Last Friday I hosted the Sevenoaks and Swanley Climate Change Conference, and I would like to start by saying a huge thank you to all of you who took time out of your day to join us and ask some fantastic questions. It was a brilliant and inspiring morning.
As I have said before in my column, climate change is a serious threat to the future of our planet. Over the last few weeks, the national news has heavily featured coverage from COP 26 in Glasgow. However, we all have a role to play in achieving net zero, and that is why I wanted to bring together our community to discuss what is being done nationally, and locally.
Over the course of the morning, we explored what has already been achieved, what work is underway, and where progress is still to be made, and our speakers – who are each individually experts in their field – were able to really enlighten attendees on their experience and reflections.
Our first panel focused on what is happening locally. Both Peter Fleming, Leader of Sevenoaks District Council and Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council provided an excellent overview on what our local authorities are working on – especially in relation to green transport. Keith Regan from Life on High (a superb café on Sevenoaks High Street) and Fidelity Weston, from the local Romshed Farm, also discussed the steps we can take individually to ensure our diet is climate change friendly – both by reducing the amount of meat we eat, but also by buying meat from a local source, that rears grass-fed produce.
A key theme I took away was the need to bring the community with us as we transition to net zero, and it was therefore wonderful to be joined later in the morning by the pupils of Knole Academy Sixth Form. The pupils gave a thoughtful presentation on current practices locally, nationally, and internationally, and suggested future actions to the benefit of all. As one email I received put it, “the pupils are a credit to their school”.
In our final panel, we explored what changes we need to see from businesses and consumers. We touched on the need for government incentives, a simplified process so that it is clear where funding is available from Government, the options to diversify our fuel sources and the role of sustainable investments, to name just a few.
I have been contacted by some constituents who were unable to join the conference but would like to know what was covered in more detail. I will this week be writing to the COP President so he is aware of what was discussed, and I will happily share this on my Facebook page once it has been sent – alongside his response when received.
The issue of climate change is an environmental threat, but it was encouraging to hear the fantastic progress already underway across the district to ensure we are playing our part, as well as so many constituents who feel strongly in supporting such efforts.
Finally, I can’t end my column this week without touching on the horrific case of David Fuller. I, along with my Kent MP colleagues whose constituents are served by Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells Trust, have been horrified by the despicable case. Last week we issued a joint statement, and on Monday I asked the Health Secretary for assurance that the failure to identify David Fuller’s convictions will be addressed by the planned review, and that Government will look into other potential omissions in relation to NHS and contractual workforce. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. I will do all I can to ensure they get answers, and that this can never, ever happen again.