How can London and us as individuals go green? (Theo Richards, Tiffin School)

Never before have we faced a crisis that requires as much attention and action as the worrying climate emergency.

Experts warn that we will see a rapid increase in the risk and severity of floods, droughts, extreme heat and other extreme weather conditions by the 2030s. This would have serious consequences for all of us here on earth. , and the ONS now reports that 75% of adults in Britain are worried about the impact of climate change.

There is a great need to accelerate the rate at which we move to a greener and more sustainable way of life. Many people across the country have been grappling with a cost of living crisis fueled by the rapid price of energy, especially oil, which calls into question the need to rethink the way we heat and power our houses.

I spoke to Baroness Jenny Jones, one of 2 Green Party peers who sit in the House of Lords, who was also a Member of the London Assembly from 2000 to 2016 and Deputy Mayor of London from Ken Livingstone from 2003 to 2004. I asked him about the magnitude of the threat posed by global warming, the strategies that can be adopted to actively combat it, and the policy areas on which our energy strategy should focus. The transcript of my interview with her is below:

1. What threat does climate change pose to us both locally in London and globally?

A huge threat! Our Parliament building sits on a concrete base 6m above sea level, but if the Greenland ice cap melts it will add 7m to sea level.

We are on track for a 2 degree rise in global temperatures in the coming decades as humanity fails to reduce CO2 emissions. The elevation around the polar regions is actually four times higher than average due to feedback mechanisms of shrinking sea ice (which reflects heat back into space) and melting permafrost releasing methane. London, like other major cities around the world, will suffer the consequences of this sea level rise.

Climate change is an extinction event for humanity, but as its most immediate impacts become apparent, there’s a chance we could turn the tide.

The punishing heat in the tropics is impacting billions of people around the world, while making cities like London uncomfortable due to the heat island effect. Rains and flash floods are increasingly heavy due to increased humidity in the air. Agriculture will be disrupted as weather conditions change and food shortages inevitably hit London hard. This alone will trigger social unrest.

2. Many people across the country are struggling with the cost of living crisis and soaring energy bills. How can investing in renewable energy help solve our energy crisis and reduce people’s energy costs?

David Cameron’s decision to cut ‘green crap’ has cost each household around £150. This is mainly due to the lack of insulation in houses, which would have mainly helped the poorest people, as well as the resolution of problems such as dampness in social housing and low-income housing. The government’s recent energy strategy completely ignores insulation, despite it being the cheapest and quickest way to reduce energy consumption and reduce energy bills.

Renewables were cheaper than gas even before prices started to rise last month. The problem is that electricity prices are set according to the most expensive fuel in the mix, namely gas. We need to separate gas and electricity prices, as Portugal has done. Given how much of our energy comes from renewables during the summer months, why are we paying gas prices for it?

3. What more needs to be done to accelerate the process of transitioning to net zero?

We need to stop relying on technological solutions and accept that we simply need to use less of them. Less packaging. Fewer trips. Less energy to heat our homes. There is no reason for us to still be building thousands of new homes that are not only net zero, but actually net energy producers.

4. How can we change our attitudes towards the way we travel, in order to become more sustainable?

Working from home, when you can, is a great start. The Covid crisis has made it clear that large numbers of people do not have to go to work every day to keep businesses and organizations running. Reducing the daily journey to two weekly journeys is a significant CO2 saving. Around a fifth of journeys under a mile are made by car, so why not change some of them to healthier options like walking or cycling?

International flights are also to be reduced with a frequent flyer tax that increases in price if you take more than one flight per year. Expansion of airports, including Heathrow, should be frozen until the aviation industry starts delivering the low-carbon planes it constantly promises.

5. What can we do as individuals to play our role in protecting the environment?

Using less, recycling more and using things smarter are key parts of countries reducing their emissions, but we need governments to help us do this. People in one borough will recycle better than the neighboring council, but that has nothing to do with the people who live there and everything to do with whether the council has a contract to incinerate its waste. Building a replacement for Edmonton’s incinerator will ensure that millions of people living in six North East London councils will recycle far less than elsewhere in the country.

Eating less meat is a key way for individuals to reduce global emissions and governments can encourage this with their farming subsidy system, as well as councils running campaigns to promote Meat Free Days. The other big change is electric vehicles, but why don’t we take advantage of this and set up mass memberships, car clubs that have vehicles for rent on every corner and allow people to go without their own expenses?

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