A blueprint of what citizens need to do in the next ten years to help prevent a 2°C rise in global temperatures

Ever wondered how much you need to cut your carbon emissions so you can do your bit to prevent further catastrophic impacts of climate change? Here we provide you with an answer. Learn what the average UK carbon footprint is and what you can do about it. Our short infographic tells you where we are and what we need to do to tackle climate change on an individual level, as well as giving you some useful tips.

The average UK Carbon Footprint stated above was determined through nationally reported emissions and estimated imported carbon emissions. Average Global Citizen emissions were set using the UN Carbon Footprint Gap analysis. Proportions of emissions from different areas were determined using a Carbon Trust report that calculating bottom up emissions from numerous participants.

Why do carbon emissions matter?

At some point between 2025 and 2040 the average global temperature will exceed 1.5 degrees celsius, and could be a lot higher.  A 2-degree rise is likely to cause run-away climate change.  Within the next 10 to 30 years if we carry on as we are severe weather events will cause major food shortages and will disrupt entire economies.  This is called climate breakdown.

Climate change is caused by man-made carbon emissions.  We have disrupted the carbon cycle by burning millions of years old carbon from coal, oil, and gas, and by farming intensively.  This causes the release of carbon-based gases which sit in the atmosphere.   They absorb energy from the sun and act like a thermal blanket around the earth.  

As more carbon based gases are released, the concentration increases, thickening the blanket and storing energy.  This energy results in an increase in temperature and severe weather events.  

Can I really make a difference?

There are 7.67 billion people.  Each one of us has a responsibility to stop climate breakdown.  Our choices make a difference.  Over 70% of all carbon emissions occur directly because of our choices.

Trying to influence people to tackle climate change? – Stop talking about consequences, give positive solutions

If you, like me, have been trying to get people to take action on climate change at home, in the workplace or through communications sent out to customers or members, then this is for you.  I summarise sociological studies that have analysed concern for climate change as well as barriers of engagement.  I conclude by providing some of the best ways to communicate climate action.  

It is very apparent why we need to take action on climate change as well as biodiversity loss.  We have witnessed and taken notice of the severe weather events, climatic anomalies, the numerous protests that raise awareness of future catastrophic impacts, as well as governments actively pursuing agreements that will limit temperature rise.  We know it’s serious.  

Although this is the case, people aren’t making change at scale.  Even organisations are dawdling in delivering real net zero plans.  And although governments are making commitments, evidence shows they are falling behind these short lived public statements.

This is after 30 years of communications efforts have been made to tackle climate change.  So what’s missing?  Why are people turning off to the idea of taking action?  

It turns out that people work hard to avoid acknowledging disturbing information.  They don’t want to feel emotions of fear, guilt, or helplessness.  Where possible, people simply want to follow cultural norms and maintain positive conceptions of individual and national identity.  When climate change is mentioned there is an in-built instinct to protect oneself, to move the subject on, or to simply walk away. 

Some of the other trends are also useful in noting.  Concern for climate change is higher in poorer countries even when they have been exposed to less information.  In wealthier countries, it appears that people turn off their concern for climate change in part to protect their cultural norms.  Outrageously people with a higher level of knowledge about climate change, tend to show less concern.  All of this is due to the sense of helplessness and frustration.  

“Informing the public of the problems can increase frustration and apathy rather than build support. Our research suggests that what the public is most skeptical about is not the existence of problems but our ability to solve them. What will make the public invest energy in these issues is not the conviction that the problems are real, but that we can do something about them.” (Immerwah, J. 2009)

So what gives?  The more we inform people the more they switch off?

Climate denial is not just stimulated by creating doubt about climate change – a widespread phenomenon in the U.S. particularly in the 90s and 00s.  Societies develop and reinforce a whole repertoire of techniques for ignoring disturbing problems.  They do this to maintain coherent meaning systems, desirable emotional states, to maintain belief that they can succeed, and in order to follow norms of attention, emotion and conversation.  In other words we pull the wool over our eyes so we can maintain our collective illusion that everything is fine, so we can all ‘live the dream’. 

