On 26th October 2018, the PSA Environment Specialist Group co-hosted a networking event and workshop with the environmental think tank, Green House, entitled The Future We Want: Shaping Environmental Politics. The event was made possible through funding provided by the Political Studies Association, as part of their Pushing the Boundaries programme.
The event was organised in response to feedback from our member’s that they’d like to have greater participation of non-academics in our workshops. In response, we held an ambitious and outward-facing workshop that brought together academics into dialogue with think tanks, policy-makers, political influencers, and NGOs to discuss the uncertainty surrounding the future of environmental politics, and how we should be responding to this. We know we are faced with an increasingly complex relationship with the natural world, as climate change, resource overuse, and rapid loss of biodiversity continue to grow in scale and intensity. But at the same time, we are faced with an unstable political context, with the rise of populism, fake news, Brexit and Trump. So how do we navigate this increasingly complex political landscape in order to improve our relationship with the natural environment? How do we shape the future that we want for the environment and its politics? These very questions led to much engaging discussion at the workshop!
The day began with a keynote speech from Amelia Womack, Deputy Leader of the Green Party. This was followed by introductory remarks from three think tanks who each led a roundtable discussion on a different aspect of environmental politics. The first round table was hosted by Policy Connect, and chaired by Richard Black, Director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. The roundtable discussion focused on the Politics of Climate Change, exploring questions such as: What are the key technical and practical next steps which are required for the UK to meet its climate change targets? What are the potential political problems and challenges which future action to deal with climate change will create? And how well set up is the UK political system to deal with climate change in the coming decades? The discussion panel consisted of Duncan Brack (Chatham House & Former SpAd to SoS at DECC), Alyssa Gilbert (Director of Policy & Translation at the Grantham Institute), Rebecca Newsom (Head of Politics at Greenpeace); and Sam Richards (Director of the Conservative Environmental Network).
The second roundtable was led by Dr. Rupert Read, Chair of Green House and former Green Party Councillor. This discussion centred on the challenge of Facing Up to Climate Reality. It raised questions such as how do we communicative effectively with the population (especially policy makers) on the appalling climate reality now looming, without sparking denial, despair, resignation or cynicism? How can we mobilise for an agenda of deep and transformational adaptation, fit for a seriously climate-damaged Earth, that could help us in that task?
The third roundtable was hosted by Andrea Westall, Trustee and Director of the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development, and explored issues of environmental justice and answering the politics of fear. Some of the questions for discussion included: is a ‘just transition’ the right way to engage people and politics more focused on jobs and security? How can people be better engaged in shaping and implementing a more sustainable future? Who is particularly marginalised?
The day concluded with a workshop led by Dr Jasmine Hunter-Evans, an associate of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement. The workshop provided participants with practical tips and advice on how to be more impactful when engaging for change, and how to evidence this impact as part of your research programme.
For more detail on the discussions that emerged during the day, you can view the live-tweeting that happened during the even by searching for ‘#FWW2018’ on twitter, or by viewing our PSA Environment twitter account (@psaenvironment).
Many thanks to all those that attended the workshop, especially our co-hosts Green House. One of the role of the PSA Environment Group is to help to organise this sort of networking and discussion events on topics relating to environmental politics and policy, so if you are a member of our group and you have an idea for a future event that you would like to see take place, or that you would like our support in helping to organise, then please do get in touch. We look forward to seeing you at our next event!