First Earth Cafe

Well it’s begun, a new community event in Ely. EastcambsCAN’s first Earth cafe was held on Thursday early evening on 20th October at Prosper Coffee co, the cafe at Juice gym on Broad street. We were made to feel very welcome in this warm homely place and this supported a relaxed atmosphere and good conversation.

Reasonably good attendance for our first cafe but the overriding energy was enthusiasm and relief that this event was here in Ely. Emma, the new full time Senior Climate Change and Natural Environment Officer at ecdc gave up her own time to attend and her contributions were valuable. Personal introductions and motives for attending were expressed and Susan gave a brief background to EastcambsCAN and the idea behind the Earth cafe.

Key points were our connection to Friends of the Earth climate action network and this network being a local grassroots solution to a global problem. With an estimate by the Climate Change Committee that almost 60% of required emissions cuts now depend on decisions taken at local and individual level, this set the scene for the important role we have to play in working towards carbon zero in the district. Also the importance of EastcambsCAN being a resource to be relied upon by residents was mentioned and therefore engagement via the Earth cafe, and our new website, play an important role.

Susan invited involvement whether by coming to the Earth cafe or attending EastcambsCAN meetings. We want to achieve results! Current initiatives such as increased ev charging points and engaging parish councils with climate asks were mentioned. Current members of the group were referred to and Richard introduced himself.

The Earth cafe has primarily been set up to engage with residents, and to give and exchange helpful practical information, however, it was clear that some new attendees wanted to work on initiatives. This is very positive and with the interest of the new climate change officer and financial backing of the district council, Susan commented this is an opportunity and let’s work on ideas and putting initiatives in place.

Whilst the first cafe was primarily introductions, subsequent cafes would be more structured with a speaker on a specific topic around reduction of carbon emissions or climate mitigation.

We then moved on to an exercise in imagination and discussion of what does a zero carbon East Cambs district look like.

The mixed rural and urban character of the district brings specific hurdles.
To help start the discussion Susan summarised the three principle sources of carbon emissions in the district- surface transport, domestic and land use (carbon from peat). Then Susan referred to the initial report of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Commission on Climate and the recommendations of the commission on these sources.
After a brief conversation on agricultural land and peat we focused on transport as carbon emissions in the district are higher here than the national figure. We discussed active transport and lack of infrastructure for safe cycling, walking and running. We also focused on bus services and possible alternatives such as on demand electric buses and whether we felt the on demand operation was a good idea or not. We queried the current contract with Stagecoach and local services being cut back or maintained. How do we bring residents with us to reduce carbon emissions from surface transport? We discussed the need for any incentives and pushing resulting benefits.

Our discussion moved to the practicality of car sharing and/or car clubs. Jethro mentioned we had previously been looking at acquiring an electric car for a car club in Ely. We also referred back to active transport and Amanda introduced the idea of having a number of community electric bikes for use in and around Ely, for example Witchford to Ely. Making them brightly painted so they are noticeable and possibly using council facilities to charge with the planned installation of solar panels. We discussed how we would fund these eg crowd funding and how the district council could help. We also discussed possible help from the City of Ely council who are keen to work on sustainability in Ely.

Emily had to leave early but mentioned whether we could try to work on idling and discouraging idling in the district.
We need to share organising individual cafes. Susan is away until April. Kasia has kindly offered to organise the next cafe. Great news!

Written by Susan Bussel