Looking Up and Beyond to COP27

Was COP26 just a load of “blah, blah, blah” as Greta Thunberg put it? At a recent webinar hosted by Climate Interactive their director Andrew Jones reviewed the pledges made at COP26 and used the En-ROADS simulator to visualise their potential impact. As you can see from the image below the pledges to start phasing out coal, stop deforestation, electrify our transport system and reduce methane emissions could make a difference; significantly flattening the greenhouse gas emissions curve and potentially limiting warming to +3°C by 02100.

COP26 Pledges visualised in the En-ROADS Simulator

From this analysis it is clear that we need to push much harder to achieve the changes that can keep the goal of +1.5°C alive. Even if we flatten the emissions curve the overall level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to rise.

Plot showing how greenhouse gas levels still rise even though we have flattened the emissions curve

What we need to do is take actions that will decrease emissions to half the current level by 02030. This is theoretically still possible if we curb fossil fuel use and methane emissions, work hard to improve energy efficiency and invest in carbon sequestration technologies. These actions are increasingly urgent and more significant commitments will be required at COP27 next year if we are to succeed.

We all need to keep our Climate Conversations going and commit to putting Climate Solutions into practice wherever we can.  If you want to join us as we continue our journey and invite your friends, family, colleagues to come along too just follow this link and sign up for regular updates.

If you want to dig deeper and gain a wider perspective on what different people and organisations thought about the outcomes from COP26  here are some links which you may find useful.

Happy Solstice

On this the shortest day in 02021 I invite you to pause and to reflect. To take a moment to slow your pace in line with the rhythm of the season. To take a breath, to look around you and acknowledge your place in this wonderful world that we share. To stay a while and replenish your energy, to refill your cup. And when you are done to take a mindful step forward with renewed purpose. Go well into 02022 my friends.

Climate Journey Story – the 2021 instalment

In our efforts to tackle the Climate Emergency the single, most important thing we can do is to share the stories of our journeys; stories which can provide inspiration and encouragement, stories that remind us that the change, although not easy, is possible and will certainly be a legacy for which our future generations will be grateful. This is the latest instalment in my Climate Journey Story.

At the end of 2020, I shared a summary of my Climate Journey towards a kaleidoscope world in which we can live in a more climate conscious and sustainable way that is in balance with our planet. I had set myself a challenge to further reduce my footprint and to do more to address other aspects of my lifestyle including my impact on the land and nature as well as thinking about the things I buy and where they come from. So how did I get on?

When I pulled together the data on our home energy use for the year and ran this through the carbon footprint calculator I was pretty excited. The installation of our heat pump system had enabled us to reduce the total amount of energy we used by about 15%, and to reduce this part of our carbon footprint by 50% (the result of being able to move away from using gas, apart from for cooking). On top of this only half of our electricity came from the gird the rest was supplied by our solar panel and battery system. The installation of the heat pump had been done as part of a package of home energy improvements we had undertaken following the guidance of Cosy Homes Oxfordshire which also included cavity wall and loft insulation. As these were only completed part way through the year, we will have to wait to see their full impact but as we head into winter again, we are already feeling the benefits of increased comfort at less cost (both to me and to the planet).

Another big part of my carbon footprint which had changed was transport. This had come down by a whopping 90%. Most of this can be attributed to two things; for all my short journeys I walked or cycled, and we got rid of our second (non-electric) car which meant that we finally embraced the idea of using the electric one for longer trips (when going by train was not practical) which actually proved to be quite simple once we got the hang of the different charging systems. Will I be able to sustain such a low travel footprint in the coming years? Possibly not, I have certainly travelled less due to Covid restrictions, attending many meetings on-line, but then maybe that is a new way of doing things that will endure. We will have to wait and see.

The final set of changes which had a further positive impact on my carbon footprint relate to food. As well as growing more of our own fruit and vegetables we switched to buying the rest through an organic veg box scheme (thank you Riverford). This in combination with a commitment to eating more seasonally, wasting less and also sourcing our bulk staples (rice, lentils, beans etc.) from sustainable organic suppliers, where possible, helped to reduce my food footprint by around 50%.

Overall, I calculated my carbon footprint in 2021 to be 3.3 tons of CO2, roughly a third of what it was the previous year. What about the wider sustainability impacts of the lifestyle changes I have made? Looking beyond carbon to a more holistic global footprint I find that I am using less of the world’s resources but at 1.1 earths this is still more than my share. There are things which still need more attention such as water use and, perhaps more significantly, that large white elephant called consumption that we often somehow ignore. Before I look at this in more depth, I want to address some of the other aspects of my climate journey which are also hard to measure but are no less important. Aspects relating to biodiversity and my relationship with the world around me.

