Everyone is getting very excited about COP26 up in Glasgow, apart from anyone who lives in Glasgow, who can look forward to all the chaos that comes from thousands of people from all over the world flying into a city to discuss how to stop other people getting on planes. There’s also the irony of holding a gathering on global warming in a city with an ambient temperature of about minus eight. Having grown up there, we often prayed for a degree or three extra on the mercury.
But this is an important event. We all know that climate change matters and that it’s not some vague event somewhere in the future. The extreme weather conditions which we are seeing across the world, on these shores and indeed in our capital city, the floods we saw earlier in the year, made many of us sit up and realise that this is not a drill. Those images of a ferry arriving on some idyllic Greek island with forest fires raging in the background looked like something out of a far-fetched Hollywood blockbuster, not our new reality.
So we get it. Or do we? There is a lot of anger and fear about climate change. And apart from the odd, moronic shock jock whose ignorance achieves the rare feat of making you feel some sympathy for Insulate Britain, there is broad political consensus around the need to talk the talk. But I don’t feel we are really having the honest conversations about what change really looks and feels like. Everyone is willing to furrow their brow and get very emosh about the planet and Greta Thunberg but ask people what they plan to do for a holiday and it will involve jumping on a plane.
As I write this, the sky above me is alive with the hum of air traffic burning all that lovely fossil fuel. No matter how much recycling you do, a flight kind of wipes all of it out. If we are serious, then we must have serious conversations. Life as we knew it cannot just carry on where we just do what we like, when we like. We’re getting a taste of this new world post-Brexit, where my cab use has significantly reduced not because of my altruism but because you can’t actually order a taxi anymore in London due to driver shortages.
Let’s be honest, as we know from very recent political events, major transitions are turbulent and expensive. Perhaps we do need what actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley suggests and plump for war time-style rationing, where you get a certain number of sins like jumping on a plane or eating loads of big juicy steaks? A bit like Slimming World except it’s to stop the world disappearing before our eyes. Meat-free Mondays may not seem bad if it’s to stop a human-free future.
The problem is green cakeism. The Prime Minister promises we can transition to net zero without any sacrifice, guilt or pain. Wake up and smell the meat-free porkie pies. At the same time, we are being told that we’ll all need about £10,000 to retrofit our homes with heat pumps. The Government is dangling 90,000 vouchers for £5,000. But there are about 25 million homes. This is net zero meets Squid Game. Now there are benefits as well as costs and in the future, green bills could be much lower than traditional fossil fuel — but there is a significant initial investment which we will need to pay for, whether as taxpayers or as individuals.
We all need to get on board but we need some honesty from our politicians and from ourselves. Change is hard but there is no option and that means tough decisions. Turns out Kermit was right all along. Who knew?
Would you give up flying to help the planet? Let us know in the comments below.