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Climate Change - UK Citizens and their Communities

What are the most important changes that the UK needs to make to reach zero carbon?

 

We must, individually and collectively, consider the effects that lifestyles have on contributing to carbon emissions. Thus, reflection is necessary over how we travel; the type of food we consume and the amount of food waste we create; how we heat and cool our homes and, the manner we exercise choice when purchasing goods that are often unnecessary.

Our individual objective should be to cut our carbon footprint to 5 tons per year and thereby facilitate progress towards the 2030 global objective to reduce CO2e emissions by a half to keep temperature changes below 1.5%. Additionally, individual actions should be part of the strategies adopted by communities and nation states to work towards the overall goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

As individuals acquire knowledge and understanding about the changes needed to reach zero carbon, they should commit to a plan of action that reduces their carbon footprint through such objectives as changing their diet, especially reducing, or eliminating meat, altering their methods of travelling by using public transport and if possible, avoiding air travel. Furthermore, as their budget allows, obtaining better insulation for their home and eventually replacing gas fired boilers with heat pumps.

In this scenario the individual, who is aware and taking action to address the challenges we face, should pro-actively enter discourses with others to make them aware of the dangers posed by neglecting the welfare of the planet. Additionally, politicians, both at local and national level, should be left in no doubt about the concerns their constituents have about climate change.

There are also inequalities between the carbon footprints of the poor and the rich thus governments should be encouraged to consider actions outlawing outsized “four by fours”, sports utility vehicles and short haul flights when alternatives modes of transport are readily available.

If we are to achieve the desired zero carbon goal, then the majority must be able to unite around government policies that recognise people’s real needs whilst implementing carbon taxes on those able to reduce their emissions.

 

 

Therefore, it is of fundamental importance that, as a society with shared norms, beliefs, and cultural ideas, we decide to embrace the delivery of energy sources that will, ideally, eliminate the need for fossil fuels. Thus, wind, wave and solar power, which can be brought together in an integrated design, can deliver our demand for electricity.

Furthermore, as regards modes of transport our society needs to acknowledge the role of buses in reducing emissions from cars alongside accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles. The latter are expensive and often have limited battery capacity, nevertheless technological progress towards more affordable electric vehicles does appear to be possible.

Already cycling use is increasing and cities should adopt more cycle lanes and car free zones with park and ride schemes which contribute to cleaner air.

There is also the benefit to the environment of more people working from home that, since the Covid Epidemic, has become increasingly socially acceptable.

Our society should also recognise the need for rebalancing diets particularly our relationship with protein. It is estimated that over 50 % of the protein consumed comes from animal sources and only one in five of our fellow citizens eat enough vegetables. Thus, our society should change its cultural eating habits so that more plants, grains, and legumes replace animal sources with the objective of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030. This change to a cultural norm is underpinned by the ability of food producers to make fully vegan foods that have the taste and texture of meat.

It is my belief that, of late, there has been a growing realisation in our society that decarbonisation is possible. Collective actions will change social norms and improve the quality of life for all.

 

Dr Alan Sanderson

 

 

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