OPINION: Firms must be clear about environmental impact of products and services - Stephen Scales, Zero Carbon Harrogate

Events of recent weeks have come as rather an unpleasant surprise, with fuel shortages, hikes in energy prices and disruption to deliveries of various goods.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 9:46 am

The true cause of these unwelcome events is not always clear and having the smooth running of our everyday lives disturbed by things we don’t understand can be frustrating, annoying and also a little worrying.

Today we live in a very complex world where the provision of energy, food, clothes and all those things that makes our lives complete, is often controlled by actions taken far away, in a complex maze of international dealings and supply chains, that we have no control over.

Perhaps more importantly we seem to have also lost interest in where those things come from, how they are produced and more importantly the damage that might be done to our environment in supplying them - out of sight, out of mind.

When we do see and understand the impact of external actions on our lives, we have the opportunity to respond and do something about it.

Whether that be raising objections to a new housing development in Pannal, protecting trees in the Pinewoods or simply looking elsewhere, when presented with an insurance renewal quote that makes a mockery of customer loyalty.

Climate action is no different.

As consumers we are very powerful, our buying decisions will ultimately determine the way goods and services are produced and supplied but we need help.

There needs to be clear visibility of the carbon emissions associated with the products and services we buy, but more than that, manufacturers and suppliers need to provide low emission versions of many products that we rely on, if we are to minimise disruption and continue to progress as humankind.

The first Harrogate Climate Action Festival, launched on Saturday at Harrogate College, was attended by many people who are already taking steps to reduce their carbon emissions, on things like travel, diet and home energy use.

Things they recognise as being damaging to the climate; things they have direct control over; things where viable options are available.

However, very few were even aware of the full emissions associated with some of our most popular consumer habits or what action to take when they were made 
aware.

Take the internet for example.

In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, it is similar to the amount produced by the airline industry globally and this figure is expected to double by 2025!

So, should we all stop using the internet?

The answer lies in the outcomes from COP26, the UN climate summit taking place in Glasgow in a few weeks’ time.

That is why it is so important to all of us, even here in the Harrogate District.

If we are to addresses the joint climate and biodiversity crisis that we face, as a result of the human population growing from two to almost eight billion people, we need to find global solutions.

Solutions that allow humankind to continue to advance in education, medicine, social care and yes, entertainment.

The governments of the world need to navigate a course through the political, economic, cultural and societal barriers that are preventing the civilised world from implementing these solutions in a way that is agreeable to all.

COP26 is an opportunity for governments around the world to take a firm, joint stance, agree transparent policies and start to address the urgent actions that are needed, if our world is to continue to support life.