Powerlessness and guilt were also found as being major means of avoiding taking action.  Studies found a consistent expression that this is not an individual’s problem, or that carrying the guilt is simply too much to bear.  What is tied to this is the impact taking action has on individual and national identity.  A respondent of one of the studies sums this up well:

“We shouldn’t consume so many resources, drive so much, or travel so much by air. We know that it is bad because it increases CO2 levels. And creates a worse situation. But at the same time of course we want to go on vacation, we want to go to the South, we want to, well, live a normal life for today. So many times I have a guilty conscience because I know that I should do something, or do it less. But at the same time there is the social pressure. And I want for my children and for my wife to be able to experience the same positive things that are normal in their community of friends and in this society.” (Interview with Eric, Norgaard, 2009)

If climate change switches people off, how do we enable change?

What is consistently found through studies is that people do care about climate change, and want to do the right thing.  This is counter to the belief that people don’t care and are selfish.  So as a starting point it is a consistent recommendation to not assume people are selfish in communication, which frames the tone of voice being used.

However, the interplay with the systems of denial that protect the self from guilt, powerlessness, and alienation from societal norms, needs careful consideration.  

To avoid denial, messages need to be non-threatening and frame a positive view of self.  And to avoid negative emotions realistic opportunities need presenting that allow people to participate in positive action.  Where possible these need to counter alienation, by allowing people to participate in community collective action with a positive framing.  

What is also important is to convey the message that a difference can be made now through personal action, and where possible to highlight the immediate economic benefits of a decision.  An atmosphere needs to be created for people to experience positive emotions and positive views of the self, through real opportunities for change.

To counter-cultural norms community movements need to be started which represent a view of parts of society.  An example of this is Fridays for Future, started by Greta Thurnburg, or flight shaming, a phenomenon in Sweden.  Both of these movements have galvanised a certain spectrum of society to reconsider what should be the cultural norm, whilst also shifting national perspective.

To achieve pan societal change, movements need to occur through all parts of society where people associate their identity; workplaces, gyms, churches, political parties, clubs, and societies.  Movements needn’t be big, they can simply be a regular conversation or communication that support collective action.   This could occur through groups talking about what they could do, emails that simply outline what can be done to live more sustainably, and through public declaration of the club/society to take action on climate change. All delivered within a positive framing.

Great ideas, but how do I put them in action?

If you are trying to encourage your family or friends, the best way is not to expose them to your feelings of guilt or powerlessness or encourage that within them.  One needs to be a source of helpful, positive information on the subject, which can be practically put in action.  That could be health benefits of a new diet, positive gains from the use of low carbon technology, or benefits of using a bike.  There should be some challenge on carbon-causing choices, like flying, but these need to be framed as being counter-cultural.

If you’re in a workplace and you are trying to achieve change, then forming a group is a great start.  Finding small things that can be done to improve the office, like plants, recycling, or purchase of recycled paper, as well as forums to exchange means of living sustainably, bring a sense of community around the issue.  Once this baseline enthusiasm is initiated, company-wide declarations may be made.  The important thing is to build a positive community around change.

If your organisation is trying to get your customer base or membership to take action, it would be a great thing to have a well-respected member of that community to outline what they had done, and how it had made a difference to them.  To go further community-wide actions may be called for whereby aa community-wide carbon reduction targets are achieved.

It’s important to remember that the most recent survey conducted by the government found 80% of people were fairly concerned (45%) or very concerned (35%) about climate change.  You are pushing at an open door so why not use this information to galvanise change!

Got your own views on the subject or need more help?

If you have ways to build upon this thinking or need help in engaging your friends, family, or club/society, we have a community at Better Century which is bringing together useful information for people, with a positive framing. You can get input or get help from our digital community.  Simply sign up. 

If you’re trying to get members of your organisation to make a change this can be more challenging.  You may want to join a new group on our community site to get support from people like you – click here to sign up.

If you’re working to make a declaration to be a carbon-neutral or net-zero organisation, you are likely to need some consultancy support in assessing baseline carbon emissions and setting trajectories to net zero.  Our consultancy can help you with this – click here for more information.

