What kind of a year have you had? This enquiry is usually made in polite conversation, with little expectation of a significant response, but given the rather momentous events of this year it may well now elicit some longer and perhaps more emotional responses; some sad, some angry, some perhaps inspiring.
2020 has been a momentous year, a year of highs and lows without doubt but as we near its end we can perhaps look forward to the coming year with hope for a brighter future. Covid-19 will hopefully be a thing of the past, we will come to terms with whatever Brexit means for us but what of climate change; how will we ensure the seeds of hope that are being sown by leaders around the world, with their more ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions, become the solid roots on which we grow sustainable ways of living?
At last, there appears to be a recognition that urgent action is needed if we are to prevent the climate emergency from becoming a climate crisis and, as shown by the development of the coronavirus vaccine, where there is a will, we can find a way. There is of course a significant difference between finding a solution to climate change and finding one for a global pandemic. With the pandemic the burden lay entirely in the hands of the scientists, and whilst science has a major part to play in addressing climate change, it does not hold all the answers. We cannot rely exclusively on technology to save the day. It needs to be more of a coordinated team effort, with everyone playing their part.
In the words of polar explorer, Robert Charles Swan, OBE, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
So, what can you do next year to help? Swap car for bike; buy an electric vehicle; instal solar panels; eat less red meat; fly less? Any and all of these will help but let’s not just make New Year resolutions which fall flat at the first hurdle, instead we need to turn the promises we make into real actions, resolutions into solutions, and not just rely on others to solve the problem for us.
If 2020 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons we have a great opportunity to make 2021 memorable for all the right reasons. The year when the awareness of, and concern about climate change turned into firm action. A year of change. It is a year in which the UK will host the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) in Glasgow, providing an opportunity for real progress to be made in aligning the political will required to achieve the changes needed.
It’s a year in which the Harrogate District must play its part, as individuals, businesses and community groups. One of the highs of 2020 was the successful launch of the Long Lands Common community woodland project, between Harrogate and Knaresborough, which will eventually see empty fields turned into a haven for wildlife and human wellbeing alike. More actions like this, that help to reduce emissions, are needed if we are to achieve our goal of a net-zero carbon District.