The UK Government just became the first country to declare a climate emergency with Wales and Scotland also issuing separate climate emergency declarations in the same week. But, with no single definition of what a climate emergency is, how do we know what is happening and what should we be doing about it? This article explores these questions by looking at how this has come about, what a climate emergency is and what you can do about it.
If you have been following the news for weeks and you are desperate to find ways to act please feel free to skip to the 'what can you do?' section at the end and get going!
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So what is a climate emergency?
For many of us the UK government's climate emergency declaration was the first time we have heard the term climate emergency. However, councils across the UK have been quietly declaring climate emergencies since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued it's stark warning in October 2018 on the devastating consequences for the planet if we allow temperatures to exceed 1.5 degrees of warming.
Bristol (the birthplace of Ecojam) was the first UK council to declare an emergency with a bold target to become carbon neutral by 2030. Many others have followed proving that our politicians are at least recognising the crisis and offering to support solutions. For a full list of councils and universities which have declared an emergency check out the Climate Emergency website.
With no single definition of what a climate emergency is (and no roadmap to get us out of it) it is up to each council and government to find their own path and set their own targets. For a more detailed look at what a climate emergency is check out this Edie article.
So what is driving this momentum for change?
It is hard to pinpoint one thing that has driven this wave of political action. The stark findings from numerous reports on climate change, species extinction, air pollution etc have combined to raise awareness of the seriousness of the situation. Our effect on the planet and all that live on it is now well documented and paints a depressing picture of the future. Recent extreme weather events that have been linked to climate change give us a glimpse into the future that we are creating for future generations.
This has led many around the world to turn to protest as a means to disrupt the current status quo. The student protests, started by Greta Thunberg (who we are sure has become well-known to you over the past few months), have had a huge impact with both children and parents making a stand for a better future. Extinction Rebellion (again – now a household name) has also been incredibly successful in mobilising people around the world to take to the streets and demand change. Whether you are a fan of protesting or not it is undeniable that they are having an impact. You can find out more about Extinction Rebellion on their website including how their first demand (of three) has already been met (almost!).
So what does all this mean for our chances of tackling climate change?
There is no denying that we have left this pretty late (hence the need for the term climate emergency) but one upside to this is that a lot of experts have had a lot of time to think about a way out of this crisis. Decades of research exists and many many people have been working to find solutions for their entire lives.
A new report from the Committee on Climate Change lays out a plan for how the UK 'can cut emissions to nearly zero' by 2050. The report says that:
“if other countries follow the UK, there’s a 50-50 chance of staying below the recommended 1.5C temperature rise by 2100.”
A lot needs to change and the odds are not as favourable as we would like them to be. But authors of the report say that “the transformation is necessary, affordable and desirable.”
Greenpeace has also put forward a Climate Manifesto which details plans for how the government should address the climate emergency.
There is a clear message here – we can do this!
And it will make our lives better - our air will be cleaner, there will be more trees, new industries will flourish and we will be healthier.
We think this quote from the amazing David Attenborough sums up the situation perfectly:
“We won’t be able to do enough to mend everything. But we can make it a darn sight better than it would be if we didn’t do anything at all”
So... what can you do?
With so many different issues and so much conflicting advice, how do we know what we should be doing. Let's face it, we are all busy people and it's hard enough to keep track of the news let alone set aside some time for action. Here at Ecojam we spend a lot of time immersed in climate change information. We read endless news articles, we take part in local action, we sign petitions and we spend a lot of time researching what to do next.
What follows is a compiled list of what the experts are saying are the most effective ways to cut our carbon emissions and keep the UK on track with emissions cuts. It is not a comprehensive list of every action you could possibly take. But, if followed, it will dramatically cut your carbon emissions.
Make sure you also sign up for our newsletter which brings climate change information and tips straight to your inbox.
1) Switch your supplier
If you haven't already made the switch to a 100% renewable energy tariff you should definitely make this a priority. It will have a dramatic effect on your carbon footprint and can be done quickly and easily. Prices for renewables are falling too so you don't need to be concerned about the extra expense. The Money Supermarket guide to green energy is a great place to start. They even offer advice on how to make your home greener to save energy (and money).
2) Make your home more energy efficient
This is a great way to cut your carbon emissions whilst also cutting your monthly bills. The Energy Saving Trust has some great advice on home energy efficiency. You can also check out this article from the BBC which looks at what help you can get to go green.
3) Sign a petition
73% of the British public support onshore wind energy. It is cheap and it is abundant. But the government are currently blocking new wind projects. Find out more and sign a petition on the 10:10 website.
There has been loads of conflicting advice about what makes for a planet-friendly diet. This can be frustrating and lead us to conclude that there is no point in taking action. However, if you follow our top 3 tips on food there is no doubt that you will be dramatically reducing the impact that your diet is having on the climate...
1) Don't waste food – only buy what you know you will eat
2) Avoid air-freighted food
3) Eat less meat and dairy (especially beef and lamb)
Whatever your food preferences it is important to make informed choices which can lead to better health for you and the planet. To help you do this we recommend having a look at the BBC's Climate Change Food Calculator. It offers a super simple way to assess your food preferences and could lead you to make some simple swaps that will dramatically reduce your carbon emissions.
One word of warning though... be prepared to eat significantly less chocolate – it's carbon footprint is a bit of an eye opener!
When thinking about what you buy and how it affects the planet it can be very easy to get completely bogged down in stats about energy efficiency, where things come from, what they are made of etc etc. Obviously researching potential purchases can be useful but if this becomes too confusing and too time consuming for you, try following these 3 rules instead.
1) Buy less stuff
Do you need it? Can you make do with what you already have? Can you share/borrow from a friend?
2) Buy high quality products and look after them – be less wasteful
3) Buy 2nd hand where possible
And finally... push for change
Get out there and make sure everyone - including our politicians - knows that you care about our planet and you believe that we can build a better future.
1) Amplify your actions by talking about them with friends and family
2) Sign petitions
3) Join local action groups
From protesting with Extinction Rebellion to planting wildlife friendly gardens – there is a group for everyone and a cause we can all get behind. And if there isn't? Start one yourself.
The time to act is now and putting off action because it seems too difficult and unrealistic is not an option. The experts are saying we can do it but we all need to work together. The alternatives are terrifying so let's do what we can.