Leading article: A greener world begins at home

Share
Related Topics

Remember the environment?
The Independent on Sunday still does. In the months and years leading up to the Copenhagen conference last December, climate change was increasingly recognised as the biggest long-term policy challenge for peoples and governments around the world. The growing acceptance of the need for urgent action then met three obstacles.

First came the global financial crisis. It is plainly easier for people to consider making financial sacrifices for the sake of a collective and distant goal when personal prosperity is rising; and the urgency of the green agenda is easier to sustain when people are less worried about their job security or paying for their home.

Second came the great Climate Research Unit emails scandal, which may not have amounted to much in the end beyond a further reminder of the wisdom of thinking before you press "send" about whether you would be happy to see what you have written in the pages of a newspaper. Except that it did draw attention to the extent of uncertainty among scientists about the scale of the changes to the climate that we might expect over the coming decades.

The third setback was the failure of the Copenhagen summit itself, which brought home the gap between the rhetoric of the Chinese government and its willingness to commit itself to targets to cut the output of greenhouse gases.

This newspaper was, of course, keen to get on with the work of preparing for the next phase, but in this country at least the general election pushed green issues to one side. Despite protestations from all three main parties, and despite the election of Britain's first Green MP, climate change does not feel as if it is centre stage. During the campaign, we devoted one of our "big issues" – the important subjects that the politicians were failing to address – to the environment. Since then, last month's Budget confirmed that green taxes were not being taken seriously. The best that the Liberal Democrats could secure to make good their claim to be the greenest of the main parties was a review of the per-passenger plane tax.

That is why we are going back to basics to devote this edition of The Independent on Sunday to a special report on saving energy. We report the findings of new research suggesting that more energy could be saved than previously thought by simple things such as switching off lights and electrical appliances. This is a good place to start – on the demand side of the energy equation, with individual action that can make a difference.

Of course, it is only a start. Personal responsibility for lower energy use leads quickly to the realisation of the need for government and ultimately international action. Manufacturers need to be incentivised or regulated to make electrical goods less energy-hungry; customers need better information about what energy they are using; and energy prices need to rise to send market signals throughout the economy.

Beyond that, we need to move on to the supply side, to the debates about nuclear power and the viability of large-scale renewable energy generation. Then there are the technological fixes that might help the world adapt to higher average temperatures. And, ultimately, there is no point in individuals or single nations acting to reduce their carbon footprints if the rest of the world continues to increase theirs, so, ultimately, we must return to the kind of international agreement that was attempted at Copenhagen.

The failure of world leaders eight months ago to agree to binding targets – in which India and several other important nations hid behind China's intransigence – forced the green movement to reappraise the tactics and mechanics of securing international agreement. Despite months and years of preparation for the summit, it turned out that the deep work had not been done to persuade the ruling elites in China and elsewhere that big and difficult changes were necessary.

This is a long and complex process that must begin with individual action. One of the most effective ways of achieving the deep change of attitudes around the world is the power of example. If people in rich countries can show that high standards of living can be compatible with environmental sustainability, then meaningful international agreement will come closer. We in the rich countries of the world have not yet really begun to do that. It is time to make a start. Turn something off now.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: A widow’s tale with an unexpected twist

John Rentoul
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss