Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Inspiring our communities...

...to act on Climate Change.
That was the title of a regional conference today which I attended with Stockton Council's Environmental Policy Manager. There were some very interesting presentations and some very challenging facts from public opinion surveys. There's a great deal of confusion in people's minds about whether climate change is important or even real. Even amongst people who think it's important there's confusion over what to do about it. "Saving the planet" has become a catch-all phrase and people don't distinguish between what they can do to save precious resources (like recycling glass and metals and paper) and what they can do to prevent serious climate change (like using low energy light bulbs and driving the car less frequently). People really don't trust the idea of environmental taxes because they think the government is just making an excuse to get more money out of motorists or whoever is being targetted. All the studies show that people look for fairmess -they want to feel that whatever is being asked of them everyone else is going to be asked to make the same sacrifices.
The big challenge for us as councillors is how we lead our community forward to combat climate change in Stockton, given this desire for fairness and this lack of understanding of all the complex issues. Real food for thought and we hadn't come to any conclusions at the end of the journey home. We did agree that, difficult though the problems are, Stockton has already made a good start by doing the relatively easy things and that the biggest challenges are left to meet. Watch this space!
From South Shields and climate change to Kirklevington and Renaissance. Stockton's Local Strategic Partnership had a unique session this evening to consider itself, how it works and how it can improve. There was a lot of discussion about the fact that most people outside the partnership probably don't know it exists or what it does, and yet it's a very important part of life in the borough. It brings together the council, big voluntary sector organisations, small community groups, major bodies like police, fire and NHS alongside business links to try to join up the way services are delivered to people. Possibly the fact that people don't know about it means it's working extremely well? Whatever the reason, there's to be a lot more thought put into exactly how it operates and how it tells people about its work.
And finally, almost 12 hours after leaving home this morning, time to return to domestic matters!

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