Penzance pulls together, promising real climate action

The Mayor of Penzance—Cllr Jonathan How—writes for Zero Hour on the importance of communities pulling together to drive climate action.

My own view is that the majority of problems are best dealt with by looking at the evidence, and then designing solutions accordingly.

Unfortunately, this is rarely how politics works. MPs often claim that they’re simply following the mandate upon which they’ve been elected. But in reality, they’re driven by ideological dogma and threats issued by party whips. And ironically—under the UK’s first-past-the-post system—it’s (usually) only a small proportion of the electorate who might be angry with them if they voted in a way which differed from the party line.

People in West Cornwall first heard about the Climate and Nature Bill in 2020. They felt that it addressed real problems with real solutions—and they were sure that there would be a lot of support for it locally. But in our St Ives constituency, we have a Conservative MP (Derek Thomas)—and that didn’t bode well. People knew that Derek would need a lot of proof that this really was the case.

As the Mayor of Penzance for the last couple of years, and also the Chair of Penzance Council’s Climate Emergency Sub-Committee, I’m acutely aware that, as a local authority, we could do a lot more on climate-related issues—if only central government were to create better frameworks in which we could operate. The CAN Bill appealed to me for this reason, and at a meeting of the full Council in March 2021, it was decided that we should write to Derek—and ask him to back it too.

Meanwhile, on the ground, local residents had set up a West Cornwall Alliance in support of the CAN Bill, putting together a campaign which involved a petition aimed at members of the public—as well as an open letter that could be signed by organisations, businesses, community groups, and local public figures. These were finally handed to Derek in April 2022—when we were delighted to learn that he had been in communication with Zero Hour, the people who were promoting the Bill at a national level.

There’s been a lot of progress since, but back in November 2022, cheers went up all over West Cornwall when the news came out that Derek Thomas MP had given his backing to the CAN Bill—and also said very publicly that supporting it was “a no-brainer”.

Finally, an MP who’s prepared to look at the evidence, and act accordingly!

It also feels as if the pulling together—that display of widespread support—was really worthwhile.

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