AN event in Dorchester highlighting the fight against climate change has been hailed a ‘huge success’ by organisers – although a declaration of action could not be agreed.
The first-ever, community-led Dorset COP, was held on Saturday (September 9) at the Corn Exchange.
Organised by Zero Carbon Dorset, Dorset Climate Action Network (Dorset CAN) and Sustainable Dorset, the carbon-neutral event hosted a variety of workshops and keynote speakers, welcoming visitors from across the county.
Jenny Morisetti, chair of Sustainable Dorset, said: “The event was a huge success with over 100 businesses and organisations in attendance.
“It was gratifying to see so many people from our county coming together to support the fight against climate change and work towards a greener Dorset.
“I hope the knowledge gained and shared experiences will contribute to the continuing success of the organisations here today.”
A series of talks, workshops, short talks, panel discussions and break-out workshops for organisations to collaborate took place throughout the day.
Keynote speakers included environmental campaigner Laura Baldwin, who opened the event, founder of Future Earth Catherine Allinson, Alice Favre, the custodian of the Alice Favre Chettle Estate, Alex Moore, assistant head teacher of Shaftesbury School, Sara Arnold, founder of Fashion Act Now, two of the first Youth Tedex speakers, Olivia Bowditch and Henrietta Love, Prof Rick Stafford, marine biologist from Bournemouth University and Bob Ward from Grantham Research Institute & London School of Economics.
A surprise comment also came from Bournemouth East MP, Tobias Ellwood, the only MP from Dorset to attend, organisers said.
Former Olympian Laura said: “It was inspiring to see so many local people and organisations from the Dorset community attend, connecting Dorset in a common cause. This is such an important event and movement to address the worsening climate crisis.”
Workshops included; Engaging the Disengaged, an Introduction to Carbon Literacy Toolkits for Town & Parish Councils and Community Groups, a taster session on Effective PR for Groups & Campaigns from Warrior Agency – an ethical PR company, and more.
Lizzie McManus, founder of Warrior Agency, commented: “I’m hardly ever lost for words, but I am struggling to find the right ones to sum up Dorset COP.
“It felt momentous. The sheer number of people that came to our county town, arriving in their hundreds, streaming through the doors for hours, all there because they want change.
“They want to fight for our planet, our environment, and our county.
“The collective energy and emotion in the room was palpable and tangible with sparks flying at times thanks to Tobais’ surprise speech, and tearful at others.
“Personally, I would like to thank all the organisers for making this happen. Zero Carbon Dorset, Sustainable Dorset, and Dorset CAN, you have galvanised Dorset and put us on the map as being committed to the climate.
“You made history, this was the UK’s first county-level COP. For me that’s incredibly important, ‘think global, act local’.
“Dorset COP connected, inspired, and committed people to enact change.”
One attendee, Kim Creswell, said: “There were loads of powerful, inspiring addresses, some extremely moving, some hard to hear, some very positive.
“There was an excellent mix of environmental campaigners from all spheres, from UN policy advisors to grass roots street protesters – every single person is of value to the most important issue of climate and biodiversity breakdown.”
The day closed with discussions over the powerful declaration of intent to mirror those issued at the international COPs.
The proposed Dorchester Declaration was to be a commitment to act, advocate, and lobby for action on climate change and the environment across the county.
However, the Declaration was not completed on the day as not everyone agreed with the wording, most noticeably young climate activist, Louis McKechnie, who during his address to the assembly said he would not put his name to something that did not demand immediate action.
Giles Watts, a coordinator with Dorset Climate Action Network, said: “COPs have traditionally found it difficult to find a wording to official texts which are universally agreed – and the Dorset COP was no exception.
“Nevertheless, there were some good suggestions as to how the text could be improved in the future and many people were still prepared to sign it.
“Combined with the Declaration, everyone was encouraged to make a pledge to do something personal to act over the coming year.
“Many of these were very powerful and will be shared around the network as part of the longer-term legacy of the conference.”
Co-founder of Zero Carbon Dorset, Dr Neil Smith, added: “We’ve been overwhelmed with positive feedback following Saturday’s event and are extremely pleased with how the day went.
“We now need to make sure this conference has a long-term impact for Dorset and will work hard to make sure the power of so many people and organisations remains focussed on delivering a greener and cleaner Dorset.”