The conclusion of the COP21 climate talks were on my mind yesterday, as I travelled to Truro and read updates from Paris on the train.
Fellow cyclist, Euan McPhee and I were ‘completing the circle’ by handing a copy of the Carbon Logic Report 2015 to Labour MEP Clare Moody outside Truro Cathedral, where the Climate Vision Footsteps to Copenhagen 2009 project, and our ride, began.
Green MEP Molly Scott Cato had welcomed four hungry cyclists to Paris with pizza. We had offered similar meetings to all six South West MEPs – but sadly received no interest from the region’s four Conservative and UKIP representatives.
I reflected that the bottom-up pledge approach celebrated by Climate Vision had proved to work so well in Paris, whereas reaching agreement on top-down national targets had so conspicuously failed at COP15 in Copenhagen six years ago.
On Thursday afternoon, I had been further north-east along the St Michael Line, standing atop a windy Burrow Mump with Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, SW Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, and representatives of community flood prevention organisations, overlooking the Somerset Levels area devastated by the winter floods of 2013/14.
We had met in the morning with representatives from the new Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) to hear about catchment level flood management plans and climate change adaptation strategies.
We met representatives of the Flooding in the Levels Action Group (FLAG) and Transition Langport for a stimulating lunch at the King Alfred Inn, Burrowbridge; then took a tour of ‘hard’ engineering and ‘soft’ natural flood management approaches with the innovative Hills to Levels project.
Natalie Bennett said:
“We are pleased to see progress being made towards ensuring that there is adequate funding of available to protect Somerset against future floods. However, we need to adhere to the principle of ‘no taxation without representation’ and so we would insist on full representation of the community on the board of the Somerset Rivers Authority. This should include representatives from various flooding campaign groups as well as lay people.”
Molly Scott Cato was particularly impressed with the ‘whole catchment management’ strategy being adopted. She said:
“I was heartened to see how the communities of Somerset are working together to build resilience against future floods and have been impressed by the projects put in place by the Hills to Levels project. The emphasis on whole catchment management and working with natural systems to ‘slow the flow’ is the most effective way of managing the intense rainfall that climate change is bringing. Areas that are designed to hold such water can also provide excellent habitats for wildlife and in future and we believe that such land use should attracts payments through the common agricultural policy funding.”
Thanks to the ground-breaking spirit of global co-operation, we now have a global climate deal. It is up to all of us to help our Governments translate “the what” into “the how”. To paraphrase Al Gore, Paris COP21 has written the words – let us all now deliver the actions.
If we do not succeed, Somerset in particular could look very different by the end of this century…