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  • Anna French

21 JULY - FOSSIL FREE BY 2025: Anna French Associates has pledged - will you?

Here is a thought experiment for you; think of a group of people who would really like you to keep on burning fossil fuels for the next 11 years. A couple of world leaders spring into my mind, perhaps some executives in the big oil companies, Exxon Mobil, Shell and so on, or it could be you, driving your 1980s Lotus Esprit Turbo (my dream car). We’ll call this Group A. 

Now think of a group of people that you love and care about and who will be alive on Earth (all being well) in 50 years’ time. Let’s call that Group B.

We can safely assume that in the majority of cases the people in Groups A and B, are not the same people. The people in Group A are probably people of significant power and influence (maybe yourself included!). The people in Group B, perhaps they are young people you know, your children or grandchildren, people you love and care about.

So what is my point?

The people in Group B, people you love and care about, who are set to be here, probably after you are gone, they need your help. 

In the next 11 years.

The UN and climate scientists, based on the best evidence they have to date, say that we have 11 years to cut our carbon emissions by a minimum of 45% in order to have a chance of keeping climate change to within 1.5 degrees of warming. 

If we don’t achieve this then we risk creating terrible problems for future generations. We’ve all seen the floods, forest fires, hurricanes and droughts on the news, these are only going to get worse. If we reach 4 degrees of warming then it could even be the end for our civilisation because the planet’s living systems could take many hundreds of years to adapt to the new conditions in the meantime people would find it extremely difficult to survive. But don’t take this from me, take a look at the science for yourself.

On March 15th the first global strike for climate took place around the globe. 1.5 million children and their supporters took part in over 100 countries across the world (me and my kids included), inspired by Greta Thunberg. Our kids are now missing school to get our attention in the hope that we will help them out. In my day kids bunked off school to smoke cigarettes outside the local shop, now they skip school to save the planet. Fossil fuel burning is going the way of smoking, it’s becoming seriously uncool and even more anti-social.

And while we wait, hoping that the world’s governments will step up, we are left with a feeling that perhaps now it is up to us to do something, to support our young people and provide our government with a mandate to take action too.

Fossil fuels include things like petrol, diesel, fuel oil for ships, aeroplane fuel and gas for central heating and cooking. Burning these fuels releases carbon dioxide, that was locked up under the ground for millions of years, back into the atmosphere. We know we have to switch to greener solutions like solar power, wind and tidal energy at some point, so let’s do it now before it’s too late.

So that brings me to our pledge. Anna French Associates is aiming to be fossil fuel free by 2025. Keeping fossil fuels in the ground is the most clear-cut way to reduce carbon emissions. Would you like you to join us?

Here are the four things you can do that will make a massive difference:

1.    Move your money (divestment) – move your current account, savings, investments and pensions into accounts that do not invest in fossil fuels. 

2.    Switch to 100% renewable energy - change energy provider to one that provides energy from wind, solar and other non-fossil fuel sources, you can also buy renewable gas.

3.    Switch to electric - change your vehicles and other transport to electric rather than petrol or diesel. You could also switch your gas cooker and gas boiler to electric. Get some solar panels and you will soon be using your own free energy to charge the company vehicles!

4.    Cut down on flying - a long-haul flight can double an individuals carbon footprint for the year!

We have already worked out a few of the practicalities and you can see our tips in the section at the end of this article.This list only includes things our business is directly responsible for; our investments and banking, the energy we directly purchase or use and the journeys we make. The products we specify in our design work as landscape architects and the impact those construction projects have are not included here. They are the products of someone else’s business. There are things we can do there too but we’ll come back to that another time.

So, to go back to the two groups of people we mentioned at the beginning. The ones in Group A, the fossil fuel industry, stand to gain in the short term from us continuing with business as usual but at the expense of the people we love in Group B. We all want our youngsters to have a great future and we don’t want to see them suffer. Let's take a stand and show them what we adults can do when we all pull together to solve a problem. We’ve done this before as a nation and I’m sure our generation is up to the challenge.

There are lots of really positive technological developments out there to help with climate change but they are not happening fast enough. Despite what we might hope, Elon Musk is not going to save us all. 

Join us in making a pledge to change your company too and then, when you sit down with your children or grandchildren in the future and they ask you ‘what did you do when you knew we only had 11 years left?’ you can honestly say, ‘I did everything I could’.

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Join us at this year's Palmstead conference on Wednesday 22nd January where Anna will be giving a short presentation. https://www.palmstead.co.uk/content.aspx?content=307