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Hurst Castle vigil and Totton bank protest sending local message to COP26 summit

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CLIMATE activists are organising events across the New Forest in a bid to send a message to world leaders taking part in the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

On Sunday hundreds of people are expected to join a march from Milford to Hurst Castle to highlight coastal erosion's part in the recent collapse of a large section of the historic monument.

Organised by New Forest Friends of the Earth, the vigil will gather at the Needles Eye Café at 11am before heading to Hurst Castle and then back to Milford village green where speeches and live music are planned.

Protesters Gathered at Barclays Bank in Totton as part of COP26 protests
Protesters Gathered at Barclays Bank in Totton as part of COP26 protests

Spokesperson Ben Collins said: “Our vigil is a stand-up call on the leaders of the world meeting in Glasgow to go beyond mere words and take action to keep our planet and coastline safe for our children and grandchildren.

“It is expected that many local people will be attending the vigil, very concerned that the coastal storms being experienced in this area are gaining in ferocity and causing increasing erosion.”

The demonstration will come days after 15 campaigners gathered outside Barclays Bank in Totton as part of the international Defund Climate Chaos Day of Action which called to stop the flow of cash for fossil fuel extraction.

Event organiser and Ashurst-based children’s author Susie Laan said: “Reaching net zero in such a short time is going to be a challenge.

“However, if we are asking everyone to change their behaviour, and not take a ‘business as usual’ approach, it would seem only fair that banks like Barclays stop funding big polluters, but instead turn their investments towards renewables and green projects.”

Describing the protest as a “great success” with lots of positive engagement from the public, fellow protestor Louise Ravula said the group also delivered at letter to the Totton branch manager calling on Barclays to stop funding the oil industry.

Louise said: “An eye watering $3.8tn has been loaned to fossil fuel companies since the signing of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.”

Activists write on the footpath
Activists write on the footpath

After declaring a climate emergency in January 2020, the national park authority recently launched its New Forest Climate and Nature Challenge, in a bid to ensure the region is net zero with nature by 2050.

NPA chair Gavin Parker described climate change as the greatest long-term challenge for the national park with warmer, wetter winters; hotter, drier summers; rising sea levels and increasing extreme weather events.

He said: "Taking a few steps, no matter how small, can all add up to help make a positive impact on the environment.”

Groups and individuals are invited to sign up to nature challenge pledge on the NPA website where funding is also available for projects that counteract climate change.

Hurst Castle was recently damaged by coastal erosion
Hurst Castle was recently damaged by coastal erosion

Meanwhile youngsters from 15 schools and preschools across the Forest sent their own messages to world leaders by designing 650 postcards setting out their environmental hopes, to be delivered to the COP26 summit.

Communities across the Forest have been inspired to launch their own Greening Campaigns, which encourage residents to join forces to set out a number of small eco-friendly goals.

Sway will hold a community open meeting at the village hall on Monday 15th November at 7pm to officially launch its campaign.

Spokesperson Wendy Collyer said: “Sway community is coming together to make ourselves greener. We need you to help decide what collective action our village should take.”

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