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Surrey Countryside Champions – Surrey Climate Commission

Craig Freeman
By Craig Freeman
6th September 2023

The Surrey Climate Commission was formed in 2019 as an independent body to guide the county to a carbon neutral future. Working with other groups that share the same goals, they aim to tackle climate change by empowering organisations and Surrey residents to work together to mitigate the climate crisis.

We spoke to their Coodination Officer, Jacquetta Fewster, about the amazing work they do, how Surrey residents can support them, and their upcoming event “What’s Stopping Us Stopping Climate Change?”.

1. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Please can you summarise who you are and what you do?

I’m Jacquetta Fewster and I’m the Coordination Officer at the Surrey Climate Commission. I support the Directors of the Commission and our Core Group (they are all volunteers) by helping design and run projects, and I support the administration of the Commission.

Image of Jacquetta Fewster, Coordination Officer at the Surrey Climate Commission in a field of mushrooms

2. What is the Surrey Climate Commission?

We are a Surrey-wide community interest company. Our members are drawn from community groups, academia, Surrey businesses, and the public sector and together we work to guide the county to a carbon neutral future. Most of our membership is community-group based, with members from over fifty groups in Surrey that work, in some shape or form, to protect the climate and our precious environment. Some members, like Zero Carbon Guildford and Talking Tree in Staines, are focussed 100% on the climate, and others, like the Surrey Women’s Institute, have climate and the environment amongst many goals. We are always keen to welcome new members, so please get in touch at info@surreyclimate.org.uk.

We were set up in 2019 and have been growing since then. We published a ground-breaking report with the University of Surrey in 2021, showing how much greenhouse gas is emitted from Surrey and where it comes from — the way we travel, heat our homes, and use our land, and how much is generated by commerce and industry. You can read the report here.

Our latest project is an event we’re very excited about on 28 September in Leatherhead called ‘What’s Stopping Us Stopping Climate Change?’

Flyer with information about upcoming event "What's Stopping Us Stopping Climate Change?"

3. What is stopping us stopping climate change?

Good question and it’s one many of us have been asking for quite a time! We’re delighted that three of the UK’s leading climate thinkers will be there on 28 September to talk us through what they think are the biggest challenges, and, critically, the key things that will make change happen.

Lord Deben will be on the panel. Until recently he was the chairperson of the UK’s Climate Change Committee, the body responsible for crunching the evidence and advising government on action for the climate. He says “Altogether we are failing to deliver, and I think the whole political system is responsible” so we’re really looking forward to hearing his perspectives on the question.

Natalie Bennett is a Green Party Peer and former leader. The lack of a constitution in the UK is something Natalie has raised. In the UK, we don’t have climate or the environment in a constitution, but 149 other countries around the world do.

Ed Straw has worked for global businesses and as an advisor for two governments. His latest book is about our system of government and the major part it plays in the climate emergency. He is an expert on how our system of government is holding back efforts to deliver, and he has thoughts on the ‘systemic solutions’ to create the fast-paced change we need.

The event is at Leatherhead Theatre on 28 September and starts at 6.30pm. There’s more information here and tickets can be booked here (attendance is by donation so everyone who wants to be part of the conversation, can be).

Image of Lord Deben, Natalie Bennett and Ed Straw who will all be speaking at the Surrey Climate Commission's upcoming event "What's Stopping Us Stopping Climate Change?"

4. What is the Commission doing to stop climate change?

After the talk on 28 September, we will work to create grassroots change from the ground up. We’ll take on board what Lord Deben, Natalie Bennet, and Ed Straw have to say, and the audience’s viewpoints as well. From there, we want to involve voices from across Surrey, so everyone is represented. So if you’re interested in being part of this, please get in touch at info@surreyclimate.org.uk. We’re working closely with our partners at the Institute for Sustainability at the University of Surrey who are co-hosting the September event.

Currently, transport in Surrey is responsible for the greatest chunk of all our greenhouse gas emissions. Since the beginning, our Transport Team – again comprising diverse representatives from community groups as well as the public sector – has been working on decarbonising Surrey’s transport.

Our Outreach Team leads our work to support community-led action on the climate in Surrey. Community groups tell us what’s working, and what’s not, and we set about solving the problems. In 2022, community groups told us that funding was a big barrier to their progress so, working with Surrey County Council, we launched the 2023 Community Grants for Sustainability. This enabled £25,000 to reach groups and bring about action for the climate in communities across the county. In the coming months, we will be creating a digital Climate Forum, so community groups can connect quickly and easily, to share ‘how to’ guides, discover information, and get speedy answers to their questions from the experts – each other.

Through the Surrey Energy Partnership, we are working to accelerate the transition to clean, fair, and sustainable energy across Surrey. Our current focus is retrofitting Surrey’s homes so Surrey’s residents stay warm in winter and cool in summer without burning the 1890 kilo-tonnes of CO2 we do currently.

These are just some of the things we’re working on with community groups and others throughout Surrey. Visit our website to find out more.

5. How can local residents support the Surrey Climate Commission?

The best thing you can do for nature, the environment, and the climate is to get involved in groups local to you. There’s so much going on in Surrey, with new groups being formed all the time, so there’s something to match what you love. From repair cafes to biodiversity and wildlife groups, clean water projects and energy groups, transport groups, food-growing projects, and of course, the wonderful CPRE groups. Not sure what’s happening near you? Check out our interactive map.

And of course, come along to ‘What’s Stopping Us Stopping Climate Change?’ on 28 September and the follow-up events, to join the conversation about how we can step up effective action on the climate.

7. What’s your favourite Surrey greenspace to explore?

It’s so hard to choose one! I fell in love with the outdoors because of childhood visits to play by the Stepping Stones at the foot of Box Hill and sled down the Whites in the snow. Night hikes around Leith Hill were high points in my teenage years. Now I often find myself on Juniper Hill, enjoying the amazing array of orchids, wonderful toadstools, and, in the right conditions, the Brocken spectres, so I guess it’s still Box Hill for me!

Image of mushrooms on the ground in woodland