If you are trying to galvanise action on climate change through your customer base or membership, we can help by writing tailored communications with tips on personal action with a positive framing.  We can also provide digital tools that help your community take collective action with a joint goal.  If you’re interested in this then set up a call with me to discuss how we could help.

Thanks and further research

I want to give a special thanks to Kari Marie Norgaard, who wrote the paper Cognitive and Behavioral Challenges in Responding to Climate Change, Background Paper to the 2010 World Development Report, to which much of the information shared here may be attributed. This paper may be found online if you want to learn more.

Go to the next page to learn more about other references used.

10 New Year’s Resolutions to Live More Sustainability in 2021

Our community has done so many things to live more sustainably, we thought we’d share 10 to inspire you for your New Year’s Resolutions in 2021.  And what better resolutions could there be than to be healthy, save money and the environment at the same time?  With some of these you can do all three!

Go back to work on a bike

You may have loved cycling during lockdown, now take it on your commute!  If you pledge to cycle to work you get health benefits but there are also incredible benefits to the environment.  Daily personal travel is 17% of your carbon footprint if you drive. 2021 could be the year that you prove your commitment to tackling climate change by getting out of the car and on the bike!

You can go electric with your choice of bike or just peddle every step of the way – check the links to get some great advice!

Start ethically investing

It’s all the rage.  Environmental, social and governance investments have shot through the roof in 2021 to over 1 trillion dollars.  The time is now to move your money to where your mouth is.  Afterall around 30% emissions are related to infrastructure and companies which only your money can affect.

Why not start by setting up an ethical ISA with Abundance or energize Africa through an investment with Ethex.  You could also move your pension to Impax or get advice from financial advisors that specialise in this space such as John Ditchfield or Hugo Sparks, members of Better Century.

Reduce consumption of meat/dairy 

Reducing meat and dairy are sure ways to cut your carbon footprint by a quarter, whilst also reducing the amount of growing space to feed you.  This environment win-win-win, which also reduces water consumption and tackles biodiversity loss, is heralded as one simple way is which everyone can help.

You needn’t be a vegetarian or vegan, you can just eat less meat and dairy.  That’s a habit but is massively affected by purchasing choices.  A good way to start is to pledge to cut meat out of a number of meals.  Think about getting a veg box and learn new recipes.  

Cut out single use plastic

With gyres collecting mile wide Islands of plastic waste in the ocean and with marine life being severely affected by plastic particulate in digestive systems, it’s time to cut down on single use plastic.  It was a hugely popular movement after Blue Planet so 2021 could be the time to reinvigorate change by making simple resolutions – to cut out single use plastics.

The key ways our members have found to cut out single use plastics is to use new providers; like Milk and More who deliver milk and veg,  The Funky Soap Shop that provides awesome soaps, shampoos and conditioners, or Green People, who do all types of beauty products and reusable cups and the suchlike.  Why not pledge to reduce your single use plastic through our community pledge and get inspiration from dozens of others doing the same!

Switch energy supplier

Switching energy suppliers can (debatably) make a difference.  Around 10% of your carbon footprint comes from electricity usage – so if you move to 100% renewable then you can make that reduction?  Yes – if you pick the right supplier you are helping build renewable energy and are decarbonising our economy.

View our pages on renewable energy supply and learn about suppliers here.  There are also some great initiatives like Ripple Energy which allow you to invest in a wind farm and pay much reduced rates for energy, or Octopus Energy where you maximise upon flexible rate renewable energy tariffs – slashing bills to those with electric vehicles or heat pumps.

Decarbonise your home

Heating your home is 15% of the average carbon footprint.  Insulate it properly in the roof and put in some draught proofing, and you’ll save hundreds a year.  Go further and insulate walls and hot water systems, upgrade windows, and install thermostatic radiator valves, and you’ll save 40% on bills and footprint.  If you want to go the ‘whole hog’, then install a heat pump, and use just renewable electricity to heat your home, making it arguably zero carbon.