Two of the biggest changes I have made this year relate to my garden. I already mentioned that I elected to grow more of my own fruit and veg and to grow it organically. I have never used pesticides and fertilisers on a large scale before but until now I have always used some. I have for many years made my own compost from garden waste and food scraps such as potato peelings; this year I also added coffee grounds into the mix which I previously poured down the sink (what a waste of nutrients!). Something amazing happened; I am not sure what to attribute it to but the population of worms and other soil fauna in my compost exploded and the quality of my compost improved enormously as a result. The other thing we changed was to let our grassy areas go wild, we did not mow them until harvest time when we gathered a crop of hay which should keep our pet rabbits going through the winter. The effect was magical, so many types of grass and wildflowers all providing sustenance for insects and birds. I had a little colony of blue damsel flies which took up residence in a patch of grass and yarrow for several weeks. Even now in the winter season we see more birds which are nourished by the seed heads we left behind. The garden might look a little scruffy round the edges but it’s an amazing place to spend a few minutes each day enjoying being part of nature.

When on a journey it is always good to pause and admire the view. Looking back over the past year I am pleased with the progress I have made. Each thing has required some investment either of time, money or in most cases just a little more thought. Should I give myself a pat on the back? Absolutely! Should I sit back and relax having come so far? Absolutely not! My journey is far from done. I have set myself the goal of reducing my footprint by a further 10% in 2022 and, based on progress made so far, that should be relatively easy to do – or should it? I spoke before about the white elephant called consumption; we tend to ignore it because it is hard to quantify. But just because it is hard to quantity that doesn’t mean we can’t seek to reduce it. In the coming year I will be looking at ways to do just that. I am not suggesting following a puritanical approach just a more practical one; investing less in carbon intensive things and making then last longer when I do; investing more in carbon neutral, sustainable things, investing more in the world to which we belong and reaping the rewards of that richer relationship. Want to join me on my journey? Share your story and let’s explore that world together.

Lessons from a mini-COP

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to be part of a delegation at a COP Climate Summit. What would it be like to be negotiating with other delegations each trying to represent their own interests? All wondering whether the actions they are proposing will have the impact they desire and will be acceptable to others? Hoping against hope that some progress can be made, that everyone can eventually agree on a path forward.

If, like me you immersed yourself in the flood of media interest spewing forth from the COP26 negotiations you might think you have grasped a reasonable idea of what it must be like to be one of those delegates. But what if you could go one step further and experience it for yourself?

Imagine what it might be like to be at a UN Climate Summit

During the COP26 fortnight I did just that with a group of 60 school pupils from the Ridgeway Education Trust schools including Didcot Girls School, St Birinus and Didcot Sixth form, in their very own mini-COP. We made use of the Climate Action Simulation, a group role play game developed by Climate Interactive that enables participants to explore solutions for mitigating climate change using real world data in combination with the power of the En-ROADS Climate Simulator.

Delegates were split into teams and asked to take on the roles of various interest groups including Climate Justice Activists, World Governments, Clean Technologies, Industry and Commerce, Conventional Energy and Land, Agriculture & Forestry. By playing these roles, which were in many cases at odds with their own values and priorities the pupils were able to experience the challenge from a new perspective and to understand what matters to people from these sectors and what drives their thinking. To add some authenticity to the occasion I took on the challenge of stepping into the role of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, kicking off the event with a thought provoking challenge. My co-facilitator for the day was Hannah, one of the Student Climate Leaders, who did an admirable job in her role as Patricia Espinosa, keeping the delegates focused on our goal of limiting warming to +1.5C as the rounds progressed.

I call on you today as global representatives to balance the need for climate action with that of your own and your stakeholders’ needs and to create a feasible roadmap to stay well below 2°C of warming. My friends we have the tools to make the fundamental changes that are necessary We need only find the will to put them into action.

Excerpt from my opening speech in my role as Antonito Guterres

Within their assigned roles the groups engaged in several rounds of the Climate Simulation game which involved proposal of potential policies and exploration of the possible impact of those policies on greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature and sea level over the coming century. There was plenty of opportunity for negotiation with other groups to explore common ground and find policies which could be broadly accepted even if some level of compromise had to be made. The outcome from our mini-COP was somewhat more promising than the one in Glasgow achieving a projected rise in global temperature of +1.6C, close to the stated goal of +1.5C.

During the Debrief we all stepped out of our roles and paused to reflect on how we were feeling

Our delegates were excited by this outcome and in a poll at the end of the game most of them expressed feelings of hope and positivity. The game had given them a fair share of feeling sad and mad too as policies were overturned or watered down and progress reversed along they way. The Climate Justice group not only had to suffer the indignity of sitting on the floor but at the end of round 1 they endured a flood as sea levels rose by more than a metre. It was by no means plain sailing, but then that is the power of combining the role play with the simulator – everyone gets to experience the journey of collaborating, negotiating, prototyping and crafting together a solution that is not perfect but can be a basis to start from.

Adding a bit of drama by modeling the projected sea level rise of >1m using a blue sheet to flood the delegates representing Climate Justice

Having come to recognise that solving the Climate Crisis is possible with the tools we have available and acknowledging that it will not be easy, the delegates were then able to step out of their roles and discuss real life actions that they could take either at home or at school. Things that would enable them to put some of their broader policies from the game, such as rapidly moving away from fossil fuels, improving energy efficiency or reducing methane emissions, into practice. Using the five main Climate Solutions topics of Transport and Travel, Energy in the Home, Food and Land Use, Money and What we Buy, the groups put forward a number of ideas to implement at their schools in the coming months with a particular focus on waste, both in terms of reducing waste of all kinds and in terms of better management of waste materials. I am very much looking forward to helping them put many of those ideas into action!

Translating learning from the simulation to tangible actions using our Climate Solutions Resources

The whole event left me buzzing with energy and filled with hope. The pupils were buzzing too; the power of the role play experience had really helped them to understand that the world is full of many perspectives not just their own and that it is possible to navigate a path forward through patient negotiation and positive collaboration. Seeing the potential outcomes of their ideas revealed through the power of the En-ROADS simulator gave them the freedom to explore and the confidence to change their minds and adapt their plans. A learning experience they will be able to take forward into situations where fruitful collaboration will be the key to solving future problems.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and took a lot away from it… I thought it was interesting to role play and make use of the En-ROADS program… I really enjoyed the ‘how we can apply this to our school’ section that followed…

I absolutely loved it and came home inspired, motivated, full of confidence and with a real interest in a career in negotiating!

Some feedback from participants

The Climate Simulation Game can be run with groups of any age from about 14 years up. All you need is a willingness to step into someone else’s shoes and explore with an open mind. If you would like to experience a mini-COP of your own to help you better understand which solutions can help to solve the Climate Crisis and what Climate Actions you can take individually or as a group then why not drop me a line I will be happy to help.

Climate Solutions Workshop at Reading Climate Festival

I spent a very enjoyable evening yesterday facilitating a Climate Solutions workshop as part of the Reading Climate Festival and Great Big Green Week.

Using the En-ROADS simulator we explored the many possible interventions that can be put in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming along with some of the associated equity challenges that go hand in hand with making such changes . The group managed to create a scenario which could limit warming to +1.8C by 2100.

Creating this scenario provided a sense of hope that it is possible to limit future warming and a sense of urgency that we all need to step up and commit to strong action now. We closed out the session by using the Climate Solutions resources to translate the global solutions that we had identified into potential local actions that we could take as individuals.

Climate Action Planning – Ridgeway Education Trust

Today I had my first action planning meeting with the Ridgeway Education Trust (RET) Climate Champions. Over the coming months we will be using the One Planet Living framework to develop an action plan for the schools within the trust which will help them towards realising their shared vision of a sustainable, climate and eco friendly community in which staff and pupils can thrive.

We will kick off with a series of visioning activities to find out what the pupils and staff imagine their one planet schools could look like. I cant wait to see what they come up with…

As we progress along our journey I’ll be sure to keep you posted on how we are getting on. In the meantime if you would like some support with helping your school to become more sustainable you can contact us for more information.

Climate Solutions – The next step…

In my first post of the Climate Solutions series I posed a question, asking about the nature of the challenges we face with tackling Climate Change. The biggest one, in my opinion, being that of knowing where to begin. Hopefully now that we have worked our way through the Climate Solutions from understanding our Carbon footprint, through the topics of energy use, transport, food, money and ending with what we buy, you now have a good idea of the options that are open to us and have taken your first steps on your Climate Journey. The trick now is to keep on that path, and to build momentum, to keep an eye on your goal and commit to reaching it.

