‘Poverty usually has a women’s face’ said UK Secretary of State Caroline Spelman, in response to a question put by WEN yesterday in London, as she agreed that women will be hardest hit by climate change.

WEN was taking part in a discussion on the environment as part of a Charities Parliament event ‘Our Place, Our Planet, Our Responsibility’. Environment Secretary of State Caroline Spelman, Christian Aid representatives and the chair of conservation organisation A Rocha were present as well as members of the public and individuals from faith-based organisations. The discussion focused on the role charities and ordinary people can play in making our communities more environmentally friendly, but delegates were quick to remind the Secretary that cuts don’t help local action, and that more legislation to pretect the environment is needed.

WEN reminded the Secretary that women are the ones most affected by climate change, and asked how small organisations can compete with larger ones in terms of influencing government. Spelman’s answer: to go local. According to Spelman, the government’s localisation agenda will make it easier for communities to influence decision-making in their area, describing it as a ‘power shift’.

Meanwhile Christian Aid said that they encourage many of their members to become ’special lobbyists’ whereby Christian Aid assists them to pressurise their local MPs through visiting them a few times a year. According to Climate Change Campaigns Manager Laura Trevelyan, these supporters are Christian Aid’s ‘proudest resource’ and create a huge pressure from the grassroots.

A hand-written letter and face-to-face contact gets the most response from MPs, said Spelman, as opposed to generic email petitions.