University of East Anglia (UEA) students have been involved with securing local MP support as part of a national campaign seeking to address key environmental issues by raising awareness and liaising with constituents, to explore the ways in which they can save money and save the planet.
‘Warm This Winter’ is a coalition of 40 leading anti-poverty, environmental and energy affordability organisations from across the UK, including Greenpeace, WWF UK, Oxfam, and Save the Children, who enjoy cross-party support in Westminster. Working with these organisations, the UEA students are campaigning to implement the ‘Warm This Winter’ vision in Norfolk, using the local MPs and their constituencies to find the most effective way of delivering the coalition’s desired outcomes.
The main focus for the students is to encourage all of Norfolk’s MPs to publicly lend their names to the Warm This Winter (WtW) pledge, showcasing their explicit support for a switch to renewables, energy price support for lower income households, and a commitment to home upgrades which support the environmental aims. While all the regions' MPs have been approached by the students for their endorsement, Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) and Clive Lewis (Norwich South) are the only two so far who have confirmed their involvement.
46 pledges have been gathered as part of the national campaign thus far, including the signatures collected by the UEA students - ensuring protection for the MPs’ constituents and promising help to keep them warm each winter by taking governmental action.
Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, said:
“I am delighted to sign this pledge because it is so important to create a cleaner and greener future for generations to come. I also wholly agree in doing all we can to retrofit our housing stock to help keep households warm every winter. From small changes we can do ourselves to larger actions within governments we need to continue investing in sustainable and renewable forms of energy.”
Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, said:
“I am very proud to see this student-led campaign fighting for energy equity in Norfolk. I believe access to energy to meet the needs of a decent life is a basic right. UEA Students’ Warm This Winter campaign dovetails with my Energy Equity Commission Bill in Parliament which calls for a Universal Basic Energy allowance for all and a retrofit revolution.”
With 1 in 10 households in Norfolk living in energy poverty, the pledge urges the government to act now to prevent a further crisis taking hold. As a result of statistics such as this, the students have researched climate and energy solutions, including energy poverty, and public attitudes and climate impacts on businesses, nature, and people. They have also written briefings for constituents and MPs.
Around 30 UEA students have been involved with the campaign as part of their work on the Get Norfolk Greener project, which forms a core part of the Activist Campaigning module for students studying in the School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies.
Fran File, a BA (Hons) Society, Culture and Media student who led on research, and organising an event at the Student Information Zone (SIZ) on campus, said:
“I found it greatly rewarding to speak with Duncan Baker, the MP for North Norfolk, as it was clear that he and Clive Lewis, the South Norwich MP, shared the same passion for combatting the climate crisis and ending fuel poverty by signing the pledge. This came after the process of organising the campaign, which involved considerable teamwork and mutual support throughout the module group.
“Together, we arranged the launch at the Green Day event with UEA’s Student Information Zone, completed a radio interview with BBC Voices, and travelled around Norfolk to get photos with different constituents. Overall, it was a gratifying module and great to work together with my peers.”
The Get Norfolk Greener group visited households within Duncan Baker’s and Clive Lewis’ constituencies and supported the residents to use an adapted version of the Greenpeace /Cambridge Econometrics 'Affordable Energy Calculator' which informs householders of the money that could be saved if their homes were upgraded in line with the pledge, a figure that came out with a saving of up to £1172 per year on energy bills.
Following the resident's involvement, they were encouraged to put their names to a letter, along with the students, asking their local MP to sign the pledge. Further support could be shown by posing for a picture with a large board with how much money they could save, their MP’s name, and a call to sign the pledge.
Chris Rose, Associate Tutor in Political Studies at UEA, and a former Director at Greenpeace, led the Activist Campaigning module this year, working closely with the students. He said:
"Our Activist Campaigning module usually works through a partnership where students engage with an external organisation on a live campaign. Campaigning is essentially something you can only learn how to do by trying it. Like learning to swim, you can read a lot of theory about it but to get any good you've got to jump in.
“The success of this project so far is based on a solid foundation of teamwork and research, which allowed for the students to go out in the community and engage with residents in a meaningful and constructive way. Through their hard work and passion for change, they have been able to make a real difference; gaining MP support in the region is a great result and their work will feed directly into the national Warm this Winter campaign.”
Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, which is also part of the Warm This Winter campaign, commented:
“The energy bills crisis has its roots in Westminster and we are pleased that MPs across political parties and around the country are now taking action to help address this immediate issue. We need urgent additional financial support for the most vulnerable and a significant ramping up of insulation and energy efficiency schemes.”