If the climate emergency matters to you, shout louder!
It’s been a year since the IPCC published its earth-shattering report on 1.5C of warming, which made the world finally sit up and take notice of the climate emergency. Eleven years to cut emissions by nearly half yet greenhouse gas emissions went up last year and the year before!
People, quite rightly, are fearful about this irreversible destruction to our ecosystem and what the world will look like in years to come. Therefore, dramatic steps to cut carbon are essential.
The good news is that climate change has become a topic of great concern for many, now ranking above the economy and in the top five issues that voters care most about. Recent research found that two thirds of people in the UK would take action on climate change if they knew what to do. And there we have it: people don’t know what to do.
But we have the solutions. The cost of renewable energy is often cheaper than burning fossil fuels. And if we add in the tax breaks, cost of air pollution and other impacts of climate change, the economic case for rapid, transformative change is overwhelming.
Our total emissions are the combination of millions of decisions made every day – individual choices on travel, heat and diet, for example – so as well as ‘clean technology’ we need to engage people to ensure we reach net zero emissions by 2050, if not before.
Of course, systematic change is crucial – we need strong policies with sustainability at the centre, more investment in clean technologies and a new set of laws that are centred on protecting our world so polluters pay instead of receiving subsidies. But this transition has to be combined with building a movement that brings everybody with us, as decarbonising our economy requires the disruption of business as usual.
Therefore, awareness raising and knowledge sharing are key. Once citizens are demanding a different way of doing things, industry and Government will inevitably respond faster to this crisis.
For example, Government can bring forward their ban on internal combustion engine cars from 2040 to 2030, but consumers and businesses still have to buy them. Drivers need the confidence that not only do electric vehicles work, but they are superior to petrol and diesel cars. Addressing the knowledge gap regarding range anxiety, charging and cost, as well as the very real environmental benefits is essential to success.
So what are the things that can really make a difference to slash our carbon footprint and what will it take to implement? Here are One Home’s top ten tips:
- Raise your voice: Talk to your friends and family, but crucially your politicians
The most important thing is to make your voice heard by those who make decisions that impact our lives. That means your MP and your local councillors, who help shape policies and legislation. Write to them, visit them in their surgeries, engage on social media and at events. There are some great resources on how to engage politicians and make your voice heard. And remember their voting records give a good indication of where they stand on the climate emergency. It’s all about strength in numbers, so ask friends, family and colleagues to join you.
Part of the challenge is raising awareness among people who are not yet engaged or feel a sense of inertia. Talk about extreme weather events and climate change. Share stories on the actions you are taking. If you’ve given up flying, tell people why and help shift the norm from bragging about foreign holidays to pride in taking the train. This amplifies the impact of your choices.
British people love talking about the weather but here are some other ideas on how to best connect with people on this topic.
- Switch to a low carbon diet
Buying seasonal and locally-grown food with less meat and dairy is the best route to a low carbon diet. Globally, the meat industry generates nearly 20 per cent of man-made greenhouse gases that are accelerating climate change. If going vegetarian or vegan feels like a step too far then try to eat less beef and lamb, and when you do buy meat choose organic and local if possible. Find out more on what diet is best for the planet and for your health.
- Sustainable transport
Transport is the main source of carbon dioxide and toxic air in the UK. To counter this many people are walking more to reduce their impact on the environment. It is also a great way to stay active and reduce air pollution, as is cycling. Using public transport for longer journeys is also a beneficial option and helps to free up our cities and reduce congestion. If you need to drive then join an electric car club and start lift sharing with friends and colleagues.
Electric cars are very popular as people can plug in at home, instead of filling up at petrol stations or the 10,000 public charging locations in the UK; “plug not pump”. An average British motorist spends over £56,000 on petrol, so if you’re considering buying a new car, go for an all-electric plug-in vehicle. Electric cars save money as electricity is far cheaper than fossil fuels, no tail-pipe emissions and have reduced maintenance costs because of fewer moving parts.
- Make your home warmer
Insulation has the biggest impact on energy conservation in the home. Top up your loft insulation to 27cm and fill cavity walls to keep warm air in your house. Simple DIY tasks can make a big difference to cutting your energy bills and saving carbon. Some easy wins include draft-proofing windows and doors, secondary film glazing, smart thermostats set at 19C and using thermal lining on curtains and black out blinds. Even if you rent, you can ask your landlord to tackle cold homes.
- Choose green electricity
Switch to a green energy tariff or supplier to power your home as you’ll be enabling investment into renewable energy such as wind, hydro and solar power technologies. Go to Which to research the best green tariff for you. The switch costs you nothing and only takes about 20 minutes and could even save you money. You will not be disconnected and an engineer does not need to visit your home.
Options for renewables at home include installing solar panels, which is a brilliant way to harness the power of the sun. Solar power provides green electricity during the day and costs around £6,000 to install or less if your council is part of a solar street scheme, which enables panels to be installed in bulk and at reduced cost. Ground-source and air-source heat pumps are two options for low-carbon heating at home. These work especially well if you live off the gas grid. Whilst ground-source heat pumps are more expensive to install, they are more efficient due to the stable temperatures underground.
- Consume less
Everything we buy has a carbon footprint as it has to be made, transported and disposed of. Simply buying less and avoiding waste is a great way to conserve natural resources. Being more mindful of what we need and that everything we buy has to go through a process that uses energy and pollutes the environment. Interrogate whether you really need that item, or can it be sourced in a less damaging way, for example, using natural fibres and pre loved, second hand goods or even rented. If you must buy new, go to trusted retailers who have made strong commitments to sustainability. Some well-known stores are IKEA, B&Q, H&M and M&S but the list grows daily.
- Holiday close to home
Flying is one of the most carbon-intensive activities in the world. There are plenty of amazing holiday experiences in the UK that enjoy all the benefits of flight-free trips – no queues, germs or jetlag. If you wish to travel beyond Great Britain, consider ferry routes to Europe or the Eurostar and let the train take the strain. The art of slow travel is increasing in popularity and there are lots of carbon offset schemes about as well if travel is essential.
- Join an environmental group
Joining a local group is a great way to energise, motivate and inspire action. Do your research and get in touch to find out what feels right for you. Some examples are Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion, flood action groups and transition towns but this is by no means an exhaustive list with groups springing up all the time.
- Plant some trees
Trees are an important natural solution to climate change as they remove carbon emissions as they grow. Support local tree planting schemes, or donate to organisations that are committed to increasing tree cover. Woodland Trust has a scheme for free trees in schools and communities and the Forestry Commission has useful resources for tree planting advice such as their Urban Tree Manual and grants. Even if a tree isn’t possible then planting wild flowers or growing veg in window boxes all help nature to thrive.
- Check your investments
Is your money propping up industries that are causing environmental damage? This includes your bank but also your investments and pension. Even schemes branded ‘ethical’ are often invested in polluting industries. Think about how you want your money to be used and research your options. There are several ethical banks and a number of impact investment apps now available that allow you to back businesses that are committed to making positive change.
If you want to work out your carbon footprint then the WWF carbon calculator is a great place to start. Finally, did we say make your voice heard? Yes, we did! Having conversations with decision makers and the people around you is probably the most important thing you can do; hence it gets a double mention.
What we decide to do today and every day counts in the fight against climate change. Make changes to protect our One Home, shout about them, encourage others to join you and know that it all makes a difference. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
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