We were very excited to welcome on board our new chief executive, Karen Mitchell, this month. Karen is now settling into her position at our helm, while her predecessor, Hazel Graham, gets busy in her new CAfS post, bringing some of the most influential organisations in Cumbria together to tackle climate change. Watch this space to hear more about what Hazel’s been doing in the new year. Meanwhile, Karen shares her thoughts about the challenges and opportunities ahead for CAfS…

I’m delighted to be writing to you as the new CEO of Cumbria Action for Sustainability. I have long admired the impact of CAfS so I feel tremendously privileged to have been given the opportunity to work with this dedicated team at such a critical time for all our futures. I’m particularly pleased that Hazel Graham, the previous CEO, is now able to forge ahead in her new development role at CAfS, a visionary and vital role for both the charity and Cumbria.

For 20 years CAfS has been true to its vision of a zero-carbon Cumbria, working away diligently towards that outcome in many different ways – from tackling fuel poverty and developing renewable energy initiatives to inspiring communities to reduce waste and grow food and giving young people a voice. It works collaboratively at all levels across the county – with individuals, communities, businesses, local authorities and partnerships. It is an organisation that punches well above its weight.

In the last year, demand for the expertise, knowledge and networks that CAfS has developed over two decades has shot up – the need is intense and growing. A key priority in my first few months is to ensure we can respond to this demand and provide the kind of support that individuals, communities, businesses and local authorities are calling for to most effectively navigate a course towards zero carbon.

Funding for non-governmental organisations like CAfS to work on climate change has historically been very, very low. We need this to change rapidly and for foundations and trusts to realise that this is indeed a climate emergency, there is no time to waste and that support for action needs to be prioritised.

We all face the challenge of climate change – it can seem scary and unknowable at times, but there are solutions and actions we can all take. I look forward to helping bring those solutions to Cumbria.