We had what I thought was a very successful meeting of Darlington Assembly today, focussing on the green agenda facing the Borough.
About 100 people were there, mostly representing a myriad of organisations from across the town.
An early presentation was given by Adrian Hilton, the Regional Climate Change Co-ordinator based at the North East Assembly. Adrian spelled out just how climate change, happening now around us, could accelerate and alter life in the North East forever, whether as a result of higher temperatures, flooding or storm surges.
The Minister of State Ed Milliband MP had wanted to attend, but unfortunately had to pull out - he sent a personal message to the Assembly which was well-received. Our local MP Alan Milburn came too to add his thoughts to the proceedings, and launch the Greener Darlington awards, of which more anon.
The most valuable section was devoted to practical examples of how organisations are doing their bit to cut CO2 emissions and help lower the worst predictions for global warming. Alistair Mackenzie, the parish clerk at Sadberge talked about the energy saving project in the village which has changed residents' patterns of use for the better. An environmental engineer from Cummins explained how the local company has made a real dent in their carbon emissions, and energy bills too. And there was a lovely presentation from schoolchildren at Harrowgate Hill Primary school about their work, which has earned them a coveted green flag.
In my 15 minutes, I tried to give a sense of where we all are in the Borough at the moment on the sustainability agenda. We have the plans and the strategies, but by themselves, they simply tick boxes. Having a strong and vibrant Local Strategic partnership, under the leadership of chair Alasdair MacConachie is a huge boost (in evidence from the Assembly today).
All too often, thinking about climate change leads to feelings of despair - turning round the metaphorical supertanker seems impossible for a mere individual, so why bother? Yet in Darlington, we are making real progress, as evidenced above. And local council schemes like the Local Motion project, or the new household waste contract, or the Green Fair, or the work we are beginning to reduce the authority's carbon footprint, all will make a real difference.
To mix my metaphors, as a Borough we have a mountain to climb to play a full and active part in the international drive to limit climate change. We have made progress however, and are (at least) in the foothills. We should feel good about that, whilst not minimising the scale of the task ahead. There was plenty of food for thought for all the attending Assembly members after today's event.