On Saturday, group members from all over the Midlands got together at the Birmingham Midland Institute to share ideas on our latest campaigns.
The morning commenced with an introduction to the CBE campaign from campaigner Glyn Thomas. This led to numerous discussions about how we can encourage organisations to sign up to the campaign and switch as well as identifying how we can overcome the difficulties we might face when speaking to people about switching. Among the most important reasons for switching was energy security as the consensus is that fossil fuel prices will rise and the cost of renewable energy will fall sharply. This led on to workshops regarding political influencing and building climate change alliances. In the latter workshop, emphasis was on championing organisations that have already switched suppliers to either Good Energy or Ecotricity and the need to build up case studies to influence those who are considering switching.
Following lunch , special guest Peter Deane from Biofuelwatch gave a talk about his stance on biofuels, that is, demonstrating the negative impacts of an economy reliant on biofuels and especially the negative impact it has on biodiversity and forests. To my surprise I was shocked that companies that import wood from South America can gain FSC certification in order to gain financial assistance from banks despite not fulfilling the British criteria. This sparked discussions about how using biofuel on a local level encourages employment in this industry and the general consensus on the day was that biofuels should be accepted on a small-scale local level (wood-burners in people’s houses where they have a supply and small CHP plants) as opposed to on a industrial level which could cause serious damage to the environment.
The afternoon proceeded with news about the Bee cause with many local groups feeding back that they have already taken it to the public and the consensus was that the public were in favour of the campaign. The final discussion was related to the feedback about the marketing of the new Friends of the Earth logo. During this discussion I clearly noticed the contrasting opinions of the different generations, with the young in particular supporting the re-branding.
This was my first experience at a Friends of the Earth regional gathering but one that was very valuable. I found it interesting drawing upon the different opinions of different members and volunteers as well as building relations and discovering how to take the Clean British Energy campaign forward to the public.