No matter how much you recycle, take the bus or take your bag for life to the shops, there always seems to be something more that can be done for the environment.
Helping to get Wirral’s residents motivated into acting against climate change is the council’s new initiative, Cool Wirral.
We spoke to Wirral Council’s sustainability liaison officer Dr. Bryan Lipscombe to find out more about Cool Wirral how the initiative is helping the local area become greener.
Firstly, could you explain in a nutshell what Cool Wirral is all about?
In short, Cool Wirral is about mobilising local people and organisations to take practical action on climate change. There are many common sense steps we can take locally to cut the pollution that drives global warming.
There are also steps we can take to get better prepared for the unavoidable impacts – storms, floods, heat waves and so on. Cool Wirral is about promoting these.
It’s also about connecting people and organisations taking action so that we can learn from and take inspiration from each other. A key message in Cool is that we can all play a part.
Cool Wirral takes its name from Cool – the climate change strategy for Wirral. The Cool strategy is supported by a variety of local organisations spanning public, private and voluntary sectors.
One of the two main goals for the climate change strategy is “to substantially cut climate pollution associated with Wirral,” what’s planned for 2018 to help meet this goal?
We are now over three years into the five year strategy. Much work has already been done but there’s a lot more to do. This year, there should be more low energy LED streets lights installed, more cycle routes in place and action on electric vehicle charging amongst others. Some work will result in an immediate benefit. In other areas, it’s about laying a foundation for future change.
How has operating a climate change strategy on the Wirral differed from say another part of the UK, or even the national climate change campaign?
That’s a difficult question. There hasn’t been an overall assessment of local activity across the country for a few years. What I can say is that Wirral has an active, longstanding and outward looking climate change programme.
The approach taken here is very practical. It’s based on a recognition that no single person or organisation can do all of what needs to be done. Not all places will have an active programme. Some that do will focus on things ‘the council’ is doing alone. In Wirral, the approach is based on recognition that action needs to happen at many levels – from household, to school, to business, to council and beyond.
Looking wider, the broad aims in Wirral’s strategy reflect core ideas in national and international initiatives on climate change. That’s unsurprising given that we already know many of the changes that need to happen – using energy more efficiently, getting more of our energy from renewable sources, shifting to a cleaner transport system and so on. But as a local strategy there is a local flavour too. For example, with local engineering skills and dock infrastructure it makes sense to promote Wirral as a centre for excellence for wind energy. We can draw on local strengths and opportunities to make a unique contribution to the bigger picture.
How are you engaging local people with the climate change strategy? And what has the response been like?
Wider awareness and participation is central to the success of the Cool strategy. This is an area where more needs to be done. We know there is broad awareness about climate change and a willingness to support action locally. The challenge is to harness this goodwill and help point people in the right direction to make their support count.
We don’t have a budget for publicity in the same way that say a commercial organisation might have for promoting a new product, so we rely on more grass roots approaches such as giving talks, getting stories in the press and harnessing social media.
Progress can be slow, but every article written, talk given or tweet posted is the chance to start a new conversation. Climate change can be a bit of a taboo subject. It can be overwhelming. People may not have the confidence to talk about it.
If we can start more conversations about what climate change means to us and about the actions we can take to protect the things that matter to us, that will help. Of course many of these practical actions will help make Wirral a healthier, less polluted, more accessible and self-reliant place; there’s a win-win there too.
What’s your biggest achievement to date since starting Cool Wirral?
I wouldn’t like to say to be honest. Cool is not about one person or one thing. It’s very much a shared journey. Also, some actions don’t have an immediate pay-off but could make a big difference further down the line. For example, a new organisation has been set up called Wirral Community Renewables, which didn’t exist prior to the strategy. It could have a huge impact pooling local resources in order to develop community owned solar power generation in Wirral.
A lot of work has gone in to get this far, but the group’s ultimate impact rests on what happens next. People reading this article might decide to get involved directly and help Wirral Community Renewables make this difference. It’s not a given that the group will succeed but the foundation is there to build on.
As a resident of the Wirral, where is your favourite place to visit (area or establishment)?
I’m thinking that’s a trick question! I’m not from Wirral so view it through a visitor’s eyes. There’s definitely something about being on a peninsular with the mix of coast, countryside and towns here. I never tire of walking by the river Mersey; it’s always animated in some way. There are of course many special places in Wirral. Hopefully the love of these cherished places will inspire climate action too.
What’s the best way for local people to get involved with Cool Wirral and the Climate Change Strategy activities?
People can keep in touch by signing up for the Cool News e-bulletin, by following Cool Wirral on twitter, or by joining the Cool Wirral group on project dirt. I’d also urge people to read the strategy – in particular the part titled ‘Putting Cool into practice’. This part spells out things people can do at home, at work and in their communities.
There’s no better way to get involved than to translate the strategy into your own actions.