COP26 will bring into focus the need for us all to reduce our carbon emissions in order to slow climate change.
A column by Councillor Richard Rout, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Environment at Suffolk County Council.
In early November, the eyes of the world will be on the UK. Glasgow, to be exact.
This is when the COP26 conference takes places.
COP26 is the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties. It will be a momentous event and I expect some significant decisions and agreements to be made, as the world continues to combat climate change and reduce its carbon emissions.
But how will an international event affect each of us in Suffolk? Although COP26 will be an event attended by Presidents and Prime Ministers, it will impact us all.
COP26 will bring into focus the need for us all to reduce our carbon emissions in order to slow climate change. This has been the message for a long time of course, but we must all be changing our behaviours and choosing to use less energy.
And I do mean all of us.
Global industry, national corporations and governments must lead the way to enable us all to make greener choices. But slowing climate change is everyone’s responsibility, we each have a duty to tackle this situation and play our part.
I’d suggest that there is at least one simple change or choice we can make immediately, which will help. My challenge to you is to make that one change today.
This could be to replace one meat-based meal each week with a plant-based one. Or start to swap over your traditional lightbulbs for LED ones. Or switching your gas or electricity tariff to one which uses 100% renewable energy. Or plan your food shopping so that you throw away less food. Or make purchases from businesses that are committed to reducing their carbon emissions. Or just boil the water you need for that morning coffee or cup of tea.
For me, making some of these changes has been a learning experience. I’ve discovered that it’s easy to live with a plug-in vehicle without a home charger - I just need to plan my trips and use the chargers at the workplaces I visit. It was a change I made with trepidation but charging infrastructure is continually improving.
My partner is vegetarian and while I’m not, I enjoy some meat-free meals each week. Equally important for me is shopping local and making locally-sourced food choices. When I do eat meat or dairy, I choose local grass-fed options.
I now have LED lightbulbs at home and have installed smart sensors. The biggest change we’ve made is turning our back on fast fashion and spending a little more on clothes produced in this country and to a higher standard. It’s too easy to order multiple cheap items online, only to return most of them! Shopping local isn’t just good for the local economy but it’s better for environment too.
I am not claiming that by doing these simple things, we are going to reverse climate change overnight. The point is to challenge the status quo in our lives and start to change our behaviours.
And yes, organisations like Suffolk County Council must lead by example. We continue to lobby Government to make the bigger changes necessary which enable each of us to make greener choices.
Suffolk County Council has been addressing climate change challenge for many years, but we know that the organisation must be doing more and doing it more quickly. This is agreed across all Suffolk’s authorities which is why, together, we have recently approved the Suffolk Climate Emergency Plan - a document to keep us accountable in our ambition to make Suffolk a carbon neutral county by 2030.
I’m proud of the work Suffolk County Council has been doing for a number of years now. We are planting trees and hedgerows. We are supporting businesses with advice and funding to reduce their carbon emissions. We are running schemes to reduce the cost of solar panels on homes. We are providing the infrastructure to encourage walking and cycling. We are providing greener ways to travel. We are installing electric vehicle charging points in rural areas. There is much, much more besides, but we are working hard to develop this work.
Don’t worry if you’re still not sure what it means to you, your business or your community. With COP26 just three months away, organisations and authorities across Suffolk are planning events across the county to talk net zero and being carbon neutral. Whether at the start of your net zero journey, or you’re looking to make the next step, these events will guide and inspire you.
The www.greensuffolk.org website will be updated soon with these Suffolk events. I’d recommend it as a great place to start finding out more.