I'll get greener later...
Who really takes climate change seriously and what can you and me do now?
Robin Day, fond of a bow tie and thick black glasses, was a bombastic, BBC presenter and interviewer, long gone now. He once famously summed up his interviewee on one occasion as, "a transient here-today-and-gone-tomorrow-politician". It was memorable because the politician, so dubbed, upped and left the interview. That same shoe would very neatly fit our current prime minister.
Greenhouse gas under threat
In April, the government made a big announcement about new greenhouse gas emissions, a 78% reduction in CO2 by 2035, compared with the 1990s. Such targets are called nationally determined contributions and the UK is the first to put such an ambitious target into law.
Stuff and nonsense
Could this simply be a Johnson PR stunt ahead of COP26 in November, the UN's climate change conference? As the host, he is under added pressure to lead, something he struggles with, but wants to be seen as progressive and keen to fight climate change with ambitious low carbon targets.
There is nothing wrong with setting such an aggressive target. Taken seriously, it could help focus financial support for many nascent British companies aiming to grow into world beating, green technology purveyors in the coming decades.
Why then has the same government approved the opening of a new coal mine, now subject to a public inquiry, and is still dishing out new licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, while scrapping the green homes grant and cutting financial support for electric vehicle purchase?
They're all rotten
I'm afraid, this isn't the first rotten British government to renege on its promises. There is a litany of failure, starting with Tony Blair's first term in office, where the CO2 emission target wasn't met nor the 10% of electricity to be generated from renewables.
All new homes built from 2016 were to be zero-carbon, but in 2015, the Conservative government scrapped that inconvenience. Our commitment to trees, planting 5,000 hectares a year is also failing and the government has been taken to court over not meeting European, air quality standards (before we left).
Which brings me back to my point of making pledges which Johnson won't be around for. With the apparent attention span of a gnat, rumours abound already that he might not even make it to the next election. Difficult targets, decades away will be somebody else’s problem.
Does a greener life mean big sacrifices?
Despite the disappointment of broken promises, what can we do now to help protect the future of our great grandchildren and does it have to be painful?
Most of us like the idea of a greener future, but may have a touch of the NIMBYs - not in my back yard, when it comes to inconvenient sacrifices like driving a fossil fuel car to the supermarket, buying a week’s shop and enjoying cheap flights to Europe or further for extended breaks with loved ones.
Don’t beat yourself up
I was struck by Shia, who writes an eco blog called Wasteland Rebel based in Vancouver, Canada. She started by buying a reusable coffee cup one day. Now Shia and her husband's changed lifestyle, means all their accumulated rubbish in a year fits into a glass jar. She encourages people to start with really small changes and not to be overwhelmed by taking on too much.
I don’t always remember, but the simple act of taking a shopping bag out with me to the local shops is no longer a rare event. We also sort our household rubbish into renewable and everything else. Not brilliant in our case, but everyone is expected to sort their daily rubbish now.
What about the big stuff?
Switch to a renewable energy supplier, or in our case tell EDF that we want their zero carbon electricity at no extra cost. They also offer an electric vehicle charge point, which will cost £500, subsidised by a £350 (OLEV) grant from the government. To qualify I need to rent an electric vehicle for 6 months and have an off street parking space. (If you own an EV, you qualify immediately).
The other energy biggy is to make sure your house is properly insulated, which is what the recently scrapped, government grant scheme was all about. Not only was it green, it helped create jobs.
Such worthy suggestions are often followed up with enjoy holidays exploring the UK, (in the rain). Not all of us want to do this and many, of a certain age, spent their childhood holidays doing exactly as requested. But is it incumbent on senior members of society with time, money and choice to make such sacrifices? For some it’s a pleasure to explore this country. For others, perhaps the journey becomes the holiday, avoiding airports except to pick-up time-pressed children who want to snatch a few days away?
Covid has proved that business air miles are not essential to keeping the world economy moving. Videoconferencing can replace much of it, saving businesses a significant expense line and helping to speed up the decision making process.
Aero-engine technology is also rapidly advancing. Airbus’, E-Fan X hybrid demonstrator had 4 jet engines, one of which was powered electrically. They appear to be committed to zero-emission flying, in this case with the help of Rolls Royce, although the E-Fan X has now apparently served its purpose. Surely they can beat Boeing to the punch in the not too distant future?
Eat less meat appeals for no other reason than it means a healthier life and I love vegetables. Don’t waste food either and feel even more empowered by composting the food you don’t eat. I’m already looking at mini composters for balconies. Buy locally in every sense or grow your own, and if you do prefer a weekly shop, have it delivered.
Keep it minimal
I think this is the hardest one for most of us to deal with. Stop consuming and cut out needless buys. Shia, her of Wasteland Rebel above, only buys a new item of clothing, when something needs replacing. She is not alone. A fashion label called L’estrange have based their whole ethos on this sentiment, with less, you can do more. Perhaps the reason why they only make basic staples for men, who I expect are less horrified at the thought of an empty wardrobe.
Time for me to buy their 24 Trouser and clear some space.