Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours

So wrote Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent in the theme song to the eponymous TV series. Horsham Climate Café definitely thought they were right when they invited their own neighbours from Adur and Worthing to expound on their remarkably successful Climate Assembly, by zoom on Saturday 6th March 2021 at our Horsham Climate Café.

Adur and Worthing Councils declared a climate emergency in 2019. But they didn’t stop there.  They immediately set up a Climate Assembly, carefully chosen to give a representative demographic and asked the participants to thrash out not just the problems, but also the solutions. And Amy Newnham, Chloe Clark, Mary Frankland and Francesca Iliffe came along so that the Horsham Climate Café attendees could learn what happened. You can watch their presentation and the Q&A session through the videos at the end of this article.

But for the terminally short of time, we’ve  picked out a little history and a few highlights of the resulting Climate Action Plan, which show how much progress can be made when you deal everyone in.

DNA to the whole project were the linked ideas of information and communication. Participants were given five days of professionally organised briefings from leading experts, with discussions and action plans to vote on. Everything was done to ensure that people would achieve real dialogues, not just shouting matches from entrenched positions. It was democracy in action. And those of a cynical bent may be disappointed to learn how much it did change minds, commitments and actions. Crucially, participant Mary Frankland zeroed in on how “small steps are better than no steps at all”. We utterly agree.

Adur and Worthing are starting to take some real actions now. They’ve bought large tracts of land, both on the Downs and in the Adur valley for rewilding and general conservation. The old Brooklands Park area is going to be used for an educational and resources centre. But most topical of all is the plan for a large Kelp Forest off our Sussex Coast. Why is that topical? Let us explain.

Since Easter, quite a lot of light, and considerable heat, has been generated in the news cycles by the film Seaspiracy by filmmakers Ali and Lucy Tabrizi. You will see this fought over in the coming months, with minute score sheets kept on what the filmmakers got right and wrong. But on one, overwhelmingly inconvenient truth, they are spot on. The activities of massive industrial trawling fleets are utterly destructive to the ecological communities of the ocean. Take Sussex as an example.

Time was when our beautiful coast was home to giant kelp forests. Not only did these provide sanctuary for thousands of fish, but were also busy sequestering carbon. Once the giant trawlers started their dreadful work, all of this was swept away, leaving the marine equivalent of a desert.

But Chloe Clark of Adur and Worthing Councils, had some good news. Working with a host of partners including the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Crown Estates they have fostered a byelaw which will protect 300 square kilometre Sussex of waters from trawling, and restore the ancient glory of the kelps. It’s a mighty first step, achieved because of the will, direction and energy of the Climate Action Plan.  Can they help their neighbours in Horsham to step up to the plate?

Learn more about the Adur & Worthing Council’s climate assembly here.

Written by Keir Hartley

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