‘Emissions are a symptom of consumption and unless we reduce consumption we’ll not reduce emissions.’
Professor Sir Ian Boyd, the governments leading environmental scientist who has just wrapped up six years at Defra, made several bold statements in his final interview with the BBC.
‘The way we live our lives is generally not good for the environment. We like to consume things, but the more we consume the more we absorb the resources of the planet. That means we have to grow those resources or we have to mine them – and in doing that we generate waste.’
– Sir Ian Boyd
As one of her outgoing acts, Theresa May pledged the UK would reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This was building on the existing agreement to reduce emissions by 80%.
Unfortunately the UK is already in danger of missing key steps toward that target.
Sir Ian told the BBC that people didn’t fully comprehend the scale of the challenge or what would be required to meet the Net Zero emissions goal.
Swapping our your lightbulbs for LED and using electric cars or cycling more are a good start, but they’re not going to be enough on their own.
Governments are looking at ways to encourage planet-friendly behaviours, even considering a tax on red meat as a way to reduce consumption. Sir Ian would also like the see the Treasury department offer tax breaks to those who live low-carbon lifestyles. He also recommends a Net Zero ministry that reviews policies to make sure the government is on track with its commitments.
‘We need to do more about learning to live sustainable. We talk about sustainability, but we don’t really know what it means.
We need to make major technological advances in the way we use and reuse materials but we also need to reduce demand overall – and that means we need to change our behaviours and change our lifestyles.’
– Sir Ian Boyd
The two areas that will have the most concrete impact are cutting back on travel and switching to a plant-based diet. But there is a broader mindset shift that needs to occur.
We must move away from a consumer mindset that must have the latest gadgets, a rotating wardrobe and Instagram-worthy experiences.
We need to recognise that the choices we make have far-reaching consequences.
Only then will we have a chance of achieving Net Zero emissions and ensuring the future of our planet.