Thursday, 24 March 2011

The first National Climate Week, March 21-27, 2011

Attending the Climate Week launch reception was a remarkable experience, if only because I had no idea what to expect of the venue, Lancaster House. Built by eminent next door neighbours of the residents of Saint James Palace, the building is now administered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and is very rarely open to the public. It has a rich history, and in recent years was the venue of the 10th and 17th G7 summits.

It has also served as backdrop for some famous box office successes, such as The Young
Victoria, and The King’s Speech, because it provides a credible and accessible substitute for the state rooms of Buckingham Palace. Various climate campaigners, who usually inhabit hard-pressed, under-funded NGO offices, met over quality coffee and delicate shortbread biscuits, possibly, as I was, feeing somewhat out of place.

The Climate Week project has successfully united business/finance, political- and celebrity-clouts, with ordinary individuals, communities, businesses great and small, artists, et al, to highlight that people up and down the country are committed to tackling causes of climate change. I thought the whole project was an administrative triumph.

Tesco is the primary sponsor, together with Aviva, EDF Energy, Kellogg’s and the Royal Bank of Scotland. (Possibly creating a multiple mark-up on the price of your bowl of breakfast cereal – but all in an excellent cause!)

Chris Hulne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change had been diverted to urgent discussions concerning the humanitarian, ecological and economic crises in Japan and Lord Marland, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, spoke in his stead. The Prime Minister recorded a one minute video for the occasion.

The real stars of this event, however, were the people who had entered ideas and projects for the 14 competetive categories selected for the Climate Week celebration. There were possibly many others who did not make the final short-lists of four entries in each category.

Just to give a flavour of their achievements, the winners in the Best Community Initiative, began with just two volunteers realising that the River Ribble might be harnessed to generate electricity. They raised £410,000 from grants loans and private investors, and the Settle Hydro 165,000 kW turbine has been turning since December 2009, selling electricity to the National Grid.

The Best New Product was won by ‘Vegware’, which is biodegradable substitute for all those disposable plastic cups, cutlery and packaging which are part of our modern living. Their sales in 2010 saved 110 tonnes of carbon and 99 tonnes of virgin materials. Interested? See .

Of the remaining 54 shortlisted entries, it was particularly encouraging to read of the initiatives of the four Most Inspirational Young Person(s), and I couldn’t help delighting in the award for the Best Initiative by a Public or Uniformed Service, awarded to University Hospital of South Manchester, where I once worked as part-time chaplain, and which now ploughs £120,000 from its previous energy budget into patient care, (in part resulting from the installation of two biomass boilers, a ground source heat pump, and other efficiency savings).
The rest of this treasure trove of creative thinking can be savoured at

As I stood in these exceptionally rich surroundings, I found myself thinking again of the Ugandan minister who wrote to me a couple of years ago, “…drought has resulted in total crop failure leading to severe famine… Food is scare and the prices are shocking. This makes it quite hard to meet several basic needs including FOOD for my family,” (of seven children).

Perhaps Climate Week's powerful endorsement of the importance of the issue will trigger more action to address the global ecological crisis. All the signals were proclaiming, ‘this issue is worthy of attention in high places'. My hope is that the churches will observe climate week on their annual calendars, using it as a focus of prayer and action and support for those who work in ways that this event has celebrated.

As I lead all-age worship this coming Sunday in our Local Ecumenical Partnership, focusing on the theme of our Joint Public Issues Team publication, Hope in God’s Future, I look forward to sharing something of the achievement of the ordinary but award-winning individuals and communities, whose creative ideas will hopefully encourage us all to get involved in acting for the future of humanity.