ROAD TRIP!!!

1st June 2012 by

That’s right, I spent a substantial part of last month on the road with the One Million Climate Jobs Caravan, organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group. There were two vans – one going round the North and one going round the South (and before you ask, they were the most fuel efficient vans possible) – and I hopped on for Birmingham, Southampton, Portsmouth, Brighton, and Manchester. Phew!

We would park up in the city centres during the day, telling people about the One Million Climate Jobs report that lays out a strategy for government investment that would create one million climate jobs, which would go a looong way towards addressing the double whammy we face at the moment, of climate change and economic recession. We had a petition for people to sign up to calling for the government to take on this strategy, and we had a lot of information on the tables from this campaign and others, like the UK Youth Climate Coalition’s Youth for Green Jobs campaign.

The consequence of having all this information, a sign-up sheet, and a massive van that said ONE MILLION CLIMATE JOBS on the side of it? People started queueing. For a job. We were approached, again and again, by people who were looking for a job and thought we were recruiting, and it was the same in all the towns the caravan visited apparently. We had to say, again and again, that we didn’t actually have jobs to offer, but we were campaigning for the government to create them! I met men on the dole who signed our petition, went to the job centre to sign on, and then came back to try and sign the petition again because they felt so strongly. I met a 17 year old girl who was 3 months pregnant and couldn’t find anyone to take her on. I met young people about to graduate from college or university, and were scared about the economic climate they were about to graduate into. And everyone I met, without exception, agreed that it made sense to create jobs in sectors that would also work to improve our environment and slow climate change.

The experience was heartbreaking, but also invigorating. It proved to me how dire the situation is for so many people across the country, that they think their best hope for a job might be a van parked up on the side of the road. But it also proved how essential it is that we are campaigning on this issue, and it showed how much support people have for the green jobs agenda. Because why wouldn’t they? IT MAKES SENSE.

In each town, there was a public meeting in the evening hosted by local organisers. People from the local councils, unions, and activist groups came together to see what they could do about creating climate / green jobs locally. I spoke to each of them about our experiences with the East London Green Jobs Alliance, sharing our learnings and the process by which we set it up and got it going. The meetings I went to were great, but to be honest, turn out was fairly low, with between 15 – 40 at each meeting (I think it was higher in the north). I don’t think it’s for lack of support for the agenda, as I really felt that out on the street. And those conversations I had on the street were educational, because unlike trade unionists or environmentalists, who have been banging on about this stuff for ages, I really felt that many people with no political agenda or affiliation were getting wise to the situation. And I felt that they were on the cusp of taking action. Maybe signing a petition was the first step.

It definitely won’t be their last. Because the economic situation isn’t going to get any better soon, nor is the environmental situation. There will come a moment, soon, when people who see a van on the side of the street won’t politely queue. They will scramble, and they will fight, and they will start to fill the halls at public meetings. And what will the government do then?

One year on from San Francisco – are green jobs gaining traction in the UK?

4th May 2012 by

I can’t believe that it’s been over a year since I was in San Francisco cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge, eating ice cream in the grounds of UC Berkeley, and strolling down Haight-Ashbury.

Oh yes, AND learning and being inspired by tons of California green jobs projects, as part of the IPPR West Coast Green Alliances learning exchange. Many of you read and responded to my blog posts from California, and I thought that now would be a great time to take stock of what has happened in the UK since then. I want to ask whether we have managed to implement any of the lessons that we learned in California; what more needs to be done; and are we any closer to making that transition to a just, green economy?

What have we been doing?

In answer to that first question, there is a ton of exciting green jobs stuff that’s happened and got off the ground in the past year. Here is a run down of some of the projects that have been initiated and managed by those on the learning exchange. 

- IPPR released a report in July 2011, Green Expectations: Lessons from the U.S. green jobs Market. More recently, they have turned their attentions to the potential economic and social impact that might arise from the Green Deal.

The Greener Jobs Alliance, led by UCU, has launched the Green Skills Manifesto (if you’d like to endorse it, emailGPetersen@ucu.org.uk) and been busy working with South Thames College and Sustainable Merton to provide training in green skills. Watch their video on Community Approaches to the Green Deal.

