The Climate Change Focus Group
The most recent addition to the Lieutenancy Focus Groups is that of Climate Change. Established in 2022 it is chaired by Bill and Bridget Biddell.
The reasons for forming the group speak for themselves. Climate change is a huge and central concern across the world, the country, and the county for people of all ages, and especially the young. It is an issue which goes to the heart of our future quality of life. It is one about which the Royal Family cares deeply and in which it has been long engaged.
In looking at the contribution the Lieutenancy might make in this area we did not want to distort or misinterpret the Lieutenancy’s role. We are not political lobbyists. We are not technical specialists and we are aware that a great deal of work is already going on in this area by, for example, Surrey County Council, Surrey business and Surrey academia. And we had no wish to duplicate what others were already doing.
But we do believe that the Lieutenancy is able to make a valuable contribution to one of the most important issues of the day. At the minimum there is scope for the Focus Group to shine a light on and celebrate work being devoted to the issue in Surrey; to help bring together people who may be working in the same direction but in ignorance of one another; and to illuminate areas where more work or co-operation could bring real benefits.
We began with a small, dedicated group of Deputy Lieutenants representing different sectors within Surrey, together with the Lord Lieutenant and Vice Lord Lieutenant, discussing the role, shape, and ambition of the group. We subsequently expanded the membership of the group to encompass wider views, with representation from Surrey universities, business, the diocese, the Community Foundation, the Wildlife Trust, Surrey agriculture, charities, and local councils. The Focus Group brought these key sectors from around the county together to discuss their response to climate change and to understand their plans and strategies.
What emerged were very positive, innovative, and comprehensive plans to tackle climate change across the county, but the overriding theme was that everyone engaged in this important activity tended to work in their own world and at their own pace. The Focus Group found that simply by bringing these different sectors together communications were immediately improving, and ideas were being shared.
Our next step was to widen the reach of the group and a successful summer event was held in June 2023 at the Hampton Estate in Surrey. The Netwalk for Change was a walking conference, held outdoors in the stunning Surrey Hills countryside, attended by 65 climate change specialists. They were given short presentations (at prearranged stops on the 1km walk) from eight inspirational speakers representing Rewilding Britain, Wates Group, Surrey Satro, Surrey County Council, Motion Consultants, Penfolds Woodland Management, Royal Surrey County hospital and The Hampton Estate. The measure of success was for everyone present to make at least three new contacts and follow up with them after the event. The networking benefits of this one event were tangible.
There is no doubt that there is a wide awareness of climate change within Surrey, but the subject is so big and all encompassing that there will always be a role for the Lieutenancy to bring people and organisations together to further co-operation and mutual understanding, and to celebrate the wide range of climate-related work taking place across the county. We are clear from our work so far that this is where the Lieutenancy Focus Group on Climate Change can help make a difference.
Our next step is a follow-up Focus Group meeting this autumn to discuss how these ambitions can be given further substance in the months ahead.