Cambridgeshire Fens citizens call for “bold ideas and leadership” in response to climate crisis
- “We’re stuck in the boiler room of the Titanic” while others make decisions, one frustrated panel member declares
Too often, “the people who can least afford the burden, get the burden” says another
Residents from across the Cambridgeshire Fens have come together as a ‘climate panel’ to create guiding principles for a fair response to the nature and climate crises.
The panel wants to see more practical support provided, especially for those on low incomes, to reduce emissions and protect the natural world. Participants said they wanted people to be able to make choices that were good for the environment, that were also affordable, convenient, safe, reliable and attractive.
They felt this was particularly relevant for the changes people are being asked to make to how they travel, as well as how we heat our homes and what we eat.
In a report published today by the IPPR think tank, panel members call for greater transparency in decision making and more locally tailored information. The panel wants the impact of the climate and nature crises within their area to be better understood, and more information about what changes are needed and the timescale for implementing these.
One participant quoted in the report said she felt that, because she was poor, it was like she was “stuck in the boiler room of the Titanic”. She wanted everyone to be involved in taking action on the climate crisis but said that, at the moment, it feels like only a very small number of people are in charge “with most people stuck in steerage [on the sinking ship]”.
Participants talked about “making sure those who are not well off can afford what it’s going to cost” to make the changes needed. Too often, one said, “the people who can least afford the burden, get the burden”. (More comments are included in the report).
The panel was clear that decision making should be governed by a commitment to do as little harm as possible to the natural world. It called for “bold ideas and leadership”, and for the region to harness its local strengths.
The Cambridgeshire Fens is an area at high risk from the climate crisis, including from flooding, water shortages and heatwaves. The wider Cambridgeshire and Peterborough region also has some of the highest emissions per person in the UK: almost 25 per cent above the UK average.
The panel wants action to be focused on the areas where we can make the biggest differences – such as transport and industry emissions, which are above the national average – and thought this should be reflected in investment.
The panel's members, 17 representative Cambridgeshire Fens residents, came from a range of backgrounds and were convened by a leading think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). They were asked by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate (CPICC) to explore the principles to be used when considering how the region should respond to the challenges of climate change.
Their thinking, set out fully in today’s report published by IPPR, informed the commission’s recent recommendations to the Mayor, combined authority and local authorities.
Becca Massey-Chase, co-deputy head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission and chair of the events, said:
“The Cambridgeshire Fens are at high risk from the impacts of the climate crisis. The action needed to tackle this, and to reduce the area’s emissions presents an opportunity to also improve the lives of the people who live and work in the Cambridgeshire Fens."
Cambridgeshire Fens resident and climate panel member, Ben, said:
“Not only do I feel like I have learned a lot, I feel like the organisers of the panel took the time to listen to each and every one of us, valuing every point that we each made. It really was a pleasure to give up my weekend for something so vitally important for all of our futures.”
Rhiannon Osborne, of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough independent Commission on Climate, said:
“The Cambridgeshire Fens climate panel was an essential contribution to our latest report on climate mitigation and adaption in the region, especially on the topic of a Just Transition. The principles and ideas designed by the participants have been incorporated into multiple new recommendations to the local authorities.
"This work demonstrates clearly how important it is to meaningfully involve residents if we are to ensure the local climate action is fair, inclusive and maximises benefits for communities.”
Becca Massey-Chase, co-deputy head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission, and Luke Murphy, head of IPPR’s Environmental Justice Commission and associate director for Energy, Climate, Housing and Infrastructure, are available for interview.
David Wastell, Head of News and Communications: 07921 403651 [email protected]
Robin Harvey, Digital and Media Officer: 07779 204798 [email protected]
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The report, Cambridgeshire Fens Climate Panel: Briefing and Recommendations,is published at 0001 on Tuesday October 26 at
2. The Cambridgeshire Fens Climate Panel was commissioned by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate (CPICC), to gather input from local residents for the commission’s most recent report to the Mayor, combined authority and local councils. That report specifically looks at the issue of fairness and community involvement in local climate action.
3. CPICC was created by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority in 2020, on the recommendation of the Combined Authority Board. Its task is to provide authoritative recommendations to help the region mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, enabling us to meet the commitment to eradicating net carbon emissions across the area by 2050. The Commission’s most recent report can be found here: https://cambridgeshirepeterborough-ca.gov.uk/news/climate-commission-calls-for-fairness-and-equity-in-tackling-the-impacts-of-climate-change/
4. Participants for the climate panel were recruited by IPPR, working with the Sortition Foundation, to be representative of the region.
5. The 10 principles put forward by the Cambridgeshire Fens Climate Panel to respond to the nature and climate crises, in their own words were:
Provide clear, inclusive communication on the crises and the challenges and opportunities facing the Cambridgeshire Fens. This means providing regular and up to date, fact-checked information and being transparent. We can't give people responsibility if they don't know how to change. It also means listening and feeding back - communication being two-way.
Provide practical help to support people to make good decisions, including guidance, financial support, and support for local networks.
Do no harm, where possible. Like doctors, all people and organisations should do as little harm as possible to the natural world. For example, developers should make sure they are taking account of existing habitats and biodiversity.
Decisions should be made locally and with the community, in combination with a joined-up approach across the wider region.
Protect those on the lowest incomes. The poorest are already suffering from the current system; they are too often targets, so they must be protected.
Respect the natural world and the environment.
Actions must be fair locally, nationally, and internationally.
We want to see bold ideas and leadership - big ambitious projects that could have a big impact. We shouldn't be tinkering with small things, but thinking in a joined-up, big picture way.
Everyone has a role to play. The government must play their part, but we all need to play our part too - small actions can add up to a big difference.
Those causing the biggest issues pay
6. The fens include almost a quarter of the lowland peat areas in England and Wales. They make up 4 per cent of the UK's total land but produce 7 per cent of its food, including one third of the UK's vegetables.
7. Previous IPPR reports on climate panels include:
- South Wales Valleys Climate and Fairness Panel https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/citizens-jury-south-wales-valleys
- Aberdeenshire Climate and Fairness Panel https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/citizens-jury-aberdeenshire
- Thurrock Climate and Fairness Panel
- Tees Valley and County Durham Climate and Fairness Panel
- The final report of the IPPR Environmental Justice Commission, Fairness and opportunity: A people-powered plan for the green transition https://www.ippr.org/research/publications/fairness-and-opportunity
8. IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence. www.ippr.org