Glasgow 2021 – the climate conference where the world’s leaders came together to stop the planet heading for disaster. They had one job: to stop the average global temperature rising more than 1.5 degrees. They knew how to do it – cut emissions, cut dependence on fossil fuels, and do it fast.
What happened was a lot of promises, a lot of information sharing, a lot of pleas from those already being affected by climate change. But no real commitments leave us jumping for joy. The big emitters (that’s us in the UK – along with China, India, the US and the EU) do need to be held accountable if they fail to stick to their pledges and pacts.
So now what?
It’s down to us. We can’t rely on the big businesses and the politicians to make a change, but they are dependent on us. We are the consumers. We are the electorate. And every single one of us can make rapid, small adjustments that will force a change.
What can you do?
We can make significant changes in our lives in a matter of minutes. It just takes a conscious decision and a shift in habits. The main thing to remember is that we are not alone. We lead by example, tell our friends and family about it, teach our kids how to do things differently.
Switch to green energy. A quick Google search will bring up dozens of options. Try a green energy comparison site like The Big Clean Switch to help you decide which service works best for you.
Cut down on plastic The oil industry wants you to buy plastic! Be conscious about what you buy. It just takes a moments more thought – keep a shopping bag in your car boot, grab a water bottle before you leave home, search for second-hand plastic toys… We all know what we SHOULD do, it’s just about pressing pause, being conscious about what we buy and how we consume.
Drive less We know it’s hard, especially in winter. But for local journeys, just think – being wet or cold for a few minutes, planning to leave a few minutes earlier, putting a waterproof or an umbrella by your front door – they’re momentary inconveniences that all add up.
Green up your pension pot You can choose how the money in your pension pot is invested – yes, even if you only have a state pension. Have a look at Nest to find out how you can switch to sustainable, ethical investments.
Buy second-hand clothes Modern clothes don’t just contain a lot of plastic (in the form of elastane, Lycra, nylon, fleece), but they take a whole tonne of energy to produce. Save money and cut down on fuel consumption by browsing Facebook Marketplace, Ebay or the likes of Vinted.
Eat less meat The meat industry is the biggest producer of methane, and the biggest driver for rainforest destruction. Reducing the amount you eat, or cutting it out altogether, will have a huge impact on that industry. With the money savings you make, choose grass-fed or organic meat – with lower methane emissions, lower impact on the environment and better for you. Win-win-win.
Buy second hand or sustainable-wood furniture It really is that simple. If we reduce the amount of new wood products we buy, the market that drives deforestation shrinks.
Change your bank Choose a bank that doesn’t bankroll deforestation or have links to the oil industry. Guides like this at Money Expert or Green Choices are a good place to start.
Not much COP?
A brief digest of some of the big topics at COP26
Oil and gas
Denmark and Costa Rica set up the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, pushing for countries to commit to cutting dependency on oil and gas. A dozen signed up to it, but it was snubbed by the UK and most of the other big emitters and the world’s oil producers.
At least 23 nations made a commitment to phase out coal power, including five of the top 20 users: Indonesia, South Korea, Poland, Vietnam, Chile and Ukraine. The world’s biggest polluters are not part of the efforts, and the UK is refusing to rule out opening a new coal mine in Cumbria.
The government said that recycling plastics is a red herring, and that we have to cut down on our use of plastic in the first place. But plastics originate as fossil fuels, and greenhouse gases are emitted at each stage of the plastic life cycle. With no hard commitment to reducing fossil fuel extraction, or on cutting down production of plastic, the government’s ‘hard truth’ about plastics now look like empty words because plastic and climate change are intrinsically linked.
More than 100 countries pledged to reduce planet-warming methane emissions by 30% by 2030 in the “Global Methane Pledge.” Farming industry demonstrated methods for reducing emissions, like a cattle-feed supplement that stops cows from producing as much methane. This supplement has been cleared for use in some South American countries and imminently in Europe. As for the US, the biggest beef producer, there’s no sign of improvement.
Cop26 got off to a strong start with more than 100 nations agreeing to end deforestation by 2030. Brazil, where vast areas of the Amazon rainforest have been chopped down, was among those to commit. The agreement includes almost £14bn of public and private funds.
Whilst COP26 may not have produced exactly what we were all hoping for. Let’s not forget to stay positive. We should all remember to take 2 minutes to reflect on how we as individuals can make small behavioural changes that will add up to make a big difference for our planet.