SE24’s Mark Hughes looks back at what has been achieved in 2016

Big wins from 2016

I’m looking forward to 2017. Are you?

It is easy to feel despondent or powerless after some of the tragic setbacks of 2016: the world at its highest temperature ever, the Trump election victory, the slashing of UK incentives for renewable energy. But there were many, many successes in 2016 (including for SE24 our first installations on community roofs). But looking at the wider picture Friends of the Earth have a list which I have borrowed and there are others which I have included in my “6 of the best” list below. What really excites me is that many of these things were achieved because of ordinary people in committed community groups acting locally and together.

  1. Absolutely no fracking in the UK for yet another year, following local campaigns up and down the UK.
  2. News that the hole in the ozone layer is healing. All that work done in the 1980s to ban ozone-destroying products has come to fruition. It’s a brilliant example of how local action and individuals organising and campaigning can make massive changes.
  3. Local groups and volunteers have created Bee Worlds in parks, gardens, schools and hospitals – providing habitats for declining bee populations.
  4. Renewables now supply 25% of the UK’s electricity:
    a) Renewables are no longer just future energy solutions, they are mainstream. In 2015 the UK produced a quarter of its electricity from renewables, up from 6% just a few years ago. For 3 months in 2016 solar generated more electricity than coal. In fact on a sunny day, solar panels alone can provide up to a fifth of our power. About half of the renewables’ share came from wind power (onshore and offshore), the remainder from hydro, solar and biomass.
    b) For decades most of our electricity supply has been controlled by large companies who largely act in the interests of their shareholders. But this could be changing. Community energy schemes enable local communities to share in the economic benefits of renewable energy projects, because communities actually own the source of the power (wind turbines, for example). Across the country there are 5,000 community energy projects in the UK. Recently Bristol Energy Cooperative managed to successfully raise £10 million, making it the largest such scheme in the country. While it’s true that recent government policies have made it harder for communities to follow their example, the medium-term future looks bright, and the potential for growth is huge. In Denmark 3/4 of wind turbines were community owned in 2013, while in Germany 1/3 of renewable energy is owned by community schemes.
  5. 3 million tonnes of coal could yet stay in the ground following an excellent ongoing local campaign in Northumberland, which Friends of the Earth (FoE) helped local communities to get behind. The government has granted requests to call in plans for an opencast mine at Druridge Bay. It will make the final decision on climate change grounds. FoE raised over 10,000 objections, provided independent legal advice and even teamed up with TV conservationist Bill Oddie.
  6. Southwark Council has agreed for its Pension Fund to divest from Fossil Fuel investments in its portfolio following a successful Christian-Aid-promoted programme of interventions and actions under the banner of Fossil Free Southwark (a partner of Helen Hays, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood Climate Change Coalition (DaWN CCC).
    Lambeth for a Cool Planet (another partner of DaWN CCC) successfully campaigned to get TfL to replace buses with less polluting buses and get the A23 route through London to be declared a low-carbon corridor.

Mark Hughes

Treasurer of SE24 and Chair of DaWN Climate Change Coalition

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