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“Our representatives need to know we care”: Sheffield climate activists react to COP26

We asked local activists what they thought of the international summit in Glasgow - and what comes next here in Sheffield to tackle the climate crisis.

Sheffield skyline from tall building Upperthorpe
Gary Butterfield

With COP26 disappearing in the rear view mirror, many have voiced disappointment and despair at the scale of commitments made at the international climate conference.

But while the crisis gets more urgent by the day, the many activists, coordinators and thinkers of Sheffield are not giving up on the biggest challenge facing humanity.

We asked a few of them to share their thoughts on COP26, but also, critically, what’s next for climate action in our city.

Minesh Parekh, Sheffield Labour for a Green New Deal activist and Now Then contributor, said COP26 had been “predictably awful”.

He noted that the global north had failed to deliver on promises for financing climate mitigation in the global south and that the UK, US and EU had made it “their joint mission to remove any sense of justice from the final [COP26] agreement.”

“In the lead up to [COP26], I wrote that what we needed […] was to foster local climate revolutions in every community and local area, with much more ambitious targets.

“It is all of our responsibilities to hold our politicians to this.”

Emmott Baddeley, also part of Labour for a New Green Deal as well as Foodhall Sheffield, agreed that global north governments had “actively excluded the voices of those who most needed raising up”.

They said that it was now time for “grassroots movements to take a lead on a local level to deliver international justice.”

“I would urge everyone to throw themselves into their local community, engage with projects like Foodhall, and strengthen local relationships, so that when the time comes to stand up and make national and international change, we have strong networks through which to create that change and with which to support each other.”

Writing on his blog after COP26, Green Party activist and climate campaigner Graham Wroe said: “Among the hundreds of banners and placards at [Saturday 6 November’s] massive Climate Justice demonstration in Sheffield, this is the one that spoke most to me: ‘Don’t give up.’

“Having witnessed the failure of COP26 it is tempting to throw in the towel, become oblivious to the bad news and enjoy the rest of the time we have on Earth as best we can. But that would be shirking our responsibilities.”

Friends of the Earth Sheffield coordinator Lindy Stone, who travelled to Glasgow for the conference, pointed out that the fact there was “no ‘sugar sweet’ answer” at COP26 indicates “the depth of the challenge.”

“In terms of Sheffield, we will be putting repeated and increasing pressure on the Council to recognise the urgency of the climate and nature crisis. The draft 10 Point Plan is too weak and does not build sufficiently well on the Pathways to Zero Carbon report.

“All our representatives need to know we care, we recognise the crisis and expect them to act like they understand the urgency.”

Craig Gamble Pugh, co-chair of South Yorkshire Climate Alliance, which is coordinating a regional climate action project under the name Can Do South Yorkshire, said the alliance was sick of hearing what government and big businesses “can’t do”.

“In South Yorkshire, we're focussing on all the many, many things people Can Do to tackle the crisis.

“The ideas, the science, the technology exists to solve this crisis, and ensure our planet remains habitable for future generations. Governments can do it, but right now they won't. That has to change.”

Local campaigner and climate communications expert Nick Nuttgens said he was “concerned that it is only too easy to encourage fatalism” in the face of the climate crisis.

“Instead of arguing about whether [campaigners] should be putting out optimistic or pessimistic messages to the general public, we should be engaging it in a more sophisticated, nuanced debate which accommodates all perspectives.

“Let’s make it the new norm to practise a constructive, rigorous, creative, critical thinking process.”

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