Last week I had to wait for four large black SUVs to pass by one after the other before I could walk my small grandchild across our little street. It set me wondering again about climate change and leadership.
I noticed a news item the other day that the government has committed us to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Most of us would agree wholeheartedly with that and it is evidence of its commitment to dealing with climate change. But there wasn’t anything about how we were going to get there. For example the International Panel on Climate Change which made that recommendation as a way of keeping to a 1.5C temperature rise and not a disastrous 2C or more, also said that in order to reach it, we must cut our emissions 50% by 2030. How should we do that? Whilst there may be macro plans to generate more carbon free electricity, there’s not a lot of government guidelines and incentives that will make significant differences at the community and individual level. For example 30% of cars in Oslo as has been reported, are electric, so why have similar targets not been set here? Where are the incentives and support to commit us all to making our houses carbon free? Some of that £1.9 billion spent on Brexit would go a long way towards achieving that. Why are diesel vehicles, especially large ones, still allowed to puff their pollution into our air when we know what harm they are doing? Amongst the reporting about obesity, where are the public pronouncements about the importance of locally grown food and incentives to make it affordable?
The list goes on, but the Climate Change Panel says one of the things we must also do is work with greater cooperation internationally, governmentally, corporately and locally. It is the latter that affects us. Whilst we do have opportunities to hold governments and corporations to account, we can also make our lives as sustainable as possible, and share experience. We don’t have to buy large vehicles or fly everywhere, we can support shops selling local food and products and take advantage of the incentives there are to make our houses more energy efficient.
Sometimes burying our heads in the sand feels like a better option when looking at what needs to happen in dealing with climate change. However a thought about the life or death issues our children and grandchildren will be faced with if we take that path should help us to look at the challenges rationally, go for the easier ones first like energy generation or reducing and recycling waste, and build success with them to tackle the difficult ones like car manufacturing and ownership or flying, later.
One of a regular series of articles, written by Sustainable Redland founder Hamish Wills.
It was published in Bishopston Voice in July 2019.