As COP26 comes to a close today I thought I'd comment on what it made me feel and how we, in Oxfordshire, can do our bit.
I apologise for my poor pun headline, but this was one of the first things that came to the news around COP26: many leaders and other attendees had travelled to Glasgow in private jets. It reminded me of a Tweet by Frankie Boyle to Richard Branson when he was talking about climate change, "You own a f***ing airline!". I think that we all need to look at our own footprints before we ask others to walk in the ones we hope for.
So, what's the situation in Oxfordshire? Recently, Local Insight published Carbon Footprint per person (Kg) to the site. The picture for Oxfordshire is not good - we appear to have one of the heaviest carbon footprints in England.
This is based on seven underlying sources of emissions data: Electricity, Gas, Other Heating, Car Driving, Van Driving, Flights, and Consumption of goods and services. If we look at the data on a more localised level, we can draw some other conclusions:
Many of the heaviest footprints are found in rural areas. This could be due to need for car driving, and an older housing stock requiring more heating. We can also see that, particularly in the more urban areas, the more deprived areas have a smaller footprint than the wealthier; more flights and consumption of goods and services?
So now the talking at COP26 is over, what can we do? Look at ourselves before telling others what to do.
I still drive a car - it is quite low emissions and I don't use it if I can help it. I still eat meat, but less than I used to. I haven't been on a plane for a couple of years (in part due to COVID) and I'm going to continue to avoid it other than an occasional visit to Denmark to see my father with his grandchildren. I have moved my pension out of funds that invest in carbon heavy companies and mainly invested it in hydrogen and renewables. I recycle where possible, avoid food waste and compost when I can't. I don't consume too much - I still have most of the clothes from 5 years ago - not a follower of fashion!
Is this enough? Maybe, but I could do better - plant some trees, drive less, consume less, become vegan - I'll work on it. I'm not in the position where I can tell everyone else what to do.
Perhaps we can all take a proportionate response to our own situation. The car might be the only way to ferry kids from one activity to the next. But when we buy our next car, could we go electric? If we can't afford electric, do we really need a big engine? Can we think twice before booking a holiday overseas, or buying just more and more stuff destined for landfill or the incinerator? I hope so.
A draft agreement at the COP26 climate summit has watered down commitments to end the use of coal and other fossil fuels, as countries race to reach a deal after two weeks of talks. While the language around fossil fuels has been softened, the inclusion of the commitment in a final deal would be seen as a landmark moment. A deal must be agreed by the end of the summit, which is in its final hours. The UN meeting is seen as crucial for limiting the effects of global warming.