Whilst the Green Homes Grant will pay for two thirds of the bill of these measures, then it makes sense in 2021 to make this resolution.  To learn more about energy efficiency and renewable heating, click on the links!

Buy eco clothing

Sustainable fashion is becoming very fashionable!  It’s because of the incredible environmental impact fashion has through sourcing, processing and disposing of clothes.  An average pair of jeans uses 7,000 litres of water in production, 60% of clothes are made from synthetic materials and the majority of clothes get thrown away with an average use of 5 wears.

If you buy eco clothing, it’s cool, it lasts and it is made from recycled or renewable sources.  Why not just buy sustainable clothes in 2021!  Check out Vivobarefoot for shoes, Bamboo clothing or Lofte Sustainable Luxury Clothing.  There are loads of other community recommendations through our sustainable fashion tag.

Buy an electric car

Well, it’s the time isn’t it?  New Diesel and Petrol car sales will be banned by 2030, you don’t want to be behind the curve.  It’s time to trend set and buy a car that can dramatically reduce expenditure on motoring, whilst reducing carbon emissions.  If you’re an average driver you’ll save around £1,000 a year moving to electric, and if you drive a lot more, then that number just keeps on going up.

With loads of options for financing and leasing electric vehicles, and with such dramatic savings, 2021 could be the year it makes sense for you.  Read all you need to know on our eco resource, and find yourself a great vehicle for 2021!

Holiday without flying

Hopefully when we’ve all been vaccinated, we can move around freely once again.  Instead of joining all the holiday makers abroad why not continue to enjoy your country in 2021 or go to Europe in an electric vehicle?  There’s so many options available to you.

Check out EcoBnb for sustainable locations for staying in 2021, get a log cabin in the Cotswolds next to a lake, or check out Darwin Escapes across the UK.

Make your garden nature friendly

We’ve all loved our gardens during lockdown, now’s the time to make nature also love your garden, and for you to be surrounded by abundance of life!  Whatever size your garden you can encourage nature to come there, by taking some simple steps; growing pollinator friendly plants, putting up a bird feeder, composing, making a hole in the fence for hedgehogs or making a small water source.

Make a resolution to bring wildlife to your garden this year by doing something.  Here’s a great guide of things you can do to make your garden nature friendly!

The Seven Ways to Cut Carbon

Collectively, we need to halve carbon emissions by 2030. To do that we need to get down to 2.5 tonnes of carbon produced per person, per year. In the UK we produce 8.5 tonnes per person on average.

Here are seven ways to cut carbon out of your life.

Holiday sustainably and stop flying
2.2tCO2 comes from travel to and from holidays. Stop flying, pick sustainable locations, hire an electric car to get around

Cut the car out of commutes
1.4tCO2 comes from daily commutes. Cycle, walk & use public transport.

Eat less or no meat products
1.3tCO2 comes from meat consumption. Cut it down, or cut it out!

Make your house more energy efficient
1.4tCO2 comes from heating your home. Make it more energy-efficient and plan to move to heat pump tech on moving over your boiler.

Switch to 100% renewable energy
0.9tCO2 comes from electric we consume. Move to renewable energy.

Get your food locally
0.6tCO2 comes from food transportation. Eat seasonal and local!

Buy less and use less
0.6tCO2 comes from technology and other stuff we buy. Use less and be proud!

See our Better Guide to Reducing Personal Carbon Emissions

Pledge to keep your carbon emissions to 2.5 tonnes by 2030

Check out guides to energy efficiency, renewable energy, buying an electric vehicle…

Better Guide to a Sustainable Christmas

“The most wonderful time of the year” for many, is unfortunately also the most damaging time of the year for our planet.

What if we told you there was a way to keep the joy of Christmas for you and your loved ones while creating an environment for all life to thrive, that supports plenty of positive Christmases going forward?

The Better Century community have been working on some ideas to double the joy of Christmas 1, making it better for the world.

This guide has some top tips to tone down the Christmas impact. You can reduce waste around Christmas. Eco-friendly present suggestions are here to help you. The way you decorate your house, tree and table doesn’t have to cost the earth.

See all the tips for having a sustainable Christmas here.

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