By Matthew Welch
A rummage sale, a fascinating talk on swifts, a series of consultations on creating a vision for the future of renewable energy in Debenham: these were just some of the events that formed Green Week. The Debenham Green Team wanted to end the week with a talk on climate change and who better to call on than the Chairman of the Climate Change Committee, local resident, John Gummer Lord Deben. The Committee consists of scientists and economists and has been chaired by Lord Deben since 2012. Its job is to advise the UK government on setting and meeting carbon targets which are enshrined in law in the UK, unlike most other countries. Lord Deben has been called by Friends of the Earth, no less, “the best Environment Secretary’ we’ve ever had”.
Lord Deben gave his talk on the 30 September in the Long Room at Debenham Vets. He was inspirational, speaking without notes or PowerPoints for over an hour and he then fielded a range of questions which, unlike many politicians, he addressed and answered fully.
He is optimistic changes can be made to halt the effects of climate change provided we act now. Amongst the main points he made were that we cannot leave it to any government to do all the work. We have to work individually and locally to bring about change. Even small things matter if we act together. For example, if we all filled electric kettles with only the amount of water we need we could make one power station redundant. We should shop locally and seasonally. Red meat is a big CO2 and methane contributor but its effects can be substantially alleviated by buying local produce.
Lord Deben was highly critical of large housing developers who have continued to build houses with inadequate insulation and without solar panels. He proposed that developers should be made to pay into a fund for home owners to call on to retro-fit their houses with energy saving measures. He said he would help local residents who are trying to obtain permission from Mid Suffolk Council for solar panels and other energy reducing measures on listed houses or in the village conservation area.
He is a great advocate for electric cars and makes the point that the technology is constantly improving, allowing journey distances to increase and charging times to reduce. There needs to be an increase in public charging points if this is going to work.
Climate change affects the whole world but the effects are unequal. Poor southern countries in Africa and the Indian sub-continent suffer more because of the northern countries, including the UK, who have been producing excessive amounts of CO2 for generations whilst the southern countries have produced comparatively little CO2 in that time. The effects on southern countries are immense. Rising sea levels in Bangladesh cause 100,000 people to move every year. A third of Pakistan was flooded this year. Climate change will cause massive migration unless countries such as the UK reduce CO2emissions and do more to help. Lord Deben explained that the options include providing funding for green energy alternatives such as solar energy to enable the southern countries to end their dependence on fossil fuels.
It is up to all of us to reduce CO2 emissions and put pressure on our government to ensure CO2 limits are kept and reduced further. It is not too late to act but failure to reduce emissions will cause yet more climate disasters including heatwaves, droughts, food shortages, floods, rising sea levels and loss of towns and cities.