It’s no wonder we face an uphill struggle combating climate change, when petrol costs less than bottled water in some parts of the world. Nowhere is the global warming dilemma – between ‘happy motoring’ on the one hand and ‘protecting the environment’ on the other – felt more acutely, perhaps, than in the United States, from where I’ve just returned from a holiday.
America is a big place – full of big cars, big roads, big everything! Convenience is King, and don’t you forget it! Seeing such an abundance of riches in the world’s leading consumer society, I began to wonder if things will ever change: will Americans ever find a way to manage their affairs sustainably, in ways that don’t threaten the ability of future generations to do the same? Will we, here in the UK and Europe?
I’m optimistic. The US leads the world in developing alternative energy and other green technologies, holding out the hope that we won’t always have to choose between saving the Economy and saving the Earth. And as the saying goes: when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold (and sometimes even the flu). Just look at the huge strides the UK has already made generating a substantial amount of its energy from wind power. Not only is it helping to prevent climate change, it’s also helping to reduce the economic burden of importing vast quantities of oil and gas. That’s a win-win situation, as far as I’m concerned.
So what are we doing locally to tackle climate change? First off, the council takes its environmental obligations very seriously and recently signed up to the Local Government Authority’s Climate Local Commitment (snappy title, I know), a carbon reduction plan that aims to reduce our carbon emissions by a whopping 40%. The Climate Local Commitment also supports our 2015-2020 Environmental Sustainability Strategy, a wide-ranging pledge to reduce the environmental impact of our core activities and services.
We’ve already proven we can make a significant difference, having exceeded our 25% carbon reduction target with our last Carbon Management Plan. And we’ve been helping residents reduce their energy bills, too, by encouraging them to sign up to the Big Community Switch, which has so far saved the 600 households who’ve switched a total of £138,510 on their energy bills. We’ve also generated income by feeding excess electricity back into the National Grid from solar panels installed on council homes, avoiding more than 1,200 tons of CO2 emissions in the process. And our Warm Homes Project is helping residents reduce their energy bills, with home insulation and other energy-saving improvements.
The more I see the progress we’ve made, the more I realise it doesn’t always have to involve the straight choice between costs and ethics – between saving money and saving the planet. It’s perfectly possible to do both, nationally, locally and as individuals. Each one of us has the power to make the world a better place. I know that will sound airy-fairy to some, but actually I’m a pragmatist. I realise it’s not going to be easy to turn around the climate change juggernaut, but ‘doing nothing’ is really not a sustainable option either.
Perhaps each of us can look at some other changes we can make at home, at work or in our business which helps reduce our carbon footprint a little bit more, and save ourselves some extra money into the bargain.