Capacity Global convened the London Greener Jobs Hub in the months after the learning exchange, with a view to create leadership in London on green jobs and provide an information hub. Keep your eyes peeled for a launch event in September, as well as a green jobs fair! Their Skin project is also up and running, working with the hair and beauty industry to demonstrate that we can create green and decent jobs within non-traditional green industries.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation have continued to be an exciting and progressive funder, supporting the work of The Otesha Project UK and their Greener Jobs Pipeline project, the London Greener Jobs Hub, the Transition Network’s ReEconomy project, and the Finance Innovation Lab, among many others!

Friends of the Earth took the government to court over the cuts to the feed-in tariff, and won! Our Solar Future estimate that the FIT cuts threaten 25,000 jobs in the UK.

Oxfam Scotland have been doing amazing stuff setting up social enterprises that plant trees as a means to regenerate marginal land for community benefit. On the employability front, they are developing a programme on community improvement and sustainable development in secondary schools with a view to increasing awareness and employability skills for the green economy, and a programme for young unemployed people is currently underway. 

Claverhouse have been able to sustain 5 full-time equivalent jobs in their construction materials reclaim/recycling enterprise and are now producing a tonne of wood fuel briquettes per week from recycled timber!

The Climate Alliance renamed itself the Alliance for Jobs, Climate and Communities and is currently planning a big campaign…

And I have been really busy at The Otesha Project UK, moving ahead with our work with the East London Green Jobs Alliance (so many alliances..).

So I think, maybe, we’ve done a pretty good job as a team since our return from California! Granted, we don’t have a green economy yet, but we sure as hell are paddling fast to get there.

What else is going on?

There are some other very cool things going on too, including the One Million Climate Jobs Caravan (coming to a town near you in a couple of weeks), and the UK Youth Climate Coalition Youth for Green Jobs campaign. Actually, there are too many cool things going on for me to list. Upsetting that I can’t list everything, but also kind of heartening!

What more needs to happen?

Um, a lot. Because unemployment is kerazeee right now and that pesky climate just won’t settle down. Because the solutions being presented through government programmes, like Workfare, are neither green nor decent. If you want me to talk about, you know, actual concrete things, then I suggest that we can all shine a spotlight on the UN Earth Summit come June (also known as the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development). Why? Because they are negotiating two big themes, and a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of them. This is a crucial opportunity to shout loud about the commitment we want to see from nation states in making the transition to a green economy, by making actionable plans that will create green and decent jobs, and promote access to green skills. So why not sign up for updates and take action. I will also be following the negotiations and blogging from Rio, so may be sending along a personalised update or two…

So that’s the One-Year-On update! Well done if you got to the end, since it was looong. But I think that’s testament to the fact that, although we’re operating in a very difficult economic and political climate at the moment, things are still moving forward. We are pushing ahead and little by little, change is happening.

Reclaiming our future: UK Youth at the UN climate talks

23rd November 2011 by

Our friends at the UK Youth Climate Coalition are heading to Durban for the crucial climate talks about to start there. They’ll be making sure that the politicians and bureaucrats hear the voice of youth – and of future generations. This is the first of a series of guest blogs by the UKYCC which we’ll be publishing, as they keep us up to date on progress at the talks. Thanks for your hard work and dedications, guys.

It’s that time of year again, when diplomats and negotiators, in iron-clad grey suits come face to face with young people who are ready to flashdance and cheerlead their way to the future.

Those two things might seem worlds apart, but in just a few days in Durban, South Africa, the UK youth delegation from the UK Youth Climate Coalition will join with other young people from across the world for the United Nations annual climate talks.

The countries of the world come together once a year to try to formulate a plan that will reduce emissions and prepare for inevitable changes to our climate. That meeting is called the Conference of the Parties, and its 17th annual meeting is about to start.

We believe that young people are the ones who truly have the overwhelming passion and energy to show that, despite the lack of success these talks have had during our lifetimes, we want the most ambitious solution possible to climate change.

