COLUMN: We need to tackle climate change but not this way….


Last updated May 10, 2020
Parliament Street in Harrogate

This column is written for The Stray Ferret by Jemima Parker, Chair of Zero Carbon Harrogate*

When we started to go into lock-down I knew that Covid-19 would bring significant carbon emissions reductions for the District. Cutting our greenhouse gases and playing our part in the global response to climate breakdown is something I have been advocating for years. But not like this. Not with the shutdown of our amazing local businesses and heartache of lives lost to the virus.

Sure I, like many, have been enjoying waking up to a quieter world each morning without the roar of traffic out of the window; being able to hear the birds in the Valley Gardens; breathe clean air on Skipton Road and soak up those clear blue skies across the Stray without contaminating contrails.

It feels like a little window into a low carbon world, but it’s missing the vibrant economy that can go with it.

Strangely, I have found the pandemic crisis a levelling experience, with my own world of living in a continual state of climate emergency (10 years left to radically reduce our carbon emissions or millions more die), now shared in some ways with my friends and family.

Working from home has been normalised. Having food deliveries – as my family have done for years (from the lovely local Organic Pantry) – is all the rage and even creatively eating up all the bits and bobs at the back of the fridge is now obligatory.

In these difficult days, pockets of hope have surprised me. I was cheered by how quickly we got it, we acted, the science of the virus was understood, the risks evaluated and the radical changes required in our behaviour adopted. Next stop climate science, risk assessment and adaptation?

It has been a joy to see a resurgence of localism, neighbours walking to the local shops and others out exploring previously neglected footpaths – why wouldn’t you, we live in God’s own county?

I have been overwhelmed by the plethora of community groups that sprung up from nowhere to provide support, from Pannal to Pateley, Bilton to Boroughbridge. This community resilience, this coming together to support each other, will help as we adapt to the changes required to prevent the worst extremes of climate change.

How many of these positives can we capture and take forward as we begin the long and difficult task of rebuilding the local economy? We can’t go back. Can we go forward investing in more resilient local, low carbon businesses, creating green jobs, valuing all our key workers and giving a true value to the natural world that sustains our very existence?

*Zero Carbon Harrogate is an organisation dedicated to making Harrogate District a net zero carbon community by 2030 in order to secure a sustainable future- for more information click here.

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