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Packed hall debates climate change

A report on “Climate change is here – what now?”, a public meeting with cross-party panel including George Freeman MP – discussing climate change, how to fight it and how we need to change.

Friday 24th February, 6.30pm-8.30pm, Wymondham Central Hall

Panel included:  George Freeman MP Conservative; Michael Rosen Labour; Cllr Suzanne Nuri-Nixon Liberal Democrat; Catherine Rowett Green Party + presentation from Dr Hayley Pinto of CHAIN + questions from the audience. Chaired by Cllr Lucy Galvin of CHAIN

On Friday evening an audience of 140 people packed Wymondham Central Hall to talk climate change with their local MP and a cross-party panel. The impressive level of attendance and engagement demonstrated that, despite often only sporadic media coverage, climate change is an issue for which there is huge awareness as well as deep concern.

The opening presentation by Dr Hayley Pinto detailed how Norfolk is already being impacted by drought, flooding, coastal erosion and wildfires and went onto outline the appalling health impacts of the climate crisis. Her presentation was stark and hard-hitting, outlining the reality where lack of radical action would lead to warming of 4 degrees or more, and a world no longer able to support anything like the level of life it currently does. She lamented that, despite this, the UK is issuing licences for new oil and gas exploration while opening a new coal mine, and she urged the audience to oppose the proposed Wensum Link Road.

George Freeman, MP for Mid-Norfolk, talked of a “generational failure” of the political class for not taking action earlier. He made poignant reference to his daughter expressing her deep fears for the future, saying this was a “terrible indictment for all of us”. He went on to say that “unless we can empower the next generation we are in trouble – we need the belief of young people”. Referring to climate measures which have been achieved, he said “we’ve done a lot, but not enough.” He extolled the contribution of science, citing gene-editing and the blight-resistant potato as an example of how the environmental impact of farming can be reduced.

The Labour representative Michael Rosen talked of the state needing to “come forward and create a bigger role” in helping people make the transition by replacing boilers and insulating their homes. Saying there are “really key things that can be done quickly”, he called for better housing standards and lamented that cuts to the fire service and poor planning have increased the risk to homes from wildfires.

Cllr Suzanne Nuri-Nixon, speaking for the Liberal Democrats, spoke of the devastating effect of climate change on local communities, saying we were being “schooled and scolded by nature”. She criticised South Norfolk Council for refusing to call a climate emergency and listed practical steps we can all take to help nature and reduce our carbon footprint, from eating more plant-based foods, to replacing our gardens’ hard surfaces with planting to installing air-source heat pumps.

For the Greens, former MEP Catherine Rowett drew on the influence that Greens can have when elected, but lamented that we have a “political system that makes it difficult for people to have the courage to vote for people they want.” She said that, by focusing on road-building, the County Council had “chosen the wrong priorities.” She called for more investment in developing the skills needed for a “just transition” of the economy.

The panel then answered questions from the audience on a wide range of topics including: use of private jets; the Cumbrian coal mine; the lack of solar panels on housing; the impacts of deep sea bottom trawling; water companies discharging sewerage into rivers; the labelling of products to show how much carbon was emitted in their production; and the role of technology against more natural and/or organic solutions. One theme emerging from the evening was why there seemed a low proportion of young people in the audience and how lower age groups can be better engaged.

CHAIN will soon be meeting to discuss outcomes from the evening, and how the momentum and calls for action generated by the event can be built on. Attendees were encouraged to subscribe to CHAIN’s email list and sign CHAIN’s UK parliament petition against further oil and gas exploration at


 L-R – Cllr Suzanne Nuri-Nixon (LibDem), Catherine Rowett (Green), Michael Rosen (Lab), George Freeman MP (Cons) – all showing their support for a Net Zero Norfolk



L-R – Dr Hayley Pinto (CHAIN), Cllr Suzanne Nuri-Nixon (LibDem), Catherine Rowett (Green), Michael Rosen (Lab), Cllr Lucy Galvin (Chair of CHAIN), George Freeman MP (Cons) – all showing their support for a Net Zero Norfolk



 A capacity audience of 140 attended the event