-reduc­tion ini­tia­tives that was pro­posed by the Greens and tak­en up by the Scot­tish Nation­al Par­ty Gov­ern­ment, the sec­ond being the recent Cli­mate Change Bill unan­i­mous­ly passed by the Par­lia­ment, estab­lish­ing the world’s most ambi­tious emis­sion reduc­tion tar­gets of 42% by 2020, and 80% by 2050.

Imme­di­ate­ly after we had applaud­ed their ambi­tious tar­gets, the experts we had brought in began the process of explain­ing why these tar­gets were not near­ly enough and what we need to do to address this prob­lem.

Tim Hel­weg-Larsen from the Pub­lic Inter­est research Cen­tre in Machyn­l­leth, sum­ma­rized PIRC’s Cli­mate Safe­ty report, clear­ly artic­u­lat­ing why the sci­ence is say­ing such tar­gets are nowhere near bold enough, and that we need to take action to get down from the cur­rent car­bon over­shoot of 387ppm, and get back below 350ppm as soon as pos­si­ble.

In the light of the sci­ence, in response to the need to meet and sur­pass Holyrood’s tar­gets, and in line with the action com­mu­ni­ties across Scot­land have embarked on, we pre­sent­ed three per­spec­tives on Holy­rood 350’s pro­posed plan of action: 4 steps to cre­ate a pol­i­cy frame­work to sup­port and enable all com­mu­ni­ties in Scot­land to take effec­tive action and so enable Scot­land to lead the world by exam­ple.

Bri­an Dav­ey pre­sent­ed ‘Cap and Share’ as the first cru­cial step to lim­it and rapid­ly reduce car­bon com­ing into the econ­o­my, and to redis­trib­ute wealth so that the major­i­ty of peo­ple who emit below the aver­age are finan­cial­ly reward­ed and the high-emit­ters penal­ized, as the cost of fos­sil fuels and car­bon embed­ded prod­ucts soar and renew­able ener­gy schemes and car­bon-neu­tral prod­ucts become com­pet­i­tive.

Dun­can McLaren, of Friends of the Earth Scot­land, pre­sent­ed the recent ‘Pow­er of Scot­land Renewed’ report, sup­port­ing Holy­rood 350’s tar­get of get­ting back below 350ppm and out­lin­ing how Scot­land could become ener­gy healthy, with 100% renew­able ener­gy by 2030.

The final pre­sen­ter, Shaun Cham­ber­lin, author of Tran­si­tion Time­line, argued for relo­cal­i­sa­tion. That very morn­ing Shaun had turned his final pow­er-point slide upside down to be in keep­ing with the event. Pre­vi­ous­ly, it had placed a Copen­hagen agree­ment at the top, with nation­al poli­cies (such as Trad­able Ener­gy Quo­tas) as ways of imple­ment­ing such an agree­ment, and then com­mu­ni­ty and indi­vid­ual action below that as the place where emis­sions and zero-car­bon lifestyles actu­al­ly take place. In his pre­sen­ta­tion, Shaun reversed this and placed us com­ing togeth­er in com­mu­ni­ties to take action as the first step, and then the next step being all these com­mu­ni­ties (such as those involved in Holy­rood 350) com­ing togeth­er to ensure a nation­al frame­work is put in place to enable com­mu­ni­ty action to flour­ish and to inspire agree­ment between coun­tries inter­na­tion­al­ly.

Per­haps Shaun’s slide sums up the pol­i­tics we are attempt­ing: we need to act, and through that to inspire oth­ers to act, and if the politi­cians can’t see the steps need­ed then we will have to show them, and if they won’t take them then we’ll have to keep build­ing a move­ment that can insist they take those steps, or we’ll take them for them.

Which brings us to the next steps.

