Portsmouth set to host first ever climate festival in bid to tackle changes impacting city as University professor warns: ‘it’s not in the future, it’s happening now’

Portsmouth is set to host first ever climate festival in bid to tackle changes affecting the city as university professor warns: ‘it’s not in the future, it’s happening now’.

By Emily Jessica Turner
Thursday, 30th September 2021, 4:55 am

The three-week-long Portsmouth Climate Festival, set to kick off next month, will bring together communities and organisations from all over the city for a series of events.

Set to take place between October 22 and November 12, the festival aims to raise awareness of the climate challenges threatening our city, and to highlight opportunities to make a difference.

It will coincide with the UK’s hosting of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, which will bring together world leaders to commit to urgent global climate action.

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Professor Steve Fletcher

The climate festival has been established by the University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth City Council and Portsmouth Climate Action Board.

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Professor Steve Fletcher, director of revolution plastics at the University of Portsmouth and also chair of the Portsmouth Climate Action Board, is helping to co-organise the festival.

He said: ‘The climate emergency remains the biggest long-term challenge our city faces.

Bottle discarded on the beach

‘We need to make tackling climate change a top priority.

‘The Portsmouth Climate Festival will give the people of Portsmouth a chance to find out more and encouragement to help make a difference.’

Portsmouth aims to achieve net zero carbon by 2030, and it is hoped that the festival will mobilise action and build climate literacy to help with reaching that goal.

Residents are invited to get involved by holding an online or in-person event or activity, inspired by the need for urgent climate action in the city, or by attending one of the events being held.

Kimberly Barrett

Steve said: ‘The climate festival is for everyone, the events are for the public, and I would encourage people to sign up to go to events and learn a bit more.’

Activities for children will take place during the half term, and other talks and seminars for adults will be held in the evenings and at weekends.

Contributors from all over the world will co-host a webinar event on ‘plastics, climate and the art of making change’ on October 22, where visitors can learn more about the inspiring work being done by the University of Portsmouth in Nairobi to help eliminate plastic pollution.

A free family open day at the Institute of Marine Sciences will take place on October 23, with demonstrations, experiments, activities, and a chance to meet the team.

Going for Green

This will be an opportunity to witness the research being done by the university, and to sign up for the first ever plastic surveys in Portsmouth.

Academics from the university and beyond will outline the climate challenges facing the city at a ‘Climate Challenges in Portsmouth’ event to be held on November 1.

Steve said: ‘Climate change is something that affects all of us, everywhere. It’s not in the future, it’s happening now.

‘It will look at the challenges surrounding Portsmouth, and begin to equip people to take these challenges seriously.

‘Our purpose is to help the city respond, and the Portsmouth Climate Festival is part of that mission, to bring awareness to people and raise the knowledge about climate change in the city’s population, and to give good examples of what we can do about it.’

Portsmouth is already witnessing changes to sea levels, extreme weather events, warmer summers, wetter winters and increasing air pollution – signs that climate change is happening all around.

Steve added: ‘There are a lot of coastal cities which face similar challenges, but everywhere is different, and the specific set of challenges facing Portsmouth will be unique to Portsmouth.

‘In an island on the south coast of England which is low-lying and densely populated and experiencing more storms and sea levels rising, there are particular vulnerabilities that Portsmouth faces.’

While several events are already planned for the festival, more events will be added to the website each day when the website goes live on October 5.

Cllr Kimberly Barrett, the city council’s cabinet member for climate change and the green recovery, said: ‘Portsmouth Climate Festival supports the objectives of COP26 and the need for everyone to work together towards a combined goal to tackle climate change.

‘In March 2019, we declared a climate emergency in Portsmouth, and this event is a really important part of the work we're doing - alongside partners across the city - to make a difference in our city.

‘There is no one solution to climate change, but there are changes we can all make, and we hope that Portsmouth Climate Festival will offer the opportunity to showcase some of the most innovative activities and projects happening in our city to address the climate challenge.’

Portsmouth Climate Festival will be an opportunity for the city to explore issues related to the four main goals of COP26: securing a global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5C within reach, adapting to protect communities and natural habitats, mobilising finance for climate action, and working together to rise to the challenges of the climate crisis.

Steve said: ‘The evidence suggests that if the climate warms by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, or natural background carbon, there will begin to be problematic system shifts in how natural ecosystems operate.

‘The scientific consensus is that we need to take action by 2030 to stop the world going above 1.5C.

‘There are lots of groups and individuals and initiatives that really encourage and inspire climate action.

‘We need a whole-scale transformation across the economy and across the city - some kind of systemic change.’

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