While oil companies rake in record profits of over £100bn, average energy bills in the UK, per household, are expected to rise by £1,500 this year. The financial impact on the poor and vulnerable will be crippling, and the number of those in the UK in fuel poverty will double to an estimated 12 million. This will have a ripple effect on the health, nutrition and wellbeing of people across the UK as they choose between eating or heating their homes. It is a huge injustice.
But the idea that we cannot afford to tackle the climate crisis in the midst of a cost of living crisis is misleading. The truth is that there are significant things that we can do to tackle these crises in tandem. And we cannot afford to delay action on the climate any longer.
There is a very insidious myth that going green will cost us more – that a green lifestyle is more expensive – and there are some very powerful companies lobbying against sustainable energy. They have worked very hard to sell the story that going green costs, and, significantly, that it will cost you. Some solutions do cost more upfront than the average person can pay but once in place would lead to significant savings – ground-source heat pumps for example. If people can be helped with the upfront costs, the ‘climate solutions’ will be adopted faster and the savings will help with the cost of living crisis.
To take another example, a comprehensive home insulation plan funded by the government would mean that we use less energy to heat our homes. This would reduce carbon emissions and save money – it is estimated that proper insulation could save UK households £1.3bn per year. And an ‘insulation rollout’ would create jobs which would help with the cost of living crisis.
There’s more. Moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy will make us less dependent on the skyrocketing cost of fossil fuels on the international market. We are not as dependent on Russian oil and gas as other countries but we are still vulnerable to financial shocks on the fossil fuel market. Most forms of renewable energy can be harvested locally in many places around the UK – wind and tidal energy in the North Sea for example – so jobs could be created in many locations. Phasing out fossil fuels is critical if we are to keep warming as close to 1.5 degrees as possible, and moving away from fossil fuels will, ultimately, reduce both the cost of living and carbon emissions.
Finally, to some, access to green spaces may seem like a luxury when the nation is battling a cost of living crisis. However we also know that nature has huge benefits for our mental health and wellbeing. The government should work to restore and protect nature so that everyone, rich or poor, can access nature close to home. That will create more jobs in the green sector and increase our carbon storage capacity.
Going green will not just help us to avoid catastrophic climate change – it will save money and create a fairer and better future for everyone.
The IPCC report released in April 2022 said that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43% by 2030. We can’t afford to wait until the cost of living crisis is over. We must act now to find solutions for both. The burden cannot be placed on those who have to decide between eating or heating. The government must lead the way and use its legislative and tax powers, and budgets, to make it easier and cheaper for ordinary people to do the right thing for the environment.
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