Charles Secrett: 'We are killing the planet. That is not an exaggeration'

The statistics released yesterday are a wake-up call to individuals and families that we're all responsible for climate change. Too many people think: "Climate change has nothing to do with me - it's the fault of government and industry." But statistics like this show the cumulative effect of millions of people doing the wrong thing.

We can't escape the link between climate change and our individual daily behaviour: how much we drive; what sort of fuel we use and what sort of car we own; whether we use public transport, walk or cycle whenever possible; whether we pile on board budget airline flights, the most irresponsible form of transport; whether we turn off the tap while we brush our teeth; whether we try to find local producers for our food, so that it hasn't travelled halfway across the world to reach our dinner plate. And, of course, whether we turn off our electrical appliances.

We have got to make the connection between our own lifestyles and big, global problems like climate change.

The couldn't-care-less attitude puts our future in peril. Our generation and future generations cannot afford it - we are killing the planet. That is not an exaggeration, but a scientific fact.

We all have a role to play. Yesterday's report shows how very simple changes in our behaviour and lifestyles can have a positive effect in tackling climate change. What the individual does matters greatly.

All too often we're lazy - leaving the TV, radio, computer or DVD player on standby, so it can jump from red light to switched-on at a touch of the gizmo. What could be simpler than turning them off?

We need to be aware of the consequences of our own actions and not rely on the Government to legislate and save us. It would be beneficial for the Government to introduce stringent pollution taxes for those companies and households that waste dirty energy - and reward those that "go clean" in their energy use. But how far do we want legislation to go? What sort of society will it be when government has to legislate for everything we do to avoid terrible pollution and the catastrophic effects of climate change, trampling on our civil liberties in the process? We as individuals need to act to prevent such a green Orwellian nightmare.

We are already running out of time and common sense tells us to start today. It is lazy and irresponsible to leave a machine on standby, so switch it off.

Charles Secrett is environmental adviser to the Mayor of London and was executive director of Friends of the Earth from 1993 until 2003

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