And the reason we’re so strong as a group is because we all have our own individual experience. The climate negotiations are crucial to solving climate change, but they are not the be all and end all. We’re all involved in a huge variety of projects around climate change and empowering young people in our local communities, and that’s where our strength and energy come from.

Youth are not the bystanders in this process, we are the ones who will be dealing with the consequences of these decisions for decades to come. And what’s more, progress, or lack of it, has impacts for every young person back on the streets of the UK. Progress towards a low-carbon, clean future, would provide new opportunities for growth and jobs. Politicians and diplomats are bargaining and procrastinating over our future.

And don’t be beguiled by our facepaint, silly costumes, propensity to dance and sing and wear colourful clothes. We’ve also spent the year fundraising hard and in particular learning about climate change policy. Behind our sunglasses and flowery shirts, we’re armed with the tools to have conversations with negotiators on their level.

What’s more, we hope to communicate what’s going on in these talks back to young people in the UK and that they will get in touch with us. Every young person has a stake in this process and we want to make sure that they know what’s being decided in their name, about their futures.

And we’re also excited to link up with the hundreds of young people from all over the world who scrimp and save to come to South Africa, who study detailed policy, who plan creative actions to open politicians’ eyes. We want to help shape the efforts needed and decisions taken to tackle climate change for the lives of all young people.

Find our blogs at un.ukycc.org, follow us @ukyccdelegation and email us your thoughts and hopes for a clean, safe future – delegation.enquiries@ukycc.org

Youth Delegation to the UN Climate Talks, UK Youth Climate Coalition

Powershift 2011

2nd September 2011 by

Oct 7-9 Salford Crescent, Manchester

Fancy taking part in Power Shift – the UK’s largest youth event on climate change.

From 7-9th October 2011, join hundreds of young people in the heart of the industrial revolution in Salford, Manchester, to take part in Power Shift 2011.

Through a series of workshops, talks, training, a bit of a boogie and a Day of Action, you will be equipped with the skills and knowledge you need to be effective, innovative and engaging young leaders.

This years theme is green jobs and Otesha shall be there, with Hanna Thomas who coordinates the East London Green Jobs Alliance speaking on the panel.

Power Shift is the most important moment this year for young people who care about their future to come together. We invite you to take your place in history: attend Power Shift, and join the movement towards a clean, just future.

To volunteer or get your tickets head to their website.

Climate Weak- the kerfuffle continues

28th March 2011 by

As avid followers of our blog will know, Otesha, People & Planet and Magnificent Revolution sent a joint open letter about the questionable corporate sponsorship of Climate Week.

The letter was sent out to:

- the organisers of Climate Week (who did not reply)
- the celebrities who have put their name to it (who also did not reply, although apparently it was forwarded on to Vivian Westwood’s PA)
- the sponsors (Tesco, RBS, Aviva, EDF and Kellogs, as yet no reply from any of them either)
- all of the voluntary sector organisations who’ve signed up to support Climate Week

We didn’t have many responses from the voluntary sector, but those we did have were pretty interesting. One organisation were adamant that they were not affiliated in any way with Climate Week (Climate Week’s website thinks otherwise). Another group thanked us “for speaking out”. Another asked us to consider our position on the ground that “it’s probably best to welcome even small, maybe token, steps like this (RBS’ involvement)…  after all, somebody in RBS probably argued their heads off to get even this agreed”. Someone else we contacted shared how they had thought long and hard about supporting Climate Week, “in my personal life, I encourage everyone I know to bank with alternatives to the main high street banks (they are all bad) and I don’t shop at Tescos and encourage friends and family to shop locally. However, in my professional life I need to try to reach beyond the converted and I think Climate Week is a way of doing so”. Others thanked us for simply sharing our thoughts and concerns.

We were definitely not the only people pondering the Climate Week conundrum. The transition network has been buzzing with tough questions about Climate Week. What do we gain by labeling others as ‘climate villains’ or ‘inspiring leaders’? The Hub Islington hosted a wonderfully named ‘Climate Weak’ panel discussion on the ethics of working with corporates and corporate sponsorship (summarised here).

Platform and a coalition of other NGOs released a report during Climate Week, ‘Dirty Money – Corporate greenwash and RBS coal finance’.

