by Deryn Philips
For the 70 people across Devon participating in the Devon Climate Assembly, July has been pretty intense. The 70 Assembly members, making up a representative sample of the county’s residents, heard evidence from climate experts and leading officials from local authorities about the risks, challenges and possible remedial actions relating to carbon emissions in Devon. Several hours spent in the evenings and at weekends learning about the alarming statistics, as well as hearing what is already being done to reduce the effects of carbon emissions, discussing between ourselves the difficulties and possible solutions, led to making proposals and resolutions to the dedicated climate change team at Devon County Council.
Like most people, I’ve been aware of climate change issues for the last few years by reading articles, watching documentaries and signing the odd online petition about halting the deforestation of the Amazon, etc. I’d then file the information away under “I’ll worry about that later”. Hearing hard data during the Assembly sessions about the dangers of climate change and how it could (and is already) affecting Devon and the rest of the country was a serious wake up call for me.
The UK government is committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions (i.e. the level of carbon produced is equal to the amount removed from the atmosphere) by 2050. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries so there is an urgent need to reduce its production. If net zero carbon emissions are not reached by then, the earth’s temperature could rise overall by a further 4 degrees Celsius resulting in catastrophic weather events across the globe, Devon included. This summer has already seen severe flooding in several countries across Europe causing loss of life, livelihoods and destruction of property.
The three components responsible for the highest carbon emissions in Devon are road usage, agriculture/industry and domestic and commercial buildings (i.e. heating, etc.). Each category accounts for roughly 30%+ of carbon pollution in the county. The Devon Climate Assembly was tasked to address three key aspects of cutting carbon emissions: reducing road usage, increasing the generation of green energy and retrofitting buildings to make them more energy-efficient.
Whatever carbon-reducing measures we need to adopt will inevitably come with inconvenience and increased costs to us all and we must be prepared for this. That said, early action can bring substantial benefits to Devon, potentially including cleaner air, less congestion and even new employment opportunities!
We are all responsible for doing what is necessary to reduce carbon emissions. It is, after all, in our own best interests. We must start now.