Individual climate action – the free and instant way to help Ukraine

(The Conversation, 17 Mar 2022) In the face of a constant stream of bad news – the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis, spiralling fuel poverty and looming global food shortages – positive action is the best way to cope. And there is a set of actions that we can all take to address all these emergencies simultaneously, with immediate results, and at no financial cost.

It’s time to talk about behaviour change – the missing part of the solution to so many problems, but largely ignored by policymakers who are reluctant to risk alienating voters.

How can people in other countries help reduce the flow of finance that sustains Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? By immediately cutting consumption of Russian oil and gas. But simply turning to other sources of fossil fuels from regimes that are often equally complicit in human rights abuses is not the answer. Nor is using this crisis as an excuse to produce more domestic oil, gas and coal, including through fracking. We’ve known for years that we have to leave most fossil fuels in the ground if we are to avert catastrophic climate change.

Of course we also need to urgently accelerate the roll out of renewable energy and implement a large-scale energy efficiency programme to equip homes with heat pumps and better insulation, but this will take time, and we need to act right now. The UK government’s target to stop importing oil from Russia by the end of 2022 (with no comparable target for gas) is too late to save Ukraine.

What you can do

Instead, let’s finally pay some attention to the power that individuals have to cut consumption. In the UK for instance, one study found that saving energy through simple measures such as turning down thermostats and turning off lights and heating in empty rooms could save 23% of gas consumption for household heating and power generation. For instance, setting the thermostat just 1℃ lower can save 10% of heating bills, with temperatures of 18℃ to 20℃ still being safe and comfortable for all except elderly or vulnerable people

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The Conversation, 17 Mar 2022: Individual climate action – the free and instant way to help Ukraine