Green Southwark: What can you do to stop catastrophic climate breakdown?

News Desk (30 October, 2019) Columnists

'While we can all sort out our own reusable coffee cups, we need governments and international organisations to make action plans for the climate emergency on a global scale'

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Greta Thunberg and the climate strikers, Extinction Rebellion and David Attenborough are all drawing attention to the fact that the world is heating up. But what can I do as an individual to stop catastrophic climate breakdown?

You might already be making some of the most important personal changes: eating less meat and dairy, flying less or not at all. It’s getting easier than ever to make these choices.

One of the most powerful actions you can take in ten minutes is to switch to renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. (Look at websites like Money Saving Expert to find affordable options.) Going green doesn’t just send a message. It all adds up. In the UK in July, August and September, more electricity was generated from renewables than from coal and gas for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

While we can all sort out our own reusable coffee cups, we need governments and international organisations to make action plans for the climate emergency on a global scale.

But much of everyday life lies between these two extremes. Think about your home. Solar panels and effective insulation are obvious steps to cut the carbon bill, but if you are a tenant or leaseholder, the council has to take the lead. And Southwark Council manages more than 55,000 properties.

Think about your street. Is there room on the pavement for wheelchairs and buggies? Would you feel safe cycling to the shops? Have you got a secure place to park a bike? Housing and transport produce large shares of greenhouse gas emissions, and decisions made by the council affect my ability to ‘do the right thing’.

A local paper like Southwark News therefore plays a vital role in reporting how council decisions affect our neighbourhoods – and the wider world. In this column, I’ll also share information about projects that protect wildlife, cut waste and reduce energy consumption.

Following my predecessor Donnachadh McCarthy, I have big shoes to fill – shoes that have been in non-stop, nimble motion for many years, both campaigning and writing. I look forward to the journey!

Eleanor Margolies writes about theatre and on environmental issues, and is an active campaigner for urban green spaces and clean air.

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