Paris climate conference adds poignancy to launch of Suffolk’s ‘Green Oscars’ 2016
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Suffolk’s Creating the Greenest County Awards 2016 were declared open for entries this week - just as world leaders and negotiators were discussing climate change in Paris.
The two events might seem worlds apart but, as John Grant reports, there were strong bonds that linked them.
It may not have been by design. It may have been pure coincidence. But it was, in any case, certainly appropriate.
Suffolk’s annual search for its environmental heroes and heroines was launched this week on precisely the same day that the much-heralded climate change summit began in Paris.
The poignancy was not lost on speakers at the Suffolk One sixth-form college in Ipswich who unveiled details of the Suffolk Creating the Greenest County Awards 2016.
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And the coincidence emphasised one of the guiding principles of the popular awards scheme which is now in its ninth year - that when it comes to combating climate change, or adapting to it, Suffolk alone obviously will not bring about success, but each and every one of its inhabitants can do their bit to help.
The awards - self-funded through sponsorship - highlight excellence in environmental achievement across Suffolk. They celebrate the huge number of inspirational people, businesses, communities, schools and projects that are working hard to protect and enhance the environment across the county.
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The 2016 awards, in which the Creating the Greenest County is in partnership with Anglian Water, sees the introduction of a new category - Greenest Farming Business - which is sponsored by the East Anglian Daily Times. The award is open to any farming business which has demonstrated an innovative approach to producing profitable agricultural goods and services whilst minimising negative environmental impacts and maximising the potential to enhance landscape, wildlife and amenity value.
Support from nationally recognised experts has been secured for the category, with Johan Tasker, chief reporter for Farmers Weekly, and Patrick and Brian Barker from the multi-award-winning Suffolk farm EJ Barker & Sons, of Westhorpe, agreeing to be judges.
Opening the awards’ launch event, Suffolk county councillor Jessica Fleming, who has special responsibilities for Suffolk Creating the Greenest County, said the scheme was a “wonderful opportunity to showcase the inspirational work that is going on in Suffolk’s businesses, schools and communities.”
She added: “They encourage others to follow in their green footsteps. I am thrilled to be supporting the awards this year and would like to thank our many generous sponsors who make the awards possible.”
The awards and Creating the Greenest County shared an aspiration to “improve and protect” Suffolk’s environment. The county was in a region in which economic growth and development were much to the fore. “We need to be able to grow successfully and maintain our quality of life,” she said.
It would be important to face the challenges presented by climate change and she added that she was looking forward to hearing local MP Dan Poulter give his report on his attendance at the Paris summit.
She concluded: “Last year’s awards attracted entries that represented a lot of hard work by many thousands of people. I believe that the applications we receive this year will continue in this great tradition.”
Declaring the 2016 awards open, Suffolk Creating the Greenest County chairman David Barker also referred to the Paris climate summit.
“There are many more important people than us meeting in Paris at the moment, but we here in Suffolk can all do something - and we have done. For example, we have doubled our recycling from 26% in 2003 to 53% in 2015,” he said.
“The challenges we face are not getting any smaller but we have got to balance economic growth with the protection of our natural and historic assets. We have got to make sure businesses and communities are resilient to the future impacts of climate change - innovating to find new ways to grow food we need, for example, without damaging our biodiversity.”
His own family farm had shown it was possible to produce food while at the same time enhancing wildlife and biodiversity - and he hoped the new Greenest Farm Business category in the 2016 awards would highlight similar work across the county.
Mr Barker had a strong message for any remaining “climate change deniers” in society. “As someone who has farmed in Suffolk for 50 years, I say that climate change is real, there is no doubt about it,” he said.
He paid tribute to the many sponsors who made the awards self-funding. “They make this happen so that the cost is not loaded onto the council tax and we are very grateful for all their support,” said Mr Barker.
“The awards are very exciting and they are getting bigger and better every year. This year is the ninth - last year we had over 200 entries and that is remarkable but let us hope for even more entries this year,” he added.
Film and media students at Suffolk One are continuing their partnership with the awards again for 2016, playing a key role in the process.
Grant Abbitt, a film and media teacher at the college, said: “We are delighted to once again be involved in both launching and filming the Greenest County Awards in conjunction with Suffolk County Council (which hosts Creating the Greenest County).
“Our students have successfully supported this exciting event for the last two years and this year their contribution will include producing videos of the launch event as well as filming all nominees prior to the awards ceremony next March. It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to get meaningful work experience and past efforts have surpassed our expectations.”
In addition to main partner Anglian Water, the awards 2016 are supported by main sponsors the East of England Co-operative Society and Flow Energy.
For further information and details on how to enter the awards, visit the website here. The closing date for entries is January 31, with the winners being announced at the awards ceremony on March 31.
Next week in eaenvironment - a closer look at the awards categories.
Waldringfield Flood Defence Group
It’s been a busy few days for members of the Waldringfield Flood Defence Group - but then, it’s been a busy few years for them too.
On Monday Jon and Linda Wilkins and Janette Brown represented the group at the launch of the Suffolk Creating the Greenest County Awards 2016 - the group having won the awards’ Climate Adaption category last year.
Mr Wilkins gave a presentation at the launch which outlined the work carried out by the group and its many partners, particularly in the wake of the damaging North Sea surge of December 2013. Mr Wilkins, by way of understatement, said the surge flooding had been “very problematic” for properties in the village’s Quayside area - 18 homes and several businesses had suffered in the East Coast’s worst such event in 60 years.
The group worked on funding and planning with many individuals and partner organisations to reach a point by September last year at which piling to a depth of 6m was installed. By December last year a 1km protective wall had been built to end the flood defence project’s first phase.
On Tuesday, Waldringfield celebrated the project’s second phase.
The group has worked with the trustees of the estate of Rev John Pretyman-Waller to create a 6ha freshwater nature reserve beside the River Deben on an area of land that had been owned by the clergyman, who had been rector of Waldringfield, Newbourne and Hemley for 39 years until his death in December 2013.
Rev Pretyman-Waller loved the river and its wildlife with a passion and had stipulated that the land - known as Dairy Farm Marsh - should be developed into a nature reserve.
The East Suffolk Internal Drainage Board moulded excavated areas on the marsh into a scrape and islands in work in which Karen Thomas was the board’s key representative. The excavated clay, sand and shingle has been used to raise and strengthen a 1km stretch of river footpath, and work has been carried out to improve the saltmarsh in front of the reserve.