The summer solstice has come and gone, but in the Moorlands there is no sign of a mid-year lull on the climate action front. MCA’s HuG Festival is set to run on the 26th June at Leek’s Foxlowe after Covid forced us to delay it from last year. Equally delayed, but for far less obvious reasons, was Part 1 of SMDC’s Carbon Action Plan. This finally squeaked in just before Councillor Porter’s latest self-imposed deadline of ‘the end of spring’. MCA has yet to deliver its full response but the withering reception that his threadbare draft received earlier this year seems to have had some effect at least. Numbers have been added, and some directions of travel seem to have been beefed up.

There still seems to be the usual portion of ‘work to be completed’ and ‘still to be done’, even on this part of the plan, which deals with the council’s own emissions. These are, of course, far more under their control, and the really difficult part comes up now. That’s Part 2, which deals with the emissions sources of the district as a whole. It’s important to remember that the commitment that SMDC made – at least partly under the pressure of MCA’s founding campaign – was to achieve Net Zero by 2030 for the whole of the Moorlands, not just the council’s own operations.

Cllr Porter has promised this plan – fully costed, measurable and achievable – by November this year, in time for the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. This is one deadline he will not be able to postpone, and with so little done in the last two years on the difficult and less glamourous parts of climate rather than Nature, it is fair to say he has his work cut out. Two important and recent SMDC announcements underline the magnitude of that task, as well as the growing conviction that the portfolio holder is not able to deliver on his own. Unusually for a SMDC cabinet member, Cllr Porter now has a deputy, Andrew Hart. MCA has engaged with the Cllr Hart via the Biddulph Town Council and is eager to work with him further in our joint endeavours to achieve a climate plan.

STOP PRESS: But just before going to press we received news of a major boost to our campaign. Included in the small print accompanying the Part 1 plan was the announcement that SMDC will, after all, hire a full-time climate change officer. MCA have been arguing for this essential step for over two years now, against the opposition of the portfolio holder who argued that it was unnecessary and that every officer should be a climate change officer. This will at least add some capacity to the district-wide part of the plan. A public consultation is scheduled for the summer, although it is unclear just what the questions will be. MCA continues to press for involvement in this process.

But, although getting a climate action plan out of SMDC remains central to MCA’s mission, it is by no means all that we have been up to. Despite the apparent withdrawal of an SMDC commitment made in 2020 to support the Refill Staffordshire Moorlands Scheme, the first new Refill locations have been signed up in Leek; now that retail is fully open volunteers are signing up locations. Biddulph Town Council is keen to support the scheme; further engagement with the Leek and Cheadle Town councils is planned.

MCA has continued to engage with councils at all levels. We presented to the Parish Assembly and, as a result, were invited to present to Biddulph Town Council. This meeting led to a commitment to work in future with the Biddulph Climate Working group. MCA has also presented to Kingsley Parish Council and has similar meetings in preparation. Cheadle Town Council has recently set up a Climate Working Group and through MCA’s representation on the Leek Town Council Group is fostering cooperation between the towns on climate action endeavours.

We have also worked with councillors on specific projects, including horticultural advice on Leek’s Russell Street planting, more ecologically sensitive management of verges, and meeting with schools to encourage nature projects, including those that may be undertaken under the SMDC Community Climate Fund. MCA also published its first Parish Newsletter in May, aimed at disseminating climate and ecology-related news and information. At the same time, we published our own ‘Tree Guide for Communities’, a one-stop information compendium for parishes and community groups.

We have also continued our programme of external engagement: MCA committee members instigated an informal Zoom meeting with the senior board member of the Peak Park National Park responsible for Climate Change. This covered a wide range of climate and nature related topics in the Peak Park and the Moorlands. Following on from this meeting, we will shortly meet with like-minded groups in Derbyshire. Coordinated engagement with the Peak Park will be top of the agenda.

MCA members have also attended several virtual Climate Action events in Buxton, Rugeley and Macclesfield in recent weeks. Another two of our members gave a presentation recently to Staffordshire Quakers; as part of its wider Community Outreach Programme, MCA is in the process of establishing links with other faith groups.