Climate change festival
The climate change festival in 2008 turned the debate on its head.
‘Moving towards a low carbon city isn’t about self denial and sacrifice. It’s about creating a much better quality of life for everyone.’
Ken Shuttleworth, architect
Cities are major contributors to the causes of climate change. But they can also pioneer many of the solutions. In 2007 CABE had brought together England’s eight major regional cities at the ‘Hothouse’ in Bristol. What emerged was a conviction that the time had come to show how responding to climate change can improve our towns and cities.
And the way to do this was to inspire people with the idea of how good it would be to live in a well designed, low carbon place. This would secure a public mandate for the bold political decisions needed to make it a reality.
So the idea of a climate change festival took hold, and Birmingham – a powerhouse of the industrial revolution – was its pioneer.
Over nine days in June 2008, CABE and Birmingham City Council organised 181 activities that helped people see a direct link between climate change and the design of buildings and spaces around them. A third of a million people took part.
What made the festival a success? First of all, a dramatic focal point: a 29-metre-high electricity pylon outside the town hall, sitting in a field of corn, made people stop and wonder about climate change and their city.
Outsize, brightly coloured picture frames, with a bench attached, framed views of the urban landscape. Each had a caption which prompted people to think abut their city differently and how it might change. There were walks, talks and building tours by famous personalities. Developers, designers and public servants debated how we create sustainable cities. And 30,000 young people took part in Britain’s first Green Day.
Did the festival achieve what it set out to do?
It provided a platform for political leadership: Birmingham City Council announced its intention to cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent in just 18 years, at that time twice as fast as the target set by national government.
The festival was a great success for the city and the council. … a catalyst to involve more of the public, politicians and council officers in the debate .. It has been extremely valuable to the city educationally and in continuing to change behaviour.
Councillor Paul Tilsley, deputy leader, Birmingham City Council
Fifty-six per cent of people at festival events said that they had been motivated to do something about climate change; and 7,000 people committed to reduce their carbon footprint over the following 12 months.
Tackling climate change is a collective challenge – it needs an integrated response from people and organisations that don’t normally work together. The climate change festival in 2008 turned the debate on its head. Partnership was at the heart of the climate change festival. Over 90 different organisations took part: politicians and a bishop; Friends of the Earth and a multinational energy supplier, working together with designers, developers and civic leaders to make the city sustainable.
See all the photos from the climate change festival: