More words, but less action?

A Winter scene with the wind farm in the distance.

All next week you are likely to hear a lot more words about climate change (but possibly less action) as the world’s nations meet in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12. But what has that to do with our local wind farm (shown above), a house lit up like a Christmas tree, and protestors stopping traffic with banners saying “Insulate”?

The short answer, as energy bills begin to go through the roof, is that we seem to have money to burn, and we are burning away our future by wasting energy  – and causing climate change in the process.

But let’s stick with the pound in your pocket. Thursday morning this week followed a cold and starry night and I saw a local house with nearly all the lights on, few – if any – curtains drawn, but no signs of life that early. And, if they have one of these new smart meters in the house, it will have been recording the pound notes burning up.

However some of their electricity may have been generated by our nearby wind farm so they may not have contributed to climate change as well. And the climate is changing. Research has been monitoring long term trends since 1972, and in 1990 the United Nations held their second World Climate Conference – and I became a civil servant in Whitehall, working on climate change issues (on and off) for nearly the next 20 years.

Are your meters wrong?

So that is why my supplier keeps on querying my meter readings and my energy bills – because they are too low, apparently, compared to many others. But I keep warm, and I save a lot of money – and I am therefore doing my bit not to cause climate change, as well as keeping pounds in my pocket.

However I expect you will listen to the “climate chat” next week and think (a) how does this affect me and (b) how can I do anything about it? And the short answers are – climate change is already affecting us, and you can do something.

My power bills are low because I live in a well insulated house, and I add to that by using my curtains to keep warmth in and cold out, using draught excluders to keep warmth in the rooms where it is needed – and to keep cold air out – and I wear the right clothes for the time of year.

I also have energy saving lightbulbs which now both work and look nice. The early versions did not and my then wife was very unhappy in the 90s when I bought the early versions home from work (the government’s Energy Efficiency Office) to try out. Some provided poor lighting. One exploded!

The hole in the wall

And later I worked with David Jason and the TV Gladiators (remember them) on advertising campaigns to promote insulation and other steps to save energy – but cavity wall insulation was not a glitzy new product you could show off to your neighbours – and probably it needs to be compulsory wherever it can be installed. So insulation (or lack of it) is still a major cause of wasted energy (and therefore climate change) which is what those protestors are on about when they block traffic.

Sticking to the same subject (though you may not think it) work continues to strengthen our flood defences, whether it is on the coast or along the banks of the Rother, because sea levels are rising as climate change melts ice caps and glaciers, and Rye might eventually become an island again.

So don’t think “this has nothing to do with me” when you hear talk next week from Glasgow about climate change because it does – and there are things you can do which actually save you money as those energy bills increase. And those wind farm pylons (see top photo) which you probably no longer really notice are one of the solutions.

But everybody around the world needs to do more – and it is the poorest (as usual) who are suffering most from climate change, wildfires, floods and failing crops.

Image Credits: Lisa Kerry .


  1. Charles makes many good points here as to how we as individuals can make a difference. I would argue that actions by governments, corporations and institutions are an important precursor to individual actions across society, because they can create the right financial incentive or disincentive for individual behaviour: both are necessary to make a difference.
    The budget delivered by Rishi Sunak made it very clear to me and other people that care about the environment that this Government is committed to ‘business as usual’ and is still in total denial on the issue of climate change, at the expense of future generations, who will be lumbered with our debts as well as an escalating environmental and social disaster.
    By reducing the air passenger duty on domestic flights, Mr Sunak effectively failed a kindergarten level comprehension test. Short haul flights are by far the most carbon intensive means of transport, amounting to 254 grams of CO2 emissions per person per km (once secondary effects from high altitude are factored in), this compared to Eurostar at 6g/p/km – 40 times less. In contrast, France intends to ban short-haul internal flights in the near future, where rail travel alternatives exist. Just for context, a car occupied by one person amounts to 171g/p/km, and it is noted that once again, the fuel duty is frozen, as it has been for the last decade, and little wonder we are still so heavily reliant on fossil fuels for transport.
    Ahead of COP26, the UK is failing to show any leadership at all in dealing with climate change. It is a true tragedy, one that will fully play itself out long after the current cohort of Conservative MPs have comfortably feathered their own nests, as is their mission, and retired.
    I don’t have much hope of a good outcome to COP26. I’m sure there will be lots of fanfare, culminating in a ‘we care a lot’ big announcement at the end. It will just be more ‘Blah, blah, blah’, to quote Greta Thunberg. More words, but less action indeed, alas.


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