Last week I had the chance to pop down to the Dalston Oxfam shop in Hackney to go to the Valentine’s climate change action evening. Kevin the Manager was on the door and told me “it’s nice to use the shop as a campaign outlet for Oxfam, as not everyone knows about our work. It’s good to have people here to spread the word about working in developing countries”.
As I worked my way around the shop, it was a hive of activity. A clothes swap was on the cards later in the evening, so people were busy giving in their clothes and making tags to give the new owner a little bit of its history. In the corner, people were creating Valentine’s cards for their MPs, asking them to contact Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. The action was to hear how the government planned to contribute to the newly created global green fund. As part of the evening, Hackney MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Meg Hillier, was there to receive her card signed by over 40 of her constituents. I caught up with her to ask a few questions….
What do you think about the event tonight and why did you decide to come down?
MH: Oxfam does very good work on international development issues and particularly on climate change. I think it is important to support NGOs that are doing such good work. It’s great to see the enthusiasm from Hackney residents and others and I love it when people come to Hackney too, to come and support the work of Oxfam. One of the things about my job, is that it’s important to hear what people think both about how the government is doing and what governments around the world should be doing. It is important that politics and politicians do reflect what people think and to do that, we talk to people. Although I talk to people on doorsteps, I have to say on the whole that people don’t raise climate change when I knock on their door as an MP, so tonight is quite nice to listen to people discussing this issue.
What do you think are the key issues that should be pushed through with regards to climate change in the next year?
MH: In global terms, I do think it’s about laying the groundwork now for a good outcome at the next UN Climate Change Conference in South Africa, and to see if we can move forward, particularly on climate finance. I did actually speak to the minister about this before he went out and I know that the British government were trying to get some sort of private finance element of the international finance worked out.
It really is important that countries developing are able to mitigate the worst impact of carbon emissions and build new industries that are greener and to create jobs for their population as well. If we don’t help them now, it will be bad for both them and the planet. The international picture is important, so we have got to get it right. Domestically, I think we need to see the government this year acting decisively on all the investment vehicles for creating green jobs and growth; because we must reach our climate target and it does not look like we are going to do that at this moment in time. Actually, we should be thinking about setting more ambitious ones, and also if we do not create, those jobs in the UK will go somewhere else. We might as well have a double win by reducing carbon emissions and have long term sustainable jobs created here. We must be sustainable – both socially and environmentally - so I think it’s important that the government make a decision this year and get some investment into the UK.
It was good to see a great mix of people at the evening. The importance of highlighting development issues in a range of ways is key to keep the momentum going. To hijack a bit of Valentine’s love is great and I look forward to more antics on International Women’s Day.
As posted on the Oxfam South East Blog