Simple Steps: practical local responses to climate change

A guide for Bridport residents: draft for consultation

It’s easy to feel that climate change is such a large problem that our actions won’t count. In fact, facing this crisis depends on actions we can all take, as well as responses from governments.

This leaflet suggests a range of practical steps we can take, both to reduce emissions and waste, and to prepare for possible emergencies like floods and power cuts. It has been produced by two local organisations, Seeding our Future and Transition Town Bridport, with inputs and financial support from Bridport Town Council.

What’s in this leaflet

This draft leaflet is intended for consultation in the Bridport Climate Forum meetings in November 2021. It will be revised with any feedback with the aim of bulk printing a professionally designed version and distributing it to all local homes in early 2022 as part of a wider Climate Response Initiative, see more below. Writing and design of the leaflet is being coordinated by Alan Heeks of Seeding our Future. You can send comments and suggestions about this leaflet to him at alanheeks@gmail.com.

The leaflet is presented in three sections:

  • Climate change and how it may affect us in Bridport
  • What individuals and households can do
  • Community responses: organisations, volunteers, councils

A message from Bridport’s Mayor, Ian Bark

Bridport is a very special place with a strong sense of community that has seen us through the pandemic, with the support of public service and volunteers. Bridport has many active voluntary groups, a mark of the resilience of our town and the ability to organise to help others. Now we have another emergency that we need to prepare for.

Climate change will affect our food supplies, health, public services and our whole livelihood, but there are plenty of practical steps we can all take to reduce its impact.  We should be able to use our resilience to reduce the risk of climate change, and to be ready for the effects as they come. 

Widespread citizen engagement will be required to achieve the transformations demanded by the climate emergency, and we welcome your ideas, feedback and inputs as we enhance the resilience of Bridport and its citizens.

Ian Bark, Mayor

Climate change and how it may affect us in Bridport

Opinion polls show that 90% of the UK population agree that we are in a climate crisis, and that human activity is a major cause. We can see that extreme weather events are happening more often in Britain and worldwide. The leading official group assessing all this is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their sixth report, in August 2022, describes the outlook as alarming unless major changes are made in the next few years to cut emissions.

The major human activity causing climate change is emission of gases such as carbon dioxide (from burning coal, petrol and natural gas), and methane (mostly from farm animals). These are known as greenhouse gases, because they trap heat from the sun in the Earth’s atmosphere, and therefore cause global warming. This has already caused average temperatures to rise by 1.0˚C above the 1981–2010 long-term average. Whilst this may not seem much, this is an average, and we can see that this has already led to longer and more extreme heatwaves, and to periods of more intense rain causing floods.

Currently the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) insistence is that national governments reduce emissions dramatically and keep the global temperature rise to 1.5˚C. Without major change, the rise could be 2˚C or more by 2050, which would have major impacts such as floods, wildfires and food shortages.

Although Bridport is fortunate to have a temperate climate, we could face severe heatwaves, droughts, floods, and shortages of imported food anytime over the next few years and beyond. Indeed, more violent storms and the steadily rising sea levels are already increasing erosion of the Jurassic Coast

What do the outcomes of COP26 tell us?

This November, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, took place in Glasgow. What do the outcomes of COP26 mean for Bridport residents? COP26 has demonstrated that governments on their own are reluctant to commit to actions and policies that are ambitious enough to avoid the climate crisis. National climate policy is not significantly changing after COP 26.

We must do what we can in our own town without waiting for leadership from central government, and join forces with others who are also doing that. But that does not mean that solving the climate challenge is just up to us: we the public, as voters and citizens and activists, should hold our government to account for delivering on their commitments, and press them to up their game by doing everything we can locally.

What we can do: individuals and households

Food choices and food security

Food and farming contribute about 30% of household carbon emissions: mainly the energy used for artificial fertilisers in farming, also energy for food processing and transport, and rearing livestock. The biggest chunk of these emissions comes from food waste – thrown away at the farm, at the processing plant, the shops or from our kitchens.

One of the major threats from climate change is reliable supplies of healthy, affordable food. Droughts and floods in Britain, Europe and worldwide mean there will be more crop failures, food shortages and price rises, all aggravated by disruptions in supply chains due to other reasons.

Some things we can do which will make a difference:

  • Reduce waste by learning ways to use all of your ingredients, re-use leftovers, and take advantage of gluts and surpluses (e.g. by preserving or freezing). Buy packaging-free where you can.
  • Buy more local produce: this cuts transport emissions, local farmers have a more secure market, receiving fairer prices, and it roughly doubles the income to the local economy.
  • If you have a garden or allotment, grow more of your own produce, including climate-adaptive crops as described on www.bridportfoodmatters.net.
  • Use seasonal produce, rather than out of season fruit and veg that come from afar, sometimes by air, and/or grown in hothouses heated by fossil fuels.
  • Eat less meat and dairy: this reduces emissions and uses land more efficiently.
  • Support food banks and other affordable food initiatives: this will be increasingly important as food prices rise.
  • Support growers that use practices that nourish the soil, and produce healthy food in a changing climate.  This agro-ecology approach includes key elements of organic, regenerative, or conservation agriculture.

Bridport Food Matters is a website and informal action group set up by three local organisations: Seeding our Future, Bridport local Food Group and Transition Town Bridport. The website has lots of resources, including home growing, food access initiatives, climate-friendly diet, local supplier list and lots more. Please visit www.bridportfoodmatters.net to offer your ideas and sign up for the e-newsletter.

