Please read the open letter below, and if at the end you would like add your name to the list of signatories, write to firstname.lastname@example.org (the list is now closed but we would still like to hear from you.)
Open Letter to Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council
Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council's joint Climate Change Conference, due to take place at Warwick University on March 11th, seems to be shrouded in secrecy and exclusivity. Attendance is by invitation only, and many people who would like to attend, from a range of organisations in Coventry and Warwickshire, have had their requests to attend rejected.
They include people with nationally acknowledged expertise on some of the key issues, and others with long experience in leadership roles, working locally on the development of renewable energy resources. Even those who do have invitations have received almost no information about the event, and no indication of the kind of participation that will be possible.
Climate Emergency UK recently published a national survey of the climate emergency plans of UK local councils. Warwickshire County Council scored 25%, well below the average of 40% for county councils and placing it in the bottom third. Coventry City Council scored 0% -- it doesn't even have a climate emergency plan. So the two local authorities are hardly on top of the situation.
Not being on top of the situation is of course one of the the most striking feature of the climate crisis. For decades the world has failed to heed the warnings of scientists, which have grown more and more desperate, as witness the recent IPCC reports. Climate related disasters are coming thick and fast, with temperature records broken every year, and astonishing extremes of temperature and rainfall occurring in all parts of the world. For local government to behave, as Coventry and Warwickshire are doing, as if everything was under control and they knew best how to proceed, is a terrible error both at the practical level of planning and understanding, and at the level of public engagement.
Unfortunately it seems that the organisers are not interested in the participation of the civil society groups and individuals who are actively working on climate change. We believe that this will jeopardise the success of the conference and of the two councils' work going forward.
Meaningful progress in tackling climate change will only come when all of society is galvanised to respond. That is why so many civil society groups are taking action and pressuring politicians to take the difficult and potentially unpopular decisions that are needed if we are to avert disaster. The evidence is all too clear that they have not been, and still are not taking these decisions. To shut civil society groups out runs the risk of perpetuating this historic failure.
Ultimately, the success of any climate action plan will be highly dependent on the involvement and contribution of the public. Civil society groups provide a vital link by acting as a conduit through which politicians can share and debate their ideas with the wider public in order to facilitate their support and action.
We all need all the help we can get, to solve this deeply intractable problem. Public engagement, openness and the willingness to listen, to explain, and to question, are essential. It may be too late now for the March 11th conference to widen the range of its invitees, but it is essential for all our futures that the two councils start to listen to and communicate with the public.
A good first step would be to organise a People's Assembly on Climate Change, as have done many local councils around the UK, including Warwick District Council. We call on Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council to take this step and begin the real work of facing up to the climate crisis.
David Mond, Warwickshire Climate Alliance,
Stephen Norrie, Stratford Climate Action,
Tony McNally, Climate Change Solutions Ltd,
Hazel Underwood, Clean Air Warwickshire,
Jane Nellist, President, Coventry TUC
Juliet Nickels, Action21
David Ridley, Coventry Green New Deal
Sir Andrew Watson, Chair, Warwickshire CPRE
Chris Crean, West Midlands Friends of the Earth
Janet Palmer, Stratford Friends of the Earth
Bob Sherman, Low Carbon Warwickshire Network
George Martin, Chair, Building Performance Network
Jacky Lawrence, Low Carbon Warwickshire Network
Paul Davies, Chairman, Finham Parish Council
Nickie Charles, Extinction Rebellion Warwick District
Merle Gering, Keep Our Green Belt Green
Ann Patterson, Coordinator, Coventry Green Party
Rachel Gering-Hasthorpe, Extinction Rebellion Coventry
Ann Wilson, Coventry Tree Wardens Network
Peter Walters, Chair, Coventry Society
Ian Stevenson, Westwood Heath Residents Association
Carrie Pailthorpe, Transition Town Rugby
Philip Brown, Organiser, Coventry Climate Action Network
Jeannie Le Mesurier, ACORN
Haydn Chick, No Bypass in Spon End
Ken Grainger, Coventry Green New Deal
Ann Evans, Keresley Residents
Jane Garner, Spon End Residents
Martina Irwin, Save Our Wild Environment
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2
Robyn McSharry, Zero Carbon Coventry
Rebecca Stevenston, Coventry Green Party
Tony Conway, Coventry and Warwickshire People's Assembly