What if you falter along the way? The negative narrative around us in the press and on social media can be a constant drain on our resolve to do better. We need to switch this narrative to a much more positive one and we can do that by each choosing to take a lead, to share what we are doing and encourage others to do the same. In parallel with preparing this series of posts I have been watching Climate Solutions 101 a set of lectures and resources developed by Jonathan Foley and colleagues at Project Drawdown. The last of these includes a short video in which Jonathan encourages us to “Make it happen” in which he calls for a bold vision of leadership, for us to dream big and to remember that the future is not written yet. There is a lovely phrase that he uses which I feel I must share here as it makes the point entirely.

Martin Luther King didn’t go around saying, “I have a nightmare…”, he talked about a dream… and that dream was beautiful and he invited all of us to join in and make it a reality…

Jonathan Foley, Project Drawdown

My dream is of a future in which we can thrive, a future which is better for all of us living in harmony with our planet, a future which our children can enjoy and pass on into the future to the generations beyond them. It is up to all of us to share our dreams and help each other to make them a reality, to write the collective future we choose and start writing it now, together.

I hope you have enjoyed the Climate Solutions series. If you would like your own copy of the infographics you can sign up to our mailing list by clicking here.

Contact us if you have some thoughts, a dream, or maybe a climate journey story you want to share. We’d love to hear how you are getting on.

Climate Solutions – What we Buy

Most of us live our lives immersed in a consumer culture that we are hardly aware of. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing we are bombarded with enticing messages urging us not to miss out on this or that latest deal. From Clothes to TVs to SUVs there is always something newer, better and if we buy it today we will save money by taking advantage of that limited special offer.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could press the pause button and give yourself a moment to think? To move beyond that in-built urge we all have for wanting colourful, sweet and shiny things; to flip our minds from marshmallow mode to a more objective way of thinking. If we can engage our acorn brains, as Roman Krznaric author of The Good Ancestor encourages us to do, then we are free to ask ourselves important questions like “Do I really need this?”, “How long will this product last me?”, “How easy will it be to repair?” or “What is the carbon footprint of this product?”.

The impact of the consumer culture on global warming is huge and yet it is almost invisible to most of us. We are starting to see some progress, the availability of products which are sustainably produced and better for the environment is increasing. We see new adverts everyday, some of them genuine and unfortunately some of them “greenwash”. We can easily get sucked in to agonising over which is the right thing to buy from an environmental and ethical perspective. But here is the rub, perhaps we should be asking ourselves whether we really need it all; you probably wont find an advert suggesting that!

To me consumption is possibly the most important piece in our Climate Solutions puzzle as it links together so many other things. The good news is there are several, simple things you can change to start reducing this part of your carbon footprint and most of them will end up saving you time and money. To find out more check out the latest Climate Solutions infographic on What we buy

To receive your own, high quality copies of the Climate Solutions resources Subscribe here

Climate Solutions Workshop at the Catalyse Change Summit

I really love having the opportunity to have Climate Conversations with young people. Yesterday I had the pleasure of running a workshop with a groups of really engaging young women at the Catalyse Change Summit. We used the En-Roads Climate Solutions Simulator to explore our visionary question and come up with our top 3 Climate Solutions.

What if we could find the best Climate Solutions that will limit global warming to +1.5°C and create a path to One Planet thriving by starting to put them into practice?

Our Visionary Question

Having created a scenario which could satisfy our vision’s goal of limiting warming to +1.5C by 2100 we shared our feelings of hope. There was a real air of optimism, a sense of possibility, a feeling that we need to be ready and a sense of urgency. The group felt energised.

We then got stuck in to thinking about positive, impactful actions that they could take to make their imagined future a reality. The Climate Solutions infographics provided a helpful way to translate the broader global solutions identified in En-Roads to more tangible actions that could be applied on a local scale.

We rounded off the session with the group members each pledging to start taking action by doing one new thing. For some this was to share the experience and what they have learned, for others this was to start reducing the amount of meat and dairy that they eat.

I hadn’t really appreciated the importance of reducing methane emissions before.

Ellie

Every time I run a workshop like this we generate a slightly different scenario but the common themes are always the same. What is even more important to me is the increased understanding and engagement that it brings and the motivation to take action that the participants feel. If they each take away one new positive action and start doing it then I consider it to be a success. So to the amazing young women I worked with yesterday I can only say – Thank you for you enthusiasm and commitment, keep doing what you are doing!