All of us can also lobby local and national governments to provide the policy framework to encourage large mainstream food growers, manufacturers, and retailers to change, so that food and farming can be part of the climate SOLUTION.  This might include regulations about climate-friendly farm practices, clearer information and food labelling, and more access to land for small producers. To explore this see www.nationalfoodstrategy.org and www.landworkersalliance.org.uk.

Home Energy

To reach the Net Zero 2050 target that the UK has now adopted, we need to reduce heating emissions to 138 kg CO2 per household. – a reduction of 95%. Some ways to cut home energy emissions are fairly simple, others may not be affordable without more grant support:

  • Bridport Town Council has set up a new Energy Champions scheme which will train and support volunteers to help their local community be more energy efficient. See more on www.bridport-tc.gov.uk\\wp-content\\uploads\\2021\\09\\Bridport-Energy-Champions-information-sheet-with-contact.pdf.
  • Improve insulation and cut your heating bills. You can get advice on what to do and possible funding sources from www.ridgewaterenergy.co.uk, 01202 612726.
  • Especially if your boiler is old, or fuelled by oil or coal, consider replacing it, ideally with a low emission system like a ground-source or air-source heat pump, or efficient modern storage heater using off-peak green electricity. See more at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk.
  • Switch to an electricity provider using 100% renewable energy: you can see recommendations on best suppliers at www.greensquare.co.uk.
  • You can get a free home visit to advise on energy savings if you are on a low income through the LEAP (Local Energy Advice Partnership) free home visit scheme, operated locally by Ridgewater Energy: details above.
  • We can assess our carbon footprint (emissions) with an online calculator, see www.footprint.wwf.org.uk, or for more detailed analysis www.carbonfootprint.com.

Travel

The UK Climate Change Commission estimates that car travel is 34% of the average UK household’s carbon emissions. The Government is banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Here are some steps we could consider:

  • Use bike, foot, bus or train if possible. Tell Dorset Council if you’d like improvements for non-car travellers, e.g. more frequent buses.
  • Join the trend and get an electric car, or a plug-in hybrid which is electric for local trips: these are expensive, and more Government support is needed.
  • Avoid air travel if possible. See www.seat61.com for great train routes.
  • Help start a car sharing club for Bridport: this is being planned by CoCars, see more atwww.co-cars.co.uk.

Other initiatives

Buy less: We have a choice to define ourselves as citizens instead of consumers. Ask yourself if you really need what you are about to buy. And if you do need something, try tobuy it second hand from charity shops or selling sites online. Or consider hiring equipment, or setting up a tool share among your neighbours.  Turn your unwanted items into cash by selling online, instead of putting them in the bin, or donate to charity.

Local: There are many local projects taking practical actions which would value our time or donations: these include Plastic-free Bridport reducing waste, and the local tree-planting group. See more at the Bridport Community Support Facebook group page www.facebook.com/groups/413504675760119.

Policy changes: We live in a democracy! We can help the policy changes we need by contacting our MP and councillors, and supporting lobbying groups and petitions. For example:

  • www.writetothem.com shows you how to contact your MP and local councillors. Tell them your concerns, the changes you want.
  • www.friendsoftheearth.uk have a West Dorset branch, and a list of local Climate Action Groups.
  • www.greenpeace.org.uk highlights many climate-related issues and offers various ways you can support positive action.

Emergency Support Precautions

The UK National Risk Register and the Dorset Community Risk Register both foresee substantial risk of various emergencies which could affect Bridport within the next couple of years, including severe weather events, extended power cuts and others. Bridport Town Council supports this view with its newly updated Emergency and Resilience Plan, and the UK Government calls for basic emergency preparations at household and community level. Here are some basic steps we can all take:

  • Keep some basic supplies such as water, food, torches at home.
  • Bridport Town Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, along with most UK local authorities. See the link below to read their Emergency and Resilience Plan and Climate Emergency Action Plan and see how you can help.
  • Share this information through any local organisations and networks. It’s available online at www.bridportfoodmatters.net and www.seedingourfuture.org.uk.

Community responses: organisations, volunteers, councils

Voluntary organisations

These already play many vital roles in Bridport, including various groups involved in climate and environmental work: some of these are listed in useful links below. If your organisation can join in the Bridport Climate Response Initiative, please let us know: see contact info below.

Bridport Climate Response Initiative

Seeding our Future and Transition Town Bridport are consulting about this as a possible set of activities in 2022, involving a range of organisations and individuals. The overall aim is to encourage many more local households to get involved in the climate responses described in this leaflet. Your ideas and involvement will be very welcome: contact us on bridportclimatematters@gmail.com.

Could you volunteer to help our local community?

It’s clear that some of the problems we have faced, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and will face in future, are too big to be handled by our public services alone. We may all need help, and people who are elderly, ill, or vulnerable in other ways, especially need support. Here are some ways that you could help:

  • Know who your neighbours are, get contact details, be aware who has mobility or other conditions and might need support.
  • If you could give any voluntary help in an emergency, put yourself on a volunteer list: we know this was vital during the pandemic. Do a web search or look on the Bridport Community Support Facebook group.
  • Give a bit of time or a donation to support local initiatives on affordable food access, such as:

What Bridport Town Council are doing

The Town Council has declared a climate emergency and has agreed a climate emergency action plan. It is also working with a range of organisations to help householders take practical actions to be more energy efficient – reducing household bills, reducing carbon emissions and keeping warmer. Read more here: www.bridport-tc.gov.uk/climate-emergency-action-plan/. They have recently updated their Emergency Resilience Plan describing plans to deal with emergency events including flooding, power cuts, etc.

What Dorset Council are doing

Dorset Council Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy includes Action Plans and Technical papers by theme – Buildings, Economy, Food and Drink, Natural Capital, Food and Energy, and Making It Happen.

Other useful links