Climate Action 2021 - Can we make a difference?
At the start of each new school year my youngest daughter – not one for physical exertion of any sort – likes to make the case, yet again, for “why we should drive and most definitely not cycle to school”. When I insist that cycling is good exercise and is often quicker, she harrumphs. When I make my main argument: going by bike is better for the environment, she answers back, “Well everyone else is driving.”
It’s not true – Cambridge is heaving with cyclists. But I understand the sentiment. Is there any point in individual action given the enormity of the climate change crisis?
Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the most comprehensive report on climate change so far. It points out that the last five years have been the hottest since records began in 1850 and says that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have been in two million years. Headlines called the report a "code red" for humanity. Our decisions over whether to cycle or drive, or forgo a steak for a veggie sausage, can seem laughingly insignificant and futile.
This is a subject Prof Peter Singer of Princeton University has been grappling with. Described as "the world's most influential living philosopher" by New Yorker magazine, he says that the fact that each of us only plays a minuscule part in the process doesn't make a jot of difference: the obligation on us all to act remains. "I think this is one of the great moral challenges of the 21st Century, perhaps the greatest moral challenge", he says. "If we are not acting, we are endangering everyone who is alive now and also future generations."
Social psychologists also emphasise the importance of the ripple effect. We are all influenced by what others do and take our cues from family and friends. Although my daughter has yet to find her inner Greta Thunberg when it comes to cycling, she has decided to become a vegetarian -- both because she loves animals and because of the environmental impact. I suspect it is also because her best friend recently went veggie, which caused my daughter to evaluate her own actions.
So individual actions do matter and are important – but they remain woefully insufficient to address the crisis. Companies and governments need to act. With the upcoming UN Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow later this year, the UK government is calling on more businesses in the UK and around the world to take urgent action on their carbon emissions by signing-up to Race to Zero and setting out clear pathways to get to net zero. So far, almost a third of the FTSE 100 companies have signed up, representing a total market capital of 650 billion pounds.
Although Northam Media does not have a market cap and is not in the FTSE 100 (yet!), we didn’t want to just discuss COP26 with our clients – we wanted to take action too. Jen and Dom’s 13-year-old daughter told them about this great company called Treedom, which is the first platform in the world that allows you to plant a tree from a distance and follow the story of the project online. Since its foundation in 2010, they have planted more than a million trees in Africa, South America and Italy. All trees are planted directly by local farmers and bring environmental, social and financial benefits to their communities. So far Northam has signed up to planting a small forest through Treedom and with each new project we will add a tree.
I love the idea that a new project will not just mean more work -- it will mean another tree! I also like the idea that if I fancy a little bit of procrastination, I can while away a few minutes checking on the tree's progress online.
Senior Producer, Northam Media