Following the results of a recent public consultation on how to boost nature and halve the carbon footprint of Henley by 2030, local environmental group Greener Henley has today called on Henley Town Council to declare a joint Nature Emergency alongside their existing Climate Emergency pledge; urging that both crises go hand in hand and cannot be tackled without support of both.
Nearly 70 passionate residents convened for the sold-out consultation at Henley Town Hall in late May to voice their ideas and listen to speakers. Ed Hopkins (Communications Consultant at Dark Green PR) shared the most impactful ways to cut our carbon footprint, and Catriona Bass, Co-Founder of the Nature Recovery Network (West Oxfordshire) spoke about how the community has come together to undertake successful nature restoration work in Eynsham. Significant amounts of data and ideas were gathered from the attendees on the importance of protecting and restoring local nature and cutting carbon.
Local residents proposed over 150 ideas to cut carbon and boost nature, from encouraging car sharing in schools and reducing meat consumption to green corridors for wildlife, ditching chemicals and rewilding parts of our gardens. These ideas were recently presented on Thursday 8 June at a follow up meeting in the Town Hall.
These ideas were recently presented on Thursday 8 June at a follow up meeting in the Town Hall, in which local palaeontologist and author Prof Richard Fortey who warned about the gradual decline over the years of biodiversity in our area and how children have become disconnected from nature. He also spoke about the importance of protecting and monitoring our river.
Listening to the results were local council members including the Mayor, a number of town and South Oxfordshire District councillors, as well as councillors from surrounding parishes. Also present were teachers and students from Gillotts School and Shiplake College.
Jessie Grimond, of Nettlebed Estate and consultation attendee said: “We at the Nettlebed Estate share Greener Henley’s deep concern about biodiversity loss and alarm about climate change but we are heartened by the engagement and enthusiasm shown in their recent public consultation…..We look forward to embracing the opportunities that may emerge from this local, grassroots initiative.”
Tim Hoskins, Head of Badgemore Primary School, and attendee at follow-up meeting said: We are currently live in a time and a place where we can make a difference to the climate emergency, but when the children of the Henley schools grow up, it could be too late. I welcome Greener Henley’s climate and nature public consultation and urge everyone to get involved and make a change to reduce their impact on the planet.”
Catharine Darnton, Head of Gillotts School (registered for consultation but was unfortunately ill) said: “All schools need to get involved in public engagement events such as this climate and nature consultation. Not only is it the right thing to do for our community and our planet but the Government is requiring all education providers to put in place sustainability leadership and climate action plans by 2025. Such action plans will only have real impact if they are part of a collaborative effort across the community.”
Mike Sweeney, President of Leander Club and consultation attendee said “At Leander, we feel a sense of stewardship towards the water on which we row. Our club and our rowers should be seen as “ambassadors” for clean water – an issue that affects every human being on our planet. Here in Henley-on-Thames, Leander and the other local rowing clubs are keen to work with Greener Henley, the Henley Mermaids and the wider community to ensure a cleaner River Thames, which is essential for our community to thrive. I was delighted to attend Greener Henley’s recent public consultation on how to boost nature and halve our carbon footprint in Henley. I believe that such public engagement events that bring the community together in relation to the climate and nature crisis are a crucial way forward.”
Kate Oldridge of Greener Henley and consultation organiser said: “This is the second public consultation event we have run now and, on both occasions, they’ve sold out. I’ve been doing environmental campaigning work for five years, and I have never seen so much engagement across the community on the twin climate and nature crisis.
“What has become clear to me is that once people come together in this sort of community engagement event, and with guidance from our experts, we can drive real, impactful change.”
“A declaration of a Nature Emergency by Henley Town Council would build upon the council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency in 2019, and its ‘acknowledgement’ of an Ecological (Nature) Emergency in July 2021. Following the climate emergency declaration, the council formed a ‘Climate Emergency Working Group” (CEWG) which has focused on bringing down the carbon emissions of the town (for e.g. by installing EV charging points, and distributing energy efficiency advice), but a declaration of a Nature Emergency would be an important public statement by the council recognising that action on the nature emergency must be given an equal footing to action on climate.”
Greener Henley proposes that declaring a Nature Emergency by Henley Town Council may release more funding for commissioning of environmental studies, nature restoration, additional community outreach and education programmes, and firmly embed biodiversity protection into future town policy and priorities – for example implementing a ‘nature first’ approach in the next iteration of the Neighbourhood Plan.
It will also shortly be making available a report of the full findings of the public consultation on its website and looks forward to meeting with the Council to discuss the report.