Many of us will have just returned back to work after the Christmas break, hopefully well-rested and feeling ready for the new calendar year. Many of us will have used holiday time to reflect, and many of us will have spent time thinking ahead and anticipating what this next year might hold.
Unusually, this New Year coincides with a newly elected government. MPs are entering Parliament, and many of them, too, will be thinking ahead and planning what they would like to achieve in 2020.
This makes the next couple of months a great time to think about meeting with your MP – especially since so many MPs are completely new.
On the road to COP26
Our new government is in a unique position. This new cohort of MPs is part of the Parliament, which will be presiding at the time of the annual UN climate talks when they are hosted by the UK in November.
These international climate negotiations – COP26 – are hugely important. It is the deadline year for countries to update their climate plans and determine their Nationally Determined Contributions in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement (where 195 countries agreed to limit global warming to 2 °C, and pursue limiting warming to 1.5 °C).
Back in October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a landmark special report on the impact of these scenarios and recommended emissions cuts needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C. It said that to do this, global emissions must be cut by 7.6% every year for the next 10 years. Currently, emissions are increasing by 1.5% a year.
This highlights the scale of the challenge ahead. For the Paris Agreement to be adhered to, countries will need to commit to stringent policies at COP26 next November – policies which will forge the way for the unprecedented global decarbonisation necessary to prevent the likely global average temperature increase of 3 to 4 degrees °C.
The stance and commitment of the hosting government is essentialfor these talks – it’s one of the reasons that the Copenhagen summit in 2009 has been thought to have failed, but it’s also one of the reasons that Paris made progress in 2015.
However, it is likely that the majority of MPs will be unaware about the significance of these talks, and many more will be unaware about what they can do to increase the likelihood of success.
Can you journey to COP26 with your MP in 2020?
There is huge potential for real change if the UK government uses this year to lay out a substantive and ambitious plan for the UK to reach the Net Zero target it set in June 2019, and if MPs use this year to advocate on a cross-party basis for further climate action.
This will only happen if every MP is hearing from supportive constituents who are communicating this potential and are committed to working collaboratively with their MP at their local level.
This is a great opportunity for churches to make a difference, standing with the many communities in the global church who are already experiencing the effects of the climate crisis, and practically acting to protect the world God has made.
We know the thought of meeting your MP feels daunting. This is why JPIT and Hope for the Future can resource and equip you through the entire process.
Hope for the Future will help you secure a meeting with your MP, deliver training to your church to make this meeting effective, and support you with the follow-up. You can find out more about how they will help you do this here.
JPIT’s Meet Your MP Resources offer guidance in how to get in touch with your MP, including a template letter to send to your MP to start things off. You can find these here.
We find churches are well respected and listened to by MPs, because they are embedded into local areas, and they have members spanning the political spectrum.
Churches tell us that meeting their MP is both hugely rewarding and a great way to engage the broader community.
This is definitely the experience of St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Borehamwood.
They met their Conservative MP, Oliver Dowden, to talk about climate change for the first time in June. Since then, Oliver has attended follow-up events, including a ‘big green coffee morning’ and a climate hustings which was attended by over 70 people from the local area. The church now has a working relationship with Mr Dowden, and is looking forward to taking this further over the course of 2020.
It would be wonderful for St Michael’s and All Angels Church to be accompanied by many more churches across the country also building relationships with their MPs on the road to COP26. Could you start the process for your church?
What can you do this next month?
- Welcome your new or returning MP by sending a card of congratulations
- Commit to asking to meet your MP this next month and let them know what they can do to get COP ready. Get in touch and we will help you prepare!
- Could your church host a climate write-in, getting your community to sign a joint letter in support of government leadership ahead of COP26? Email Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org to start this process.
Rachel Mander is Church Outreach Officer for Hope for the Future, UK specialists in training citizens to work with MPs on climate change. Hope for the Future can provide you and your church with tailored research, training and ongoing support to help you build a working relationship with your local MP.