WI Climate Conference

The WI’s Climate Conference brings members together to discuss climate change, community action and building a broad movement

The Abbey Centre in Westminster hosted members from all over England, Wales and the Islands this October, when they came together to delve into discussions on climate change and its many aspects.

The conference welcomed a distinguished lineup of experts who praised the WI's longstanding commitment to addressing environmental issues and leveraging its considerable influence to combat climate change. Prominent figures in the world of climate politics, Lady Theresa May, Ed Miliband, and Sir Alok Sharma spoke on their own climate work and all underlined the importance of sticking to the UK’s Net Zero commitments.

Lady Theresa May, in her opening remarks, stressed the significance of the WI's advocacy efforts, saying, "Slowing down on Net Zero now hands our global competitors an advantage... The economic benefits of Net Zero far outstrip the investment required. [But] slamming on the brakes will make this impossible."

The conference featured panel discussions with a diverse group of expert speakers covering topics such as exploring the current climate context, building a diverse and inclusive climate movement, understanding the importance of biodiversity and community action and examining the roles of women in climate change.

In a panel discussing the current political and scientific context of climate change, Helena Bennett from the Green Alliance emphasized that "Net Zero policies do not need to have a negative impact on how we live." The panel further highlighted that the UK has the opportunity to set good regulatory standards and influence food prices while providing support for farmers.

Rachael Orr, CEO of Climate Outreach urged attendees, during a panel on building a broad and inclusive climate movement, to keep emphasizing that the majority of people do care about climate change, but they want to be listened, not talked to. Gnisha Bevan, founder of Black Seeds Network stressed the importance of storytelling in climate activism, as a way of promoting an inclusive movement.

During the panel on "Women and Climate Change," participants heard that there is a need for more women in policy-making roles and climate change campaigning. Kirsty McNeill, Executive Director of Save the Children warned that women worldwide suffer disproportionately due to climate change and encouraged a feminist approach to addressing the issue.

The conference culminated in an inspiring discussion on taking community action, which reflected on WI members’ expertise as community activists, and encouraged attendees to take action and become the generation that drives change. Gnisha Bevan, highlighted the importance of meeting people where they are and taking action that is relevant to people, as well as celebrating success. Addressing the difficulty many face having conversations about climate, Ben Margolis from LargerUS told the conference that the key was finding shared values and starting where people are currently at.

Members and speakers left the conference with renewed dedication to placing women-centered progress, policy, and passion at the forefront of the fight against climate change. The NFWI will compile the discussions from the conference into a report, which will be made available to all members via MyWI. The report will form the basis for further engagement with members about the future of our Climate Change campaign.

For members who were not able to join the day, the audio recording of the conference is accessible on MyWI here.

Additionally, the NFWI launched new Climate Ambassador Resources in the summer, which can be downloaded on MyWI. Those interested in becoming Climate Ambassadors can also find more information and register.

All photos: Anne-Marie Bickerton