Interview with Lesley Bond - June 2021


From left to right: Rev'd Martyn Hawkes, Vicar of St Gabriel's Aldersbrook; Lesley Bond, Make COP26 Count participant; John Cryer, Member of Parliament for Leyton and Wanstead

Lesley Bond, a participant in the Make COP26 Count programme run by Hope for the Future and USPG and a member of St Gabriel’s Church, Aldersbrook in East London, spoke to USPG about the progress of the programme over the last three months.

Lesley said, ‘On 7 March, we held our Climate Sunday service. This act of worship focused on our congregation’s concerns about the effects of climate change and included talks about veganism and beekeeping, two different ways of living more sustainably.’

Lesley has focused on the political aspects of Make COP26 Count. She said, ‘Being involved in this programme has given me the relevant knowledge about how parliament works, and how you can approach Members of Parliament to speak on your behalf. I’ve always thought that a politician wouldn’t take any notice of me, but this isn’t actually the case. The Rev’d Martyn Hawkes, Vicar of St Gabriel’s Church, and I met with John Cryer, the Member of Parliament for Leyton and Wanstead. We asked him to raise a Parliamentary Question about job creation in the context of the government’s Green Homes Grant and home insulation scheme. Unemployment is very high in Leyton and Wanstead and research by Green New Deal UK, a non-profit organisation promoting climate justice, suggests that there is scope for the creation of around 1000 new ‘green jobs’ in our area. John agreed to submit a written question to Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, asking ‘how the heat and building strategy will support job creation and employees working in the green energy sector?’ and an oral question to Kwasi Kwarteng, asking ‘what will replace the national Green Homes Grant funding for those in local authorities such as Leyton and Wanstead which aren’t due to receive any funding in the first round of grants?’ We also discussed the possibility of installing solar panels on church property and requesting council permission to do this. John also expressed an interest in holding constituency coffee mornings in the St Gabriel’s church hall once Covid-19 restrictions have lifted. It now feels like there is a connection between the church and our local MP. We will be having a follow-up meeting with him in a couple of months and hope to keep in contact between now and then’.

Lesley added, ‘The Make COP26 Count programme made this possible, by providing training on how to organise meetings with MPs and how to hold MPs to commitments made in these meetings. I’m an absolute beginner when it comes to political engagement, but the programme enabled me to be involved in the process’.

Lesley already has plans to continue her climate activism after the Make COP26 Count programme finishes.  She said, ‘The logical next step for me is to become more involved in helping to make my local community more sustainable. I think it’s very important for communities to consider issues such as food security and energy efficiency and I would like to learn more about these issues. I believe that churches are particularly well-placed to participate in discussions around sustainability. Church congregations are often at the heart of local communities. I believe that churches have a great opportunity to really engage with their local communities through this kind of work. Groups such as Transition Towns Leytonstone and the Woodland Creation and Ecological Networks Project, which is based in Aldersbrook, are already engaged in this conversation. I think it would be great for us all to gather together as a community and develop a plan for how our local area can adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change’.

Make COP26 Count will run until November 2021, when COP26 will be taking place in Glasgow.

Make COP26 Count is a programme run by Hope for the Future and USPG, encouraging church members across the UK and Ireland to participate in climate activism in the run-up to COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference.