I attended a conference today presenting best practice from around the globe in engaging people to take action on climate change. It was kind of unsettling.
I’ve never really been a fan of the idea that it is down to individuals and communities to motivate themselves to do something about climate change. I’m all in favour of everyone doing what they can and absolutely support the need for everyone to get more involved in the issue I just don’t think the way out of the problem is going to be through us changing our behaviour and consumer choices. The responsibility lies with Governments and industry. Even the title of the conference ‘Putting Consumers Centre Stage’ makes me uneasy – Gavin put his finger on it when he pointed out we need to stop referring to ourselves as consumers in the first place.
What spooked me the most was there was scarcely any discussion of emissions trading – it was referenced in passing but there was absolutely no acknowledgement or apparent understanding that the existence of emissions trading fundamentally changes what we can and can’t do as ‘consumers’. We can reduce our use of electricity, savings ourselves money in the process and helping the UK to reduce its emissions – but we can’t guarantee there will be fewer emissions of greenhouse gases as a result because the permits that power station operators would have used to cover our emissions will simply be sold to someone else. The whole issue of green tariffs also depresses me – I’ve been working on this issue for years and have concluded you should just go with the cheapest tariff you can find and use the money you save to install better insulation in your home or if you’ve already done that, on joining sandbag and cancelling emissions permits 😉 The idea that we the consumers can buy renewable energy tariffs and somehow make a difference, when there are already tough EU and national laws that require energy companys to buy more renewables, just isn’t true. If you are apparently getting 100% ‘green energy’ then someone somewhere else is just getting more ‘brown’ energy. Unless the tariff is offset with emissions permits it really isn’t worth the bother.
It wasn’t all depressing however, Hilary Benn gave a very good speech in praise of the UK’s Climate Change Bill and FOE’s campaign to secure it and chatting with Gavin Starks of [AMEE](http://www.amee.cc/ “”): the world’s energy meter; and Federico Gallo, climate mathmo whizz building models to save the world, was as inspiring as ever.