Britons urged to be energy efficient and fight climate change

The UK faces billions of pounds worth of damage if nothing is done to curb carbon emissions and halt climate change, a report has warned.

Released by the Energy Saving Trust (EST), the Forecasting the Future report kicked off Britain's eighth Energy Efficiency Week. It explains how, without changing the way we consume energy and live our lives, the UK could see spiralling climate change costs by 2050.

The predictions include around £200 billion of property and infrastructure damage from flooding and coastal erosion, and wind damage resulting in annual insurance claims of about £800 million. Furthermore, the national bill for subsidence, exacerbated by extreme weather, could top £600 million each year.

Bleaker still, warmer winter temperatures would threaten daffodils, blue bells and crocuses, while causing Christmas trees to die out completely due to a lack of cold spells. Already dwindling cod stocks would disappear, affected by warmer seas, hailing the end of traditional English fish and chips. Higher temperatures during the summer and possible droughts would also destroy golf courses and village greens.

Chief executive of the EST, Philip Sellwood said the report painted a disturbing picture of the future: "Without a drastic reduction in the UK's energy consumption, emission of carbon dioxide could have disastrous results for the UK."

He pointed out that every time a light was not switched off or a video was left on standby, power stations were emitting CO2 into the atmosphere and causing more damage to the environment.

As part of Energy Efficiency Week, the EST are aiming to raise public awareness about simple ways to reduce carbon emissions and help the UK move towards a greener, cleaner, more energy efficient future.

"It is imperative that we become more aware of the energy we use in our homes and reduce emissions," Mr Sellwood stated. "This can be as simple as turning thermostats down by one degree, replacing ordinary light bulbs with low energy ones or even walking to the shops instead of taking the car."

Other helpful tips included taking showers not baths, only running the washing machine with a full load, and making homes more energy efficient with double glazing, boiler jackets and loft or cavity wall insulation.

The initiative has received a warm welcome from Government and NGOs alike. London Mayor Ken Livingstone pledged his full commitment to Energy Efficiency Week and urged Londoners to take action.

"As a world city, London needs to take a lead in working to tackle climate change and act as an example to the rest of the country," he said.

Mr Livingstone confirmed that the average British household used around six tonnes of carbon dioxide every year by leaving lights on, not properly insulating their homes and using inefficient appliances. He added that if every household in London installed just one energy-saving light bulb, £10.3 million could be saved in energy costs each year.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Environment Secretary Norman Baker said that Forecasting the Future was just another in a long line of reports warning about the seriousness of global warming, but that this did not make its message any less important.

"Climate change is no longer, if it ever was, simply an issue for ecologists, it is now an issue for every man, woman and child," Mr Baker said, adding that statistics showed the current cost of neglecting the environment to be around £68 billion a year.

"We need radical action from the Government, especially as this cost far outweighs the cost of tackling climate change. Energy efficiency will help tackle climate change and cut utility bills. A win-win situation for all," he concluded.

By Jane Kettle



Waste & resource management
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