Date: 04/11/21
By Alan Hardie, CEO at NCEAT.

History books are often filled with stories of dramatic battles or heroic actions by individuals. We also see history around us in the buildings and monuments left behind by our ancestors, especially in a county like Northumberland which is full of visible history. These monuments are often associated with one historical figure, such as the Roman Emperor Hadrian and his wall, whereas in reality they are the product of countless individuals working together to create something which is enduring and has great impact. We don’t know much about the individuals who built Hadrian’s Wall but we do know that there would have been no wall without them.

The COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow could be one of the greatest moments in history. The headline announcements of agreements and changes to limit global warming will be made by presidents, prime ministers and chancellors, but it is the individuals who plan and deliver these who will ultimately make them succeed. In the case of what is decided at COP26, this means all of us if we are to make the changes necessary to give a sustainable future to our children and grandchildren.

My university degree was in Geography and I spent quite a bit of the course looking at long term changes in climate. I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t entirely convinced that the impact of human activity was as strong as suggested. After all, the Earth in the past has been both considerably colder and warmer than at present. However, as I’ve studied the recent scientific evidence in more detail, it’s clear that human activity is causing the earth to warm at a rate never seen before under natural changes.

With an issue such as climate change, we are all part of the problem. However, this also means that we can all be part of the solution. Change isn’t always straightforward and we’ve got to make it as easy as possible for people to live more sustainably, but without reducing the quality of their lives. It’s also much more difficult to make changes when people are struggling with the rapid rise in the cost of living, a big increase in National Insurance payments in the spring and cuts to universal credit.

Many of the changes will need action by Government and big business. For example, if they really want us to switch to driving electric cars then all new houses should already be built with charging points as standard. There should be funds to pay for schools and other public sector organisations to install charging points in car parks, without having to use their existing funding to do this.

There are also many things that we can do as individuals and groups to reduce our carbon footprint and live our lives more sustainably. These changes need to be agreed not imposed and we need to do a lot more explaining as to why they are necessary. Importantly many changes can be made without a significant impact on our lives. When we use electricity from wind turbines it works exactly in the same way as if it comes from an oil fired power station, although one system is clearly sustainable while the other adds to global warming.

Some of you may be wondering why the CEO of NCEAT would write a blog about COP21. The answer is that I want to take the opportunity of COP26 happening close to us to inspire our pupils to come up with ideas to make our schools more sustainable and to reduce the amount of carbon we produce. We already have solar panels, biomass boilers and energy efficient lighting systems, which is a good start, but we want to find more ways for us to be greener in the way we work.

To help create a local legacy for the positive impact of COP26 in reducing the impact of climate change, next week we will be launching some competitions for our pupils to get creative and suggest ways in which their school can reduce their impact on the environment.

Watch out for details in next week’s edition of Lighthouse, as this can be our pupils’ opportunity to create their own history through positive action!