Climate change has risen to the top of the global agenda this year. With climate emergencies being declared in multiple locations and global protests led by groups such as Extinction Rebellion there is much more awareness than there has ever been of the need to take steps to combat climate change and reduce CO2 emissions. We are now beginning to appreciate that, alongside the work that governments needs to do, there are household lifestyle changes that will also make a big difference.
We all have to make changes
A report by The Committee on Climate Change has identified that the UK should be aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 in order to make a real impact on halting climate change. This target would mean that the UK could make a serious contribution to preventing global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C in the long-term – this is thought to be the threshold for dangerous climate change. However, such a transformation requires considerable commitment from every household. Focusing on reducing corporate emissions and business energy waste simply won’t do it – consumers have to get involved as well. Eventually, achieving this kind of target will mean some drastic changes, such as:
Eating less meat & dairy and switching to other sources of protein and fats
Investing in electric cars so that there are no petrol or diesel vehicles on the roads
Phasing out reliance on gas boilers in all homes across the UK
Switching from vehicle based transport to walking and cycling instead
What we must do right now
While the more drastic changes are likely to take some time to implement, there are steps that every UK household can take right now to make lifestyle changes that will have an impact. These include:
Changing how you eat. Plant based diets have been much in the news for their potential health benefits. Many people also believe that a plant-based diet is one of the best ways to have a positive influence on climate change. For example, switching from a high meat diet to one that has low meat content could help to reduce your diet related emissions by 35%.
Opt for a different approach to home heating. One of the recommendations in the Committee on Climate Change’s report is that households looking to help in the fight against climate change turn down the thermostat to 19C in winter. This is a step that should be taken at the same time as identifying ways to make the home warmer, such as improving insulation in the loft and cavity walls. You can also consider investing in a low carbon heating system if CO2 emission reduction is a priority for you – something like a heat pump, for example.
Re-evaluate the way that you travel. Long-haul flights are some of the most problematic when it comes to damaging emissions so it’s crucial to try to minimise these – and to think carefully before getting on a plane. On a daily basis, leaving the car at home and walking and cycling instead can be better for your health as well as the planet. If a car is a daily essential could you car pool with others? Most of us make journeys with wasted space in our cars because we don’t share.
Make your home more energy efficient. The less energy your property wastes the more efficient it is. The more efficient a home is, the less it costs to run and the more of an impact it’s possible to have when it comes to combating climate change. There are lots of small steps that can contribute to making a home more energy efficient. For example, you can invest in draught-proofing areas such as doors and windows, opt for energy saving light bulbs and choose appliances that rank highly in terms of energy efficiency ratings.
Buy an electric car. As prices have begun to drop and the UK has a more extensive charging network it’s more feasible than it has ever been to run an electric car, as opposed to a diesel or petrol model. You can get the best value from an electric car if you charge it in a smart way, for example at night when the energy grid is in low use.
The time for action has arrived – no longer should we suggest we can delay. Kicking the environmental can down the street has to stop. We all need to make the lifestyle changes now that will prevent the Earth’s climate from warming beyond the 1.5C limit. We know we can do it – it’s about changing long-held habits. We managed it with plastic bags; now we have to do it on a larger scale with our energy, transport and food consumption. Start now!
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley