Climate change is (quite literally) a hot topic right now. With school climate strikes and Extinction Rebellion protests dominating front pages in recent weeks and months, the rallying cry for a meaningful response to global climate change is louder than ever.

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has inspired a generation of young people to make their voice heard, and demand action to safeguard the global environment for future generations.

Even my own son is joining the crusade, bursting through the front door last week to urge me to watch a documentary he’d seen at school – David Attenborough’s latest, ‘Climate Change: The Facts’. The BBC documentary, which we watched again together, captures the zeitgeist with an unflinching look at the science of climate change and its devastating effects.

Two-thirds of Britons now agree the planet is in a state of climate emergency. This is a public mandate for governments to act, and the UK Parliament, Scottish and Welsh governments and many cities across the UK, have responded by finally declaring a climate emergency.

But what does declaring a climate emergency actually mean? And what role do we play in the response?

What is a climate emergency declaration?

This is a welcome recognition – at a policy level – that climate change represents the most significant threat to the environment and our way of life. Hopefully, it signals that decision-makers are committed to taking the drastic, urgent action that’s necessary to achieve our collective carbon emission targets.

But it’s what happens next that matters. The science is clear, and it’s time to step up our response. Without a clear plan of action, declaring an emergency will be meaningless.

The solution requires systemic change and concerted action from government and industry, but we all have a role to play.

At Changeworks, our mission is to develop and deliver high impact solutions to make low carbon life a positive reality for everyone. We help people and organisations across Scotland take meaningful action to tackle climate change. We’re ready and eager to support local authorities, business leaders, schools, community organisations and individuals to reduce carbon emissions in their own activities.

If you’re wondering what you can do to make a difference, we’ve got plenty of resources to help you.

What can you do to reduce carbon emissions?

Here are a few actions that will have the biggest impact on reducing your carbon footprint:

  • Improve home energy efficiency – from turning your heating down a little and turning off appliances that aren’t in use, to adding insulation and double glazing, creating a more energy efficient home or business will cut your carbon footprint and potentially avoid spending so much on your bills in the long-run.
  • Buy less stuff – everything we buy, from t-shirts to TVs, creates carbon emissions during manufacturing and distribution. By choosing to reduce our overall consumption and buying only the things we really need or want, we’ll cut carbon and spend less overall. There are lots of ways to reduce, reuse, repair and recycle instead. 
  • Reduce food waste – food waste emits greenhouse gases that are 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and when we waste food, we’re also wasting all the energy that went into producing and preparing it. We run workshops on food waste prevention, including Love Food Hate Waste workshops for businesses and their employees, and Kitchen Canny workshops, for anyone who wants to bin less food.
  • Eat less meat – eating meat has a huge impact on our carbon footprints, with livestock contributing 15% to global emissions. Cutting out meat (especially beef) for two or three days a week can make a significant difference to your carbon footprint, your weekly shopping budget and even your waistline. How about growing your own veg or joining a veg box scheme? If you don’t have a garden, local initiatives like Edinburgh Garden Partners match aspiring gardeners to growing space, and the National Allotment Society has resources for people seeking allotments. 
  • Choose sustainable transport – walk, cycle, use public transport or go electric. Cycling instead of driving reduces emissions by more than 90% and choosing active travel helps improve fitness, mental wellbeing and reduce risk of cancer and heart disease. 
  • Inspire a greener workplace – you don’t need to be the boss to find creative ways to reduce your carbon footprint at work. Why not set up a green team with some colleagues to see what’s possible in your workplace? We can help you get started.

For more ideas, watch our short video, 30 actions for a greener lifestyle.

The point to remember is that we can all do something. Even though we’re all different, we can all find a way to be part of the solution. What will you do?

 - Liz

Liz Partington is Changeworks’ Deputy Chief Executive