Possibly the most useful - and least understood - step we could take is to reduce our overall energy demand.
This doesn't have to mean a drop in our living standards - wastefulness is built right into the system we use. Many of our power plants (whatever the fuel type) waste around two-thirds of the energy that goes into them; our homes and offices are poorly insulated; our appliances keep using energy even on standby; our cars use only a fraction of the energy in petrol and diesel... the list is goes on.
But there is cause for hope. Government research estimated that we could realistically cut our energy use by 30 per cent across the board – and save ourselves a whopping £12bn a year in reduced bills by improving energy efficiency. And this is exactly what we need to be doing.
Implementing energy efficiency measures is the single most important step the government could take to reduce our carbon emissions now - and generally it would save more money than it costs.
The government needs to introduce policies setting minimum standards of efficiency for houses, offices, cars, electric appliances and so on, which actually reflect their life-cycle cost. Heating alone, for example, is responsible for around 40 per cent of our CO2 emissions. An overhaul of our energy system to distribute heat more effectively and judicious investment in insulating our building would take us a long way to meeting our climate change targets in the time we need to act.
When we face such a precarious economic situation, and have such huge national debts, how can we afford not to be as efficient as possible with our energy use?
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Technological fixes alone won't solve the climate crisis for us, but they will certainly be an important part of the solution.
Improved technologies that use energy more efficiently can make a huge contribution at all stages of energy production and consumption.
Decentralised energy, combined heat and power, smart electricity grids and smart appliances would revolutionise our energy system - in which, currently, two thirds of all energy is wasted.
Transforming our transport system into a zero-emission transport system is also crucial if we’re going to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, and the technologies that can accomplish this are starting to become available.
The government needs to take a lead implementing policies that support existing technologies and promote continued innovation and improvement in energy efficient technologies.
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While the government needs to act to transform our energy and transport systems for a low carbon future, we can all do our bit to reduce our energy demand.
Cumulatively, changes in the way we use electricity, power our vehicles and heat our homes and businesses have an significant impact.
Understandably, when asked to think about cutting back, people start to get concerned. But it’s something that we should be excited about, not scared of. And it can save us money, as well as protect our planet.
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