Hove MP Peter Kyle joined councillors and about 150 local people for a community meeting about practical responses to climate change on Thursday evening (10 November).
They met at Holy Cross church hall, in Poet’s Corner, for presentations about the “climate and nature emergency” and discussion aimed at answering the question: “What can we do in our community?”
The event was organised by a small team including researcher and content strategist Tamsin Bishton.
And several small businesses from the area were represented, including Timeless Toys, in Portland Road, and Harriet’s of Hove, in Blatchington Road.
Katie Eberstein, the Brighton and Hove environmental education officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “Give young people skills, knowledge and an attitude to tackle climate change.”
The former teacher, who runs the website Our City Our World, works with about half the schools in Brighton and Hove and added: “Adapt the curriculum to discuss climate change. Equip schools to make their structure carbon neutral.”
She said that being in nature inspired young people and said that young people and families should be empowered to take action both individually and collectively.
Charlie Peverett, from the Birdsong Academy, is a naturalist who has been identifying birds by their song for 30 years.
During the coronavirus pandemic, he founded “Up with the birds”, sharing the dawn chorus on the online meetings platform Zoom.
Had the birds got louder in spring 2020 during the first covid lockdown? Certainly, more people had more time to notice what was happening around them, he said.
Mr Peverett, who runs birdsong workshops for farmers and walking workshops at Stanmer Park, asked: “Why are birds so hard to find these days? It’s a moment of truth.
“Tune into what’s already here. It’s essential to the work that we need to do.”
Green councillor Elaine Hills, who represents Hanover and Elm Grove ward on Brighton and Hove City Council, said that the goal locally was to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
Councillor Hills, who sits on the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said: “We have 200 electric charging points in Brighton and Hove. We reduce, repair and reuse. We recycle. We protect promote and prioritise.
“But we are facing a biodiversity emergency and extreme weather. We have a circular economy programme. As a city we will move away from wasteful ways of doing things. We have a food partnership project and foodbanks. As a council, we will make more sustainable choices.”
Paul Loman, who runs the Real Junk Food Project which intercepts food before it is sent to landfill or incinerated, said: “We have a pay as you feel policy.
“One third of food production goes to waste (yet) many people don’t have enough food. Food is sent to landfill which produces methane and is worse than carbon dioxide.
“We rescue food and feed people. We have relationships with supermarkets and we go through the front door.
“We take the food to Bevendean, log it and send it to pay-as-you-feel cafés at St Luke’s, in Hove, Fitzherbert’s, in Kemp Town. We take donations. One third of food is wasted: cook wisely, freeze, grow food (and) compost.”
Michael Kennard, director of the Compost Club, aims to reduce the harmful effects of food waste through composting.
He said: “We have a market garden. Compost is a beautiful life cycle. The Compost Club collects food waste and sells compost to 170 households every three weeks.”
Harriet Dean-Orange, runs Harriet’s of Hove, in Blatchington Road, Hove, with her husband Mhiran. The refill shop is free from single-use plastics. Customers bring in their own containers and buy by weight.
She said that she was selling behaviour change, adding: “By shopping at Harriet’s of Hove, you are using ethical and sustainable wholesalers, re-sterilisation, no new plastic (and) recycling.”
Susan Luxford, who owns Timeless Toys, in Portland Road, Hove, said: “Toys are rarely mentioned when discussing climate change.
“Toys come in unwanted plastic and break easily. Toys are the most intensive plastic industry – 90 per cent are unrecyclable.”
She said that one in three British parents admit to throwing away toys each year, adding: “They end up in landfill or the ocean.
“There are toy rental schemes. Is our legacy to our children to bury toys we are actually buying for them?”
Tim Beecher, from the Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo), aims to reduce the environmental impact of buildings, having been inspired by the natural world to tackle climate change.
Mr Beecher said that 24 per cent of carbon emissions came from our homes and added that we needed to “rescue the street” by putting in external wall insulation.
He said: “We will reduce the cost individually if we come together as a community. Co-operate and collaborate. You can invest in BHESCO and buy shares which will fund renewable energy.”
Labour councillor Carmen Appich, joint leader of the opposition in Brighton and Hove, urged people to use public transport as well as highlighting the council’s local cycling and walking plan which is currently out for consultation.
She also spoke about a series of measures from rounded street closures in Portland Road to a car share project, starting in Hanover and with two care available in Westbourne ward from next summer.
Councillor Appich mentioned a “mini Holland” scheme, extra pedestrian crossings, crocodile crossings, school streets, bike share hubs and car hubs.
The council needed to know what people actually wanted, she said, so get in touch!
The meeting heard from two people from protest group Extinction Rebellion, introduced as Kate and Marianna. They mentioned a related protest, Money Rebellion, which planned to target Barclays bank in the coming week.
The final speaker of the evening was the Labour MP for Hove, Peter Kyle, who gave a summary of what was happening in Parliament.
Mr Kyle, the Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, said: “I have been talking to Southern Water about the sewage dumped on our beaches. My emphasis is on what they have done. Billions poured down the drain. We need water back in the reservoirs.
He said: “We have reached a plateau with food waste and recycling. We need to do much more green waste and composting.
“There is an environment bill. It will impose regulations on every local authority. We can’t upgrade the Hollingdean recycling depot until the regulations are published in March. We can’t release money until the regulations are released. I have frustrations on behalf of our community.
“I do drive. I choose not to have a car. There was lots of resistance to the Rampion offshore wind farm. Urban areas are not connected to where power comes from and where waste goes to. We need to grow up.
“We are connected to power now. Labour pledge we will have clean energy in Brighton and Hove by 2030. I was elected in 2015 and we pledged clean electricity generation by 2030. We need to double the offshore wind farms by 2030.”
Labour, he said, was proposing a multi-year green fund to recapitalise our economy and would bring in bold and sensible policies.
One audience member said that it was cheaper for a family of three to go into Brighton by car and park than travel on the bus, which cost closer to £15.
Councillor Appich said that there were other costs to running a car than just the cost of each journey.
She said that the council had been awarded £27 million to support local buses but government policy remained for public transport to continue to be run by private companies, with profits going to shareholders.
Another audience member said that civil disobedience was important to the freedom movement. Mr Kyle said: “Protest is incredibly important – and it has to be legal … Do it within the law. Change the law.”
Mr Kyle added: “There is a problem with the new bill. We don’t support the new bill (but) certain protests are so counter-productive. We don’t support disrupting ambulances.”
And another member of the audience, from Benfield Valley, asked the final question. She asked about the cluster of car showrooms in Portslade: “Why don’t you knock them down and build there rather than on greenfield sites?”
Councillor Appich said that the council needed to include some greenfield sites in its “City Plan” but nothing would be built without a planning application which councillors could reject.
Mr Kyle said: “We need green growth. We have more wind turbines than any other country (but) we are about to enter a recession.
“We have to get the economy moving. Buses, public services and the city need investment – smart investment.”
Roz Scott is a freelance journalist based in Hove. To subscribe to her blog, go to www.rozscott.com.