As individuals and communities we can take steps to significantly reduce our own carbon pollution. But this won’t be enough unless our politicians work with us to create the projects, laws and incentives that will deliver the changes we all need.
If we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need our governments and councils to do their part. You can help by letting your elected representative know how you feel and encouraging them to be part of the solution.
Our elected representatives act on the things they believe we, their electorate, cares about, and will take bolder action if they know we support them in doing so. They will be lobbied by a range of groups, some of whom may regard climate as less of a priority, so it’s useful if they are aware of the strength and range of feeling about climate-related concerns.
Although it can feel intimidating to contact them, many people find it a positive experience that helps them understand local issues, connect with others and feel part of broader efforts in their community. Find out how Jess got on in this blogpost or read our guide below on who represents you locally and nationally.
MPs: Represent you at Westminster
Put your postcode into Write to Them, and you can quickly identify your MP.
- Daisy Cooper MP, St Albans.
- Bim Afolami MP, Hitchin and Harpenden.
While not elected, it is worth remembering you can also contact members of the House of Lords. For example, the Lord Bishop of St Albans lists the environment as one of his areas of interest. You can find a list of the Lords and filter it by areas of interest here.
Councillors: Represent you at the County Council and the District Council
Put your postcode into Write to Them, and you can quickly see a list of your councillors.
Herts County Council:
- HCC is in charge of recycling facilities, libraries, transport & roads (including verges and street trees), some aspects of schools, and more.
- To find your county councillors, scroll down here till you get to St Albans District.
- Read about their plans for a Sustainable Hertfordshire.
St Albans City and District Council:
- SADC is in charge of waste collection, parks & green spaces, parking, leisure centres, council housing, and more. As the planning authority, they decide what gets built where, and to what standards, within the national planning framework.
- Find out who your district councillors are.
- Read the Council’s Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy.
- You can watch webcasts of Council meetings, and find the dates, agendas and papers on the Council website, including the Climate Advisory Group.
Town and parish councillors:
You may be in an area that is served by a town or parish council, which get involved in climate issues in a range of ways – for example commenting on proposals for new buildings and modifications, managing biodiversity of green spaces, and promoting local shopping and low carbon initiatives.
Some local councils have written or are working on “neighbourhood plans” which set locally determined rules for environmental considerations such as protecting green spaces and setting building standards.
If you’re not sure which of these parish areas you may be in, enter your postcode here and it will tell you whether you have a parish council and if so which it is. From there, search online for their website.
How do I approach politicians?
Read this virtual lobbying guide from Hope for the Future.
A handwritten letter has more impact than an email, and a personal email holds far more weight than a standard “copy and paste” email from a campaign.
One option is to use the Write to Them website to contact your politicians. These are their guidelines:
- Be polite, concise and to the point.
- Use your own words.
- It’s a waste of time writing to MPs/councillors other than your own; your message will be ignored. (For this reason, always include your postal address, even in an email.)
If your elected representative has a social media account, then you can also use this to make your points of praise or concern. The same general rules apply: be polite, specific, and speak to your concerns in your own words.
MPs and some councillors hold surgeries, at which you can discuss concerns in person.
There are set processes by which you can ask questions at council meetings, and even bring petitions. Read the relevant website for details
What should I talk about?
Tell them you care, and why, in your own words.
Ask them about things which are under their influence:
- for example, you could ask your district councillor about progress against the Sustainability and Climate Crisis Strategy, about ensuring a local planning decision takes account of the environment, about the biodiversity of your local park, or about improving recycling collections.
- you could ask your district councillor about public transport, air quality, biodiversity of verges, how our schools are integrating the environment into school-life, or facilities at the local waste recycling centre.
- you could ask your MP about the upcoming Environment Bill, press for national planning reform, ask for increased grants to make houses energy-efficient, and to hold the government to account to achieve their climate targets (a 78% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 and net zero carbon by 2050).
Ask them to take personal action and show leadership, for example through signing-up for Count Us In and sharing what they have done.
If you see that your elected representative has said or done something that you really agree with and appreciate, let them know. Positive messages are the easiest sort of communication to make and really help reinforce action. They don’t get many positive messages and the impact will be huge!
Getting involved: Young People
Watch the recording of Sustainable St Alban’s youth-led event “Activism and Optimism“, run in June 2021. This was an event for 14-27 year olds in St Albans district to talk all things sustainable with their political representatives. You can hear from both MPs and a range of councillors.
To find out about our youth group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Getting involved: Stand for Something
WHY NOT STAND YOURSELF?:
Don’t forget, that you could stand for one of these roles yourself. We can’t all become MPs, but what about becoming a town or parish councillor, a school or college governor, or a board member of a local health organisation or housing association?
Thousands of decisions are made every day by these organisations, and ensuring that carbon is a factor in all of them requires many hands!