On 1st May 2019 our UK Parliament declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency. This was in response to scientific evidence which told us (in October 2018) that we had only 12 years (now 10) in which to reduce our greenhouse gases to zero to stand any chance of keeping below a 2°C average rise in global temperature. If we did not succeed we would face catastrophic, irreversible consequences that threatened our very existence on the planet.
Despite a series of UN Climate conferences and treaties including the famous Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 (when 195 countries agreed to ‘hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.’) our atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have continued to rise exponentially.
The Parish Council has agreed to work with a local climate action group in order to reduce its carbon footprint and highlight how residents can get involved.
What can we do?
Most of us want to do the right thing, but it’s hard to know what “right” is. Almost none of us want climate change, endangered wildlife or plastic pollution but, the reality is, it’s a consequence of the lives many of us lead today.
A recent baseline study of the carbon footprint of Wendover highlights the biggest areas of carbon emission for communities like ours. It’s very helpful because it shows the choices that we can make as individuals to reduce our emissions. Will it make a difference? The answer is an emphatic “Yes!” By living lightly and choosing what is best for us and the world we encourage those around us to do the same things – and the community of those who care grows.
Petrol and diesel-driven car journeys are the biggest source of emissions for communities like ours. Switching to electric or hybrid vehicles will have an enormous impact but other options include car sharing, public transport and, of course, cycling and walking for short local journeys. This keeps us fit and healthy, connected with our neighbours, and saves money and often time too.
Reducing the number of flights we take, or not flying at all, is the second biggest way of shrinking our carbon footprint. This applies equally to personal flying and business miles – although we may have less control over our business travel.
Most of us use mains gas to heat our homes and that will continue until hydrogen boilers become commercially available. However, in the meantime, we can reduce our emissions (and our bills) by installing solar P/V panels, and in the case of new builds, ground and air-source heat pumps. Also we can improve the insulation on our homes by making the most of the Government Green Homes Grant Scheme, a £2bn package designed to make homes more energy efficient and save you money. https://greengrantfund.com
The fourth area is diet and food waste. By eating less red meat and dairy we can significantly reduce our emissions. High meat eaters are estimated to have an annual carbon footprint of 2,624 kgCO₂e nearly double the 1,391 for vegetarians. Reducing food waste cuts our emissions and saves money too.
Weston Turville Parish Council is committed to reducing the carbon footprint of our parish, at the same time as promoting biodiversity and increasing local renewable energy generation. The Parish Council will be investigating ways it can do this through for example - a solar P/V installation on the village hall, more tree planting and wildflower protection.
While decisions that we make in our homes and in our communities are very important they need to go hand-in-hand with long-term strategic decisions for sustainability at the national level. The burden and the responsibility have to be shared by government and by the corporate world, especially the fossil fuel industry. Fortunately the UK, as joint hosts of the 2021 UN Climate Conference (COP 26), is in a unique position to be a world leader in tackling the climate and ecological emergency. As individuals we need to raise our voices in support of that agenda, sharing with our MP Rob Butler our belief in the need for urgent decisive national and international action on climate change. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity - the next decade will be the most consequential in the whole history of humanity.
If you are interested in joining an informal group to promote these things please contact the Clerk in the first instance.