This article was written by Damian and published in this week's edition of the Herald and Petersfield Post:
"The buzz and atmosphere at the COP26 East Hampshire event last week were fantastic. From the electric vehicle displays in the car park to the students on stage talking about their schools’ initiatives, from the busy exhibition rooms to the inspiring case study videos on show in the auditorium.
Creating this sense of community action and engagement was exactly the intent behind the event, and I was delighted to see it come to life on the day, and grateful to all who took part.
I was less than delighted to be ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app less than an hour before the start of the presentations (though I am pleased to report that the subsequent PCR test was negative) which meant I wasn’t able myself to take part in the proceedings as planned.
I was, however, able to watch the whole event via the livestream online, and I am extremely grateful to the whole team for delivering such a useful and motivational event.
With around 400 people coming through the doors (and more on the livestream), it was encouraging to see such a high level of interest, with everyone I think going away with some new ideas and contacts from the presentations, discussions and the 40 or so exhibitors who took part.
The range of community groups, businesses, schools and business advisers across the exhibition hall was great – from stores selling e bikes to ‘refill’ retailers that reduce the use of single use plastic – with a host of local groups able to give help and advice to families and businesses on how to reduce our collective carbon footprint. I’m grateful, too, to the Herald and Post who have been instrumental in spreading awareness locally of key environmental issues and opportunities.
The main part of the day was focused on the findings and recommendations from the three Action Groups that had been working together over recent weeks, considering the challenges and opportunities to accelerate the path to decarbonise our use of transport, buildings as well as land here in East Hampshire.
We will now be sharing the reports from these groups to the key audiences: policy recommendations for government, and ideas for local authorities, as well as suggestions for how individuals and business leaders can take action for ourselves.
The primary emphasis is on our own area, and it was good to hear directly from Gill Kneller, the Chief Executive of EHDC on the steps the council is taking to support local initiatives and, for example, to progress tree planting across the district.
The council is also ensuring that formal decisions take into account environmental impacts and consider how those can be minimised, with further public engagement on the challenges of climate change being hosted by this year’s EHDC Climate Champion, Councillor Steve Hunt.
One of the important outputs from the Action Groups was the development of case studies that highlight some of the great work already underway locally. Among others, we heard from organisations such as East Meon’s Sustainability Centre on their home retrofitting programme, Petersfield’s Whitman Labs on their major solar power installation, Applegarth Farm’s innovative use in Grayshott of aeroponic towers for growing produce, and Alton Community Cupboard’s work to reduce food waste.
Of particular note was the launch at the event of the Clean Heat Guide by Energy Alton, a free document that helps people consider the alternatives to gas or electric heating systems.
A specific area of the exhibition, and presentation programme, was designed to help small businesses find out more about how to decarbonise their operations, and it was good to hear about the funding and support available through our local Enterprise M3 LEP and also to learn more from the NFU on the farming community’s plans to reach Net Zero.
All of these contacts, along with copies of the individual presentations and case study videos, will be made available this week via EHDC's and my own website.
I was particularly impressed by the contributions of our local schools at the event, with students from secondary schools presenting live to the audience, and a number of primary and secondary schools attending as exhibitors or making videos.
It is clear that there is much we are already doing here in East Hampshire, and very much that we can still do, to make a contribution to the local, national and international effort.
What we do truly matters, both individually and collectively, and I look forward to supporting the efforts of government, local authorities, schools, businesses and community groups in helping to make that happen."