Harrogate's first-ever Climate Action Festival pledges action, not talk on cutting carbon emissions

Harrogate is preparing up for its first-ever ‘climate action’ festival with the message that there can be no turning back on the road to a greener future.

Friday, 14th May 2021, 12:58 pm
Harrogate Climate Change Coalition's Lousie McManus, Lucy Hind of Pinewoods Conservation Group, Kirsty Hallett of Harrogate Climate Change Coalition, Carolyn Rothwell of Horicap and Harrogate Borough Council Phil Ireland. (Picture Gerard Binks)

Opposition to local initiatives on sustainable transport may have appeared at almost every turn in recent months but the organisers of Harrogate District Climate Action Festival say the response to plans for the ground-breaking event shows how strong the force for change is.

Kirsty Hallett, chair of engagement groups for Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition (HDCCC) said it was great to see so many local businesses, community organisations and green groups already volunteering to get involved.

She said: “The response from local community groups has been fabulous.

“For example, many of the organisations in Harrogate District Climate Action Network (HD-CAN ) have stepped forward to offer activities and events, including Harrogate District Cycle Action, Horticap, Harrogate Pinewoods and Zero Carbon Harrogate.

“The truth is, to avoid using up our fair share of the global amount of carbon which can be emitted without exceeding 1.5OC global temperature rise, we need to deliver the majority of local carbon cuts during the next ten years in our district.”

The climate action festival is timed to coincide with the build-up to the UN’s 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) of world leaders which will be hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November.

Running from October 1-23, the aim of Harrogate District Climate Action Festival is to demonstrate a range of climate friendly steps which residents and local businesses can take, and encourage them to take action towards net zero with a focus on transport, energy and land use.

Harrogate District Climate Action Festival: Key events announced so far include:

Launch event and community action day called Green Skills and Jobs for the Future at Harrogate College on October 2, including fun, hands-on demonstrations and talks.

The speakers will include Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones and Professor Andy Shephard, as seen on David Attenborough’s Climate Change, the Facts.

A net zero business conference called Towards Net Zero Business at Harrogate Convention Centre on October 15.

The conference will showcase practical ideas which have worked for others, as well as highlighting the many business and other benefits gained from ‘decarbonising’ their operations.

A series of Fringe events and activities from businesses and community groups across the whole three-week period of the festival.

Having been set up in November 2019 by Harrogate Borough Council to bring together residents groups, businesses, environmental groups and politicians to promote carbon neutrality, HDCCC has been seeking to forge an independent path.

Earlier this year the coalition formally agreed to move forward towards new, more independent arrangements.

A new chair was appointed - Professor Neil Coles, Fellow at the University of Leeds - after Coun Phil Ireland stepped down to become vice-chair.

Coun Ireland, who is also Harrogate Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said the council was fully behind October’s events.

“Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition is an important partner in working towards achieving the council’s own carbon reduction strategy and our vision that by 2038 we will have a net zero carbon economy and the council’s own operations will be clean and efficient,” he said.

“Harrogate Borough Council is delighted to support the festival.”

Harrogate District Climate Action Festival is a huge step forward for the coalition but it has been far from plain sailing the whole time.

Some Green groups have complained about a “lack of urgency” over meaningful action and an “absence of public engagement over environmental policy” leading to the launch of the Harrogate District Climate Action Network (HD-CAN) to demand more decisive action.

The leader of the Lib Dem opposition on Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Pat Marsh, resigned from the climate coalition in February claiming it was “plagued by inaction” and says she has not yet been invited to take part in the new festival.

Coun Marsh said: “I quit the coalition out of non-action, 18 months on from its formation - and now we have a festival.

“While I think a festival would be an excellent event to draw peoples attention to the climate issues I want more than this, our planet needs action from everyone, now.

“As a political party we have not been contacted to ask if we want to be a part of it, maybe things are still being organised?”

But the climate action festival appears to have captured people’s imaginations and participation is growing by the week - including from organisations which are part of HD-CAN.

A spokesperson for HD-CAN said: “The festival is a great idea. In the lead up to COP26 in November, climate change will be high in the news headlines and there will be plenty of interest in climate change locally, so it will be a fantastic opportunity to have a platform for discussion in Harrogate.”

Zero Carbon Harrogate believes there are huge positives to take from the Climate Action Festival later in the year.

A voluntary organisation first formed in 2016 to highlight and support changes across the district, to rapidly establish it as a leading low carbon economy in a collaborative, non-political way, ZCH is convinced progress can only be achieved by local communities working hand-in-hand with business and political leaders to implement the climate change actions required in the district.

Jemima Parker, Chair of Zero Carbon Harrogate said there were huge positives to take from the Festival.

“Zero Carbon Harrogate are very supportive of this Climate Action Festival which we hope will raise a lot of the positives of becoming net zero for both residents and businesses,” she said. “As well as limiting the damage from climate change, there are many positive benefits for physical and mental health.”

Professor Neil Coles, Chair of Harrogate District Climate Action Festival is keen to stress that the main festival events at Harrogate College and Harrogate Convention Centre will offer exhibition space for commercial or community organisations whose work offers an insight into solutions to climate change.

Prof Coles said: “We will use the events to create a network to exchange ideas and promote collective actions, so that all of us can contribute to tackling climate change. If we can all work together on this commitment, then collectively, real action can be taken to build climate resilience in the Harrogate district.”

Anyone interested in accessing exhibition space, providing a speaker, participating in a panel discussion or offering sponsorship should contact Kirsty Hallett via [email protected]

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