The first hour had (as is obvi­ous now!) been packed with way too many speak­ers. We had crammed all the cel­e­bra­tion of com­mu­ni­ty action, the applause for Parliament’s work so far, the stark sci­ence, and Holy­rood 350’s pol­i­cy frame­work, into an hour in order to ensure each MSP and Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter who had come would get a good sweep of the sto­ry before van­ish­ing. The fact that a dozen MSPs, includ­ing one Min­is­ter, (out of a total of 129) turned up can be seen as a suc­cess, or as a fail­ure, but it was cer­tain­ly a start. After the pre­sen­ta­tions they did (as we antic­i­pat­ed) all van­ish, and we broke into work­shops focus­ing on the 4 points of the action frame­work (cap­ping car­bon, com­mu­ni­ty-owned renew­ables, a real Green New Deal, and tran­si­tion through relo­cal­i­sa­tion). With­in each work­shop peo­ple flagged up their area of inter­est and broke into groups focus­ing on these. In fact we hadn’t thought the work­shops through well enough and – although some very inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion hap­pened – the nec­es­sary exper­tise on each sub­ject was often lack­ing, and time was lack­ing, for them to be real­ly sat­is­fy­ing.

After the work­shops, we came togeth­er in a ple­nary, a meet­ing which one of the politi­cians present lat­er described as feel­ing like a medieval moot. The pur­pose of the ple­nary was to dis­cuss how to take this for­ward, how to map out the next steps for this polit­i­cal­ly engaged aspect of the relo­cal­i­sa­tion move­ment. It was slight­ly chaot­ic, but open, flu­id, pow­er­ful stuff. The cul­tur­al sto­ry we have all been told has been falling apart as ecolo­gies and economies teeter on the brink, and the reas­sur­ing mantras of busi­ness as usu­al reg­u­lar­ly fail to con­vince the man or woman in the street. There is the cul­tur­al and polit­i­cal space to make the dra­mat­ic changes that need to hap­pen, hap­pen; but how?

A com­mu­ni­ty approach to the ‘how of pol­i­tics’ might be to map the ter­ri­to­ry, see what is unique to the con­text, ask what sto­ries peo­ple are pas­sion­ate about here, weave these into ways of encour­ag­ing them to realise their pow­er and realise the predica­ment we are in: bring­ing them on board with a pos­i­tive vision of how we need to – and can — reshape soci­ety, fast.

A com­mu­ni­ty approach to the ‘who of politi­cians’ might be to build rela­tion­ships with Politi­cians, active­ly com­mu­ni­cate our appre­ci­a­tion of each of them when they are tak­ing the right steps, invite them to join us, to be part of our com­mu­ni­ties and not just rep­re­sen­ta­tives of com­mu­ni­ties: enabling our com­mu­ni­ties to show them lead­er­ship, and insist­ing they join that lead­er­ship too.

A com­mu­ni­ty approach to the ‘what next?’ of this par­tic­u­lar polit­i­cal devel­op­ment may well involve anoth­er gath­er­ing in Par­lia­ment in Jan­u­ary or Feb­ru­ary, where we focus on the eco­nom­ics (the ‘how do we build sus­tain­able secure out­ward-look­ing com­mu­ni­ties?) aspect. Ful­ly aware that the UN Decem­ber 2009 Copen­hagen meet­ing is very unlike­ly to pro­duce any­thing like the agree­ments we col­lec­tive­ly need, and aware that the econ­o­my is almost cer­tain­ly going to take a far more seri­ous nose-dive (prob­a­bly lat­er in 2010, but pos­si­bly much ear­li­er), we are ask­ing whether the Jan/Feb meet­ing should refo­cus our atten­tion on the cli­mate of our com­mu­ni­ties (their social and mate­r­i­al health) as much as on the eco­log­i­cal cli­mate? If eco­nom­ic growth is dri­ving, not only the destruc­tion of ecolo­gies, but the destruc­tion of com­mu­ni­ties, do we present the evolv­ing Holy­rood 350 pol­i­cy pro­pos­als as a frame­work that can help ensure indi­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties suf­fi­cien­cy, safe­ty and well-being in the cur­rent cli­mate?

Some very excit­ing ideas have emerged involv­ing using a peti­tion to the peti­tions com­mit­tee as a way of build­ing ref­er­en­dum-type sup­port for the actions we are propos­ing, tak­ing debate and the­atre out to com­mu­ni­ties across Scot­land in a trav­el­ling road­show to build sup­port both for local com­mu­ni­ty action, and for action at the nation­al lev­el that can enable all com­mu­ni­ties to become resilient sus­tain­able and inspir­ing, and bring­ing the pow­er of the­atre to the Par­lia­ment itself. Very excit­ing ideas, very real ques­tions start­ing with ‘can we do it?’ well, we’ve begun.

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