Friday 11 March 2022 saw not one but two Climate Conferences held at the University of Warwick!
Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council’s joint conference ran first. The organisers had refused to give tickets to anyone they had not invited, although apparently some people who had asked to participate were accepted. The organisers’ argument was that this was just the first of several conferences and later ones would be open to wider participation.
As a result of this lack of openness and transparency, Coventry Green New Deal organised a colourful, peaceful and constructive protest and many positive conversations occurred between protestors and delegates about the importance of community participation. Some delegates were shocked at the organisers’ exclusionary practices.
Councillor George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council, was asked to reconsider the Council’s approach – including the formation of an opaque and elite Climate Board – in order to avoid further confrontation with campaign and community groups and activists. He said he would “think about it”, and talk to his colleague Jim O’Boyle, the councillor with responsibility for Climate Change policy and jobs.
Once the delegates had entered, the protesters ran their own conference where they discussed what to do next. West Midlands Friends of the Earth’s Chris Crean set out the wider context of climate politics in the region, followed by Warwick University Extinction Rebellion students. A long discussion ensued about the importance of direct action, in particular community-focused interventions such as the Spon End Community Group’s camp which has been protesting since February about the felling of trees to widen Spon End.
Delegates also discussed connecting various levels of action, such as that aimed at planning, policy and procurement. It was agreed that some form of coalition was needed to bring all the groups in Coventry together under one united banner, and to connect this to other regional groups like Warwickshire Climate Alliance and to the wider public via some sort of popular assembly.
Coventry Green New Deal agreed to host a larger, public meeting involving in-person participation, consciousness-raising and solidarity-building at which a more inclusive cross-section of the city’s activists and communities will be able to decide whether to form a new organisation and create an assembly.
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