Written by Tom Jones
Edited by Anthony Figueroa
Frank Field MP Wins for Climate Change Entrepreneurship
Frank Field is something of an oddity around Westminster; a social conservative member of the Parliamentary Labour Party, representing Birkenhead since 1979. He is well respected and liked on both sides of the House, at times a vociferous critic of both Conservatives and Labour. In short: there is only one Frank Field.
Frank is one of the few politicians to lead by action, rather than simply lend his name and the occasional ear. Back in 2007 when Australia’s batting side could hold out for more than a day, Frank read Review on the Economics of Climate Change, a thrilling read if there ever was one. Its message of protecting the rainforest in order to protect the world inspired him to set up Cool Earth with Johan Eliasch. Together, they were out to prove that community offered the best option to help protect the dwindling resource.
A deceptively simple idea, Cool Earth raises money to buy sections of the most vulnerable rainforest in order to protect them, but what sets it apart? According to Frank, Cool Earth doesn’t just save rainforests through any means. It offers up a sustainable method. One that, in his words, “creates empowered communities rather than a cycle of dependency.”
Despite having saved around 500,000 acres of rainforest, Frank’s work is far from over. Further work lies in many different areas. One area of particular difficulty is keeping climate change on the agenda.
“I think some politicians find it difficult to get involved with problems they can see no hope of solving,” says Frank. “Politicians have so long been discussing the issue of climate change that it is in danger of becoming the new normal – it needn’t be.”
In the era of rolling news coverage, stories are out of fashion faster than ever. The key to keeping the issue in the spotlight is to keep the debate rolling by taking concrete action. Another issue of difficulty is one of engagement. Cool Earth provides its own solution for this by showing how an individual’s actions can have a direct and significant impact:
“Saving one acre of rainforest prevents CO2 emissions equivalent to the impact of driving around the world 32 times. That’s likely to be the most powerful environmental action any of us will make in a lifetime.”
The next step is to further expand the work of Cool Earth with additional funding. With the large funds available from the World Bank for combatting climate change, the future looks bright.
Frank’s belief in the power of community extends far beyond his work with Cool Earth. He is well known for fronting many campaigns, often focussing on social issues. His proudest moments include changing “the welfare debate from one which was unconditional to one that was conditional or earned”, winning child benefit and— most recently— his work in ensuring the UK government remain committed to the war on modern slavery, which culminated in the UK passing the Modern Slavery Act 2015. His role as ‘Poverty Csar’, as appointed by David Cameron, sees him “identifying, measuring, harnessing and teaching those early life experiences that can override household income when it comes to preparing children for school.” In order to achieve this, Frank has set up the Foundation Years Trust and has taken serious steps in preventing children affected by poverty from sliding into becoming poverty-stricken adults.
Frank Field is a deserving winner of the Social Driver award. He’s successfully bridged the gap between the people and the government, providing a solution to a worldwide problem widely considered too large for governments to tackle. Rejecting top-down approaches to combating global warming has seen innovative solutions to protecting the rainforest belt from deforestation and supplanting logging as an income source, whilst offering a long term, sustainable answer.