As I write, schools across Bristol are breaking for the summer holidays, the first since many Covid restrictions here have been relaxed. The challenging state of play with the virus across Europe and beyond means that the summer stretching out ahead of us may bring far more freedom than the last, but holidays abroad are off the table for most of us.
To that end, the sunny weather that we have had recently is a good thing, as is the promise of more to come over August. Whether it’s a park nearby, a trip to the coast or a chair and a good book in the back garden, we all deserve some downtime and good weather this summer!
But the soaring temperatures do bring with them some unease about the environmental changes driving them – the same changes that have brought terrifying images of flooding across Europe and China, wildfires in Canada and the USA, and the thawing of Russian permafrosts onto the TV news.
All of which makes the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, so crucial this Autumn. Being held in Glasgow, it represents the best and last chance to realistically tackle climate change for future generations.
When the last Labour government introduced the 2008 Climate Change Act it was the world’s first. It secured a long-term legally binding framework to tackle the perils of climate change. Importantly it established the Climate Change Committee which regularly updates advice to government on new targets to limit emissions. But since that time, we have seen the UK slip backwards.
Progress has stalled and unless there is dramatic change in policy the UK will miss these new targets. The Conservative government has failed to bring forward a major green stimulus, abandoned its flagship green home insulation scheme and couldn’t even decide whether a new coal mine was a good or bad idea. Their desire to put short-term political expediency ahead of long-term sustainability is dragging our country backwards. We could and should be world-leaders on climate change targets. The UK is naturally blessed with renewable sources of energy and it is ours for the taking.
As the Government cannot seem to get its act together, we need to do our bit in Bristol. A quarter of total emissions still come from home energy, globally 10% of emissions are from fashion. So, if we can do something individually, we should. Despite efforts to reduce car use there has only been a fall of 1% in emissions from road transport since 1990. Why not think about how you get around town in the next few weeks and if you can travel by public transport please do.
Of course, many people are already asking is that car journey necessary, can I car-share to work or better still walk or cycle? Do I need to buy that item shipped from a factory in China? Can I, or my landlord, check that my home is effectively insulated. Can I persuade my family to turn off some of those electrical devices? Can I re-use that plastic pot rather than recycle it? Even the smallest change to how we live our lives can help tackle climate change.
Small changes make a difference, but we do need governments to lead too. I still hope that COP26 will produce positive results for us all.