I received a text message this morning from the Customer Welfare Team at Electricity North West:
We’re getting in touch to make you aware of our free energy-saving service. If you’d like to benefit from advice on how to save both money and energy then please reply to this message with your postcode and we’ll arrange for Cumbria Action for Sustainability, one of our local partners, to contact you. Thanks.
The name rang a vague bell, then I remembered that I’d seen it on a poster on the notice board outside our local library last week. It had a picture of a globe, and was headed “Puzzled over the climate crisis?”. It went on:
Reading for a zero-carbon Cumbria. Want to take action but don’t know where to begin? Join one of our FREE climate reading groups to read, learn & discuss the climate emergency with others in your area throughout Cumbria.
Make friends. Make sense. Make change.
Groups meet in libraries, cafes, pubs, homes [where covid regulations allow] or online.
Book bundles distributed to groups by Cumbria Libraries.
At the foot of the photo were logos for Cumbria Libraries, Cumbria County Council, Emergence Foundation and Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS). A telephone number and email address were also supplied for the named individual who it seems has been appointed to make all this happen. However, I won’t spoil his week by naming him or supplying his email address or telephone number here.
I feel no such inhibitions regarding CAfS, as they have a websitei and they do seem keen that people contact them. Their website describes them as being “Cumbria’s climate change and sustainability organisation” and goes on to say that “We’re here to help Cumbrians to reduce their carbon footprint and prevent damaging climate change.”
I’ve lost count now of the number of stories about small endeavours, however well meant, and organisations such as this where the words (or some variation) “prevent damaging climate change” appear. The implicit assumption is obviously that all climate change is damaging and must be stopped (I wonder if I’d be allowed to attend one of the reading groups and ask awkward questions, or should sceptics not apply?). The other assumption seems to be that they actually can prevent climate change. I know, I know, lots of little steps add up, but if everyone in Cumbria ceased emitting CO2 overnight, it wouldn’t make the blindest difference to anything.
As for that poster, advertising a reading group, a visit to the CAfS website puts it rather differently:
Around 400 people across Cumbria will be more empowered to take action on climate change in 2021 through a programme of community training on climate science and solutions, funded by the Emergence Foundation.
The interactive activities include short online training sessions and climate conversation cafes, and they’ll be delivered by a network of 20 volunteers, supported by our CAfS training coordinator. The programme got under way in March 2021 and continues until September 2021.
Taking action on climate change is a journey. The first step for most people is to know that there’s a problem, to care about that problem, to understand what the solutions are and what they can do about it. Knowledge is power, and that’s where our new series of community climate training comes in.
Not so much a reading group, then, and more a training (dare I say propaganda?) session.
But back to the website more generally. They benefit from charitable status, and they proudly state that they receive “no government or other unrestricted statutory funding” and then a pie chart shows that they earn almost one quarter of their funding, with a small further amount in the form of donations and investment income, but that 70.31% of their income is grant income. A visit to the Charity Commission websiteii tells me (for the financial year ending 29th February 2020):
Total income includes £674 from 2 government contract(s) and £90,739 from 6 government grant(s).
And a quick look at their most recent filed accounts shows grants from South Lakeland District Council, Lake District National Park, Eden District Council, Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Council for Voluntary Service (itself a registered charity), Historic England, Innovate UK (which, according to my friend Wikipedia, is “the United Kingdom’s innovation agency, a non-departmental public body operating at arm’s length from the Government as part of the United Kingdom Research and Innovation organisation), Electricity North West (hence my text message, I suppose) and NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group.
Their workforce is not insubstantial:
Management and Administration
Chief Executive Officer
Finance and Resources Manager
Project Management and Development
Project Manager: Fellfoot Forward
Climate and Carbon Literacy Training Manager
Project Manager: Low Carbon Communities
Community Carbon Literacy Coordinator
Electric Vehicles Project Team
Low-carbon Development Manager
Project Officer: Electric vehicle chargepoint programme
Programme manager: Energy services
Project manager: Retrofit for Cumbria
Project manager (x5):Cold to Cosy Homes
Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership
Project Manager: Zero Carbon Cumbria
Project Support Officer: Zero Carbon Cumbria
Cumbria Sustainability Network Coordinator
Marketing & communications manager (x2)
Events & project support officer
Project support officer
They are also currently advertising for a senior marketing officer and a marketing officer.
I suppose these are some of the quality green jobs we are always being told are being created as part of the drive to net zero. If I reply to my text message, I wonder which one of them will get in touch and help me to work out which gadgets I need to switch off.