Oxford Friends of the Earth: Local Group of the Year (2018)
Coordinator’s report 2018/2019, presented at Oxford Friends of the Earth’s AGM on 8 May 2019 by Fiona Tavner
It really does feel like we’re at a tipping point right now and momentum is gathering…
Let’s look back at the past year – and what a year it was!
View the accompanying slide presentation here.
Following publication of the IPCC report and Christiana Figueres’ talk in Oxford last October, we were inspired to develop Oxford Together on Climate Change (OxTOCC) to encourage engagement and climate-friendly action by individuals across Oxfordshire. Working with urgency the site was developed and launched within one month! After a hefty revamp of the site recently, it has the support of several organisations and groups, and features as part of Oxford Green Week. Our aim is for 10,000 actions – ambitious, but that’s what we need to be!
Our Climate Action conference on 4 May 2019 saw around 130 people participating in discussions on taking local action – one week after Friends of the Earth’s first climate Groundswell event in London and following launch of their national campaign on climate change. All against a backdrop of heightened focus and media attention on climate change; parliament and our local councils all declaring ‘climate emergency’, the UK Committee on Climate Change report on achieving net zero carbon and stopping climate change, Extinction Rebellion protests and continuation of school strikes everywhere including Oxford, with Greta Thunberg keeping pressure on global and national leaders, the BBC documentary with Sir David Attenborough sending a stark, but positive message…we must act now, with urgency. We can and must. Everyone.
Just over a year ago, the Oxford Air Needs Your Care campaign was launched by Oxford City Council in partnership with Oxford Friends of the Earth – representing our first formal partnership with the City Council. Since then, we’ve continued to support the campaign and have made significant progress in establishing our new project – the Oxfordshire Schools Clean Air Network (OxSCAN) to broaden engagement with schools and communities on air pollution. We’re also active partners in the healthy streets and active travel coalition (CoHSAT).
Alongside this, a major focus was development of the Oxfordshire Clean Air Charter, which we launched on national Clean Air Day last June with a dedicated website. The Charter presents several areas for focused action needed to achieve a clean air vision for the city and county. It’s gaining public support and subsequently, the City Council developed its own Charter for action by local authorities and government, supported by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and a growing number of other councils across the country.
As the tide of plastic pollution continues to rise, so does public desire for action to tackle this prominent and challenging issue. We helped to get three Oxfordshire MPs to support a plan for government-led action on plastic pollution. Friends of the Earth’s Plastic Pollution bill, drafted in collaboration with the WI, is gaining cross-party support and we hope that it will become law soon. We continue to engage with the Westgate Centre in an effort to gain momentum on significantly reducing single-use plastics in catering outlets, following our attempt to carry out a survey which attracted some good media attention. We’re also doing our bit in cleaning up the city by participating in the spring OxClean, which has provided opportunities for wider community engagement.
The ‘Oxford Bee World’ – our wildflower patches at The Kidneys in East Oxford – turned five last year! Wildflowers and bees are thriving here, and through our collaboration with Friends of Aston’s Eyot, we continue to take care of the wildflowers, sowing new seed each year to diversify pollinator-friendly species for bees to forage throughout the growing seasons – from early spring to late autumn. We were thrilled to speak and participate in Wild Oxfordshire’s Local Environment Groups Conference last year focusing on pollinators, and to author a short article for their winter newsletter based on our experiences at The Kidneys. Last autumn we also gave away around 500 crocus bulbs at the Oxford City Farm festival to encourage planting to help early spring bees.
Facing a threat as big as the planned Expressway, we needed to mobilise and build opposition – quickly. Securing significant funding from Lush was a critical part in helping to form the No Expressway Alliance, which launched last September, coinciding with announcement of the proposed corridor. Since then, we’ve helped to; build the Alliance, plan and participate in events, organise the ‘Power Up’ training run by national Friends of the Earth to facilitate understanding of the UK planning system, and to promote the petition to cancel the Expressway.
Local Group of the Year 2018
Just in case you missed it (or had forgotten!), our efforts were recognised by national Friends of the Earth with an Earthmover award for Local Group of the Year (2018), along with Chester, and Leicester local groups – a testament to the significant and important contributions by Friends of the Earth local groups.
WE HAVE NOT COME HERE TO BEG WORLD LEADERS TO CARE…WE HAVE COME HERE TO LET YOU KNOW THAT CHANGE IS COMING, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT. THE REAL POWER BELONGS TO THE PEOPLE…
Thank you to each and every one of you who have helped and supported Oxford Friends of the Earth throughout the past year – committing time on stalls, at protests, on campaigning, on lobbying councillors and MPs, on providing perspectives on local plans and consultations, on writing proposals for funding and on ensuring our voice and work is heard and seen. It counts for a lot and we can be proud of what we’ve achieved together. There is much to do and we need to continue to work together with purpose, planning and actively grasping our opportunities to accelerate meaningful and positive change.
Fiona Tavner, Coordinator