UKYCC, after accepting an award for Most Inspirational Young Person, issued a statement which outlined their concerns about RBSs sponsoring Climate Week whilst still being heavily involved in the destructive tar sands development project in Canada.

Then to top it all off, the Guardian revealed that Climate Week is a for-profit organisation! And that last one left me speechless. Ok, it didn’t, of course I have plenty to say about profiting from Climate Week, but it’s all so obvious that I’m not even going to bother. We all know what I would say anyway.

Goodbye Gear Up.. Hello East London Green Jobs Alliance!

15th March 2011 by

How time flies. It is March already, and that means our Gear Up programme is wrapping up. As coordinator of the programme, I have had such a fun time meeting all the young people we have worked with, mentoring them, helping them to gain more experience and start their journey towards green and meaningful employment.

We have worked with 18 young people in total, connecting them in internships and training in ethical fashion, waste management, green woodwork, green enterprise, and bike mechanics. They have also received training in local food production, money management, cv-writing, and cycling proficiency – Ozlem (above) loved her cycling training at Bikeworks so much that she is planning on giving up her car and buying a bike! I said goodbye to Ozlem earlier this week, sending her off with a reusable coffee cup and a copy of the Otesha handbook. But this isn’t the last we’ll see of her, or any of our Gear Up participants, as they will all be added to our alumni network, and continue to hear of job and volunteer opportunities, and other exciting things, through our weekly update. You can’t get rid of us that easily! Once you’re in, you’re in.

We’d like to say a big, heartfelt thank you to the Youth of Today for supporting this project.

And now, to pastures new! Our Gear Up programme might be winding down, but we have been squirrelling away in the background making even bigger plans for the coming year. Last November, we held our first roundtable discussion for organisations interested in local green job creation in East London, and we’ve had two more since then. Some very exciting people have been a part of the conversation – TUC, Friends of the Earth, Hackney City Farm, Bikeworks, Friends of the Earth, IPPR, UK Youth Climate Coalition, Aspire, London Development Agency, Tower Hamlets council, Tower Hamlets College, Young Foundation, Capacity Global, Fairbridge – I get excited just writing it out! Together, we have established the East London Green Jobs Alliance.

We have looked to the example of projects in the States, who have successfully created pathways into green jobs for young, unemployed people. We want to take that model and see how to make it work here in the UK. It’s all still early days – our mission statement is getting final touches to it as we speak – but we will be very excited to make it public in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the alliance, and how we plan to learn from projects in the US, please look at my blog entry below and sign up for updates from my learning trip to San Francisco!

Up close & personal with MPs

10th August 2010 by

So lately there’s been a lot of talk about a ‘big society’. I’m still not entirely sure what that means and how it’ll play out over the next few years, but the idea of ordinary people getting involved in decisions made locally makes sense to me. Especially when it comes to getting to know their local representatives, from city councillors to MPs.

An international example

A few days ago I came across the most amazing website which needs to exist in the UK immediately if not sooner. The Canadian organisation Apathy is Boring has launched a site called Citizen Factory, which basically allows people to stalk their MPs. When I looked up the MP for Langley, British Columbia (where I grew up), I found all his basic info plus a news feed listing all the times he’s been in the news, voted in parliament, spoken in parliament, joined a committee or tweeted in the past month.

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Climate Action in Poland

5th February 2009 by

Back in December 2008, were bursting with pride to be a part of the first-ever, all-singing all-dancing UK Youth Delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland.

Okay, so maybe the delegation wasn’t all-singing, all-dancing, but they were pretty unbelievable. Together with Emma and Casper from the UK Youth Climate Coalition, we brought together 15 of the best and brightest climate obsessed minds in the British Isles. In December 2008, we hopped on the train and headed east to Poznan, Poland to meet the policy-making big wigs and encourage them to take climate change seriously.

What we did:

Here’s a slideshow of the UK Youth Delegation, and here are some photos of the international youth (there were 500 of us!). Here’s a video of an action we did called ‘Project Survival’ and here’s another one, with a speech that youth made to the UN on the last day of the negotiations.

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