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This annual report was presented by Nicky Bull, Chair of Operation Noah, at our AGM on 1 July 2016 in London.
Summary of activities:
Just a few days after last year’s AGM, Operation Noah – as part of the Climate Coalition – was involved in supporting the ‘Speak Up’ climate lobby of Parliament on 17 June. We promoted it to our supporters and hosted a stand where information about both Operation Noah and its Bright Now campaign was made available. A number of good conversations were had with some of the many thousands who turned out in Westminster on the day to speak to their Members of Parliament. The media coverage of ‘Speak Up’ was very disappointing but for many climate campaigners the day marked the start of a new level of ongoing engagement with their political representatives.
In September 2015 board members Jean Leston and Alex Mabbs represented Operation Noah at ‘Reconciling a Wounded Planet’ in Coventry and more recently (15-16 April 2016) they, and a number of other board members, were back in Coventry for the Ecumenical World Development Conference, ‘Hope in a Changing Climate’.
A particular focus of the latter part of last year was, of course, the December 2015 COP21 climate negotiations in Paris. Operation Noah, working with Christian Aid and supported by funding from the Diocese of Lichfield, worked with the Riding Lights Theatre Company from York to plan and stage an eco drama in the run-up to the COP talks. The result, Baked Alaska, toured to around 50 venues between mid-September and late November. It was well received and as a result of the audience appeal following the show every venue sent someone to visit their local MP. Riding Lights are currently appealing for funds so that a recording of selected scenes from the drama can be made available to all schools in the UK; ON has supported this appeal and hopes very much that this project will go ahead later this year.
Alongside Baked Alaska, the Pilgrimage2Paris was also well supported by Operation Noah, with board members Jean Leston and Giles Goddard taking part. The links and contacts established while pilgrims made their way to Paris have proved to be very beneficial.
In April 2016, in the week after the signing of the agreement reached in Paris last year, Operation Noah joined with over 70 organisations in signing an open letter to the Chairs of seven major oil companies, calling on them to support the Paris Agreement and to put limiting climate change to well below 2°C, and preferably 1.5°C, at the heart of their businesses’ plans for the future.
We have continued to support the Pray & Fast for the Climate initiative, which is posting monthly prayer notes on its website. I recommend these to anyone who has a ‘green’ noticeboard in their church as being a useful way of keeping people up to date with what is happening around the world on climate change issues.
Ruth Jarman of Operation Noah, along with a group of fellow members of Christian Climate Action, took part in an act of civil disobedience on the first day of the COP21 talks, when they ‘whitewashed’ the front of the Department of Energy and Climate Change in Westminster, rebranding it the Department for Extreme Climate Change. They have since been found guilty of criminal damage and fined but their trial on 31 May 2016 was an opportunity for others who sympathised with their stance to support them and a number of Operation Noah board members turned up in very wet weather to do so.
Following on from an extremely useful strategy day, held shortly before our last AGM – in May 2015 – we were challenged by a number of recommendations arising out of the day and, in response, the board took the decision to relocate our office to 40 Bermondsey Street, the Neighbourhood Office, but known to many as the ‘Green Hub’. The move was completed in January 2016 and we now have a desk and facilities alongside a range of secular climate bodies, all of whom have been very welcoming and were keen to have a faith-based organisation among their number.
This move has been particularly beneficial because the following month, in February 2016, we recruited James Buchanan to the role of Bright Now campaigner. James has had previous experience with CAFOD and others and, most recently, had been the organiser of the Pilgrimage2Paris. As a result, he was already a familiar face to most of the ON board and is also well known to many others across the Faith for the Climate network. The Bright Now fossil fuel disinvestment campaign has also been extremely busy during the past year.
During the year we have been very fortunate to receive grant funding for the work of Bright Now – and more recently for a new campaign that is now also being planned. We are grateful to the Sainsbury Family Trusts and to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust for these awards but we are still completely dependent upon our supporters and regular donor members who give unrestricted funds; these are needed to cover the ongoing running costs of Operation Noah. The sums are not huge and for a number of years we have been aiming to achieve the equivalent of 100 donors each giving £10 per month. This has proved to be very difficult and although we receive one-off donations and legacies that help a great deal we continue to have a Treasurer who spends a great deal of time feeling rather nervous about our finances!
Finally, there are some very important thank-yous. During the last year we have said farewell to both our Operation Noah Administrator, Kate Allardyce, who has moved on to a post based at Kew Gardens and to Ellie Roberts, Bright Now Campaigner, who is now working for the Quakers at Friends House. I would like to record thanks to both of them for all their hard work and commitment. With our move to the Neighbourhood Office in January we are now able to hold meetings at our own base but we are also extremely grateful to Friends House for allowing us to hold most of our board meetings there over recent years.
Thanks are also due to those board members who have moved on to do other things during the past year. We have said goodbye to Isabel Carter, Sunniva Taylor, Siobhan Grimes and Penny Dakin Kiley. We wish them all well and, in Penny’s case, we are delighted that she has been able to return in order to work for Operation Noah in a consultancy capacity on all aspects of our communications for much of the last year. Many thanks to all of them – and also to Chris Halliwell and Mark Letcher who have continued to work extremely hard as Vice-Chairs throughout the year.