As world leaders agree on what needs to be done to curb emissions and keep the 1.5C target within reach at the COP26 conference, I can’t help but think back to a recent episode from New Amsterdam.
In it, Medical Director Dr Max Goodwin attempts to implement changes to help combat climate change in the hospital - from limiting the number of gloves staff can use, changing every lightbulb to an energy-efficient alternative, and removing meat from the menu. As his team rails against the measures (while also coping with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic) Max looks to be swamped by the seeming futility of these actions and the unwillingness of people to be inconvenienced now to mitigate disaster in the future.
If you’re familiar with the series you’ll know that whatever hair-brained scheme Max thinks up at the beginning of the episode will come to a satisfactory resolution. And this one is no different. The hospital staff follow and accept the changes, and life at the hospital goes on.
Like the staff at New Amsterdam, we are all going to have to make changes to how we work and live. And they won’t always be easy at first.
And, while we wait to see what actions come out of the COP26 conference, here are some steps you can take to help temper the effects of climate change today.
New Zealand already produces a high percentage of its energy through renewable sources. But, 26% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions still come from this industry as of 2019. As we electrify the economy, the sources of renewable energy need to increase to stay on track for our zero-carbon goals.
Solar is a great way to boost the generation and use of renewable energy in New Zealand, and it’s an action we can all take that can have a significant impact. Those who have solar installed not only power their own home with this renewable energy source, but any excess energy that’s generated is fed back into the grid for others to use - meaning that the reliance on fossil fuels goes down.
The solarZero energy service has made going solar more accessible for New Zealand homeowners, offering a solution that has zero upfront costs and has the added benefit of guaranteeing savings on power bills. Every solarZero installation prevents around 15 Tonnes of carbon from entering the atmosphere over 20 years.
We also recently announced solarZero Schools, meaning every school in New Zealand can pre-register to have solar installed - again for zero costs upfront.
Reconsider your transport options
The transport industry is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand - sitting behind agriculture. The focuses of the Emission Reduction Plan are to: “reduce the reliance on cars, adopt low-emission vehicles, and decarbonise heavy transport and freight.’
How can you support these initiatives? Well, see what other transport options are available to you to get from point a to b. Is there public transport you can take, can you walk or bike? While not every trip will be able to be car-less, even reducing our reliance on your vehicle can help.
You could also look to replace your current vehicle with an electric vehicle. Earlier this year the Government launched a rebate scheme. Any new-to New Zealand electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle you buy entitles you to a rebate from the government. Up to $8,625 for an EV and $3,450 for a plug-in hybrid. And, they’re exempt from road user charges until March 2024 - making this a great time to get one if you’re able.
Even if an EV is out of reach now, commit to making your next vehicle an EV. Or just go take one for a spin to show the industry that there’s interest in this technology. As EVs become more popular their costs will come down, and soon second-hand versions will be more readily available and affordable.
Eat some more plants
As mentioned above, the Agriculture industry is the highest source of carbon emissions in New Zealand - 48% in fact. And, ‘most agricultural emissions come from the dairy sector, followed by sheep and beef cattle.” While the government has some key actions to consider that would reduce the emissions from this sector, something you can do as an individual is to reduce your consumption of meat and dairy products.
And, before you all shout “But bacon!” this isn’t a call for all Kiwis to go vegan (though if you’re keen to give it a go, here's some tips to get you started). But, if you reduce your consumption of dairy and meat products this can make a significant contribution to reducing our impact on the planet.
Don’t forget the small stuff
While the above may seem like big, drastic steps to take, they can have some of the biggest impacts. But even then, the small stuff is still super important.
Reducing our use of single-use plastics, getting our coffee in takeaway cups, investing in steel straws, buying less, and using less energy are all actions that we need to continue to take. Check out some of our other resources about sustainable swaps and how you can save energy whether it’s summer or winter for some easy ideas you can adopt today.
Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up
It can sometimes be daunting broaching the subject of climate change and the things we can all do with friends, family or colleagues. But, we should be talking more and increasing awareness not only of the effect that climate change will have on the planet, but also the actions we can take to mitigate them.
If you’re not sure where or how to start, the team over at GenLess have a great guide about how you can speak up and influence those around you.
We may sometimes wonder whether the changes we make as individuals are enough to truly help stop climate change in its tracks - or at least help it slow down. So remember that whether you're the Medical Director of a hospital or just the head of your household, every action matters - especially if we all take these actions together. Any swap you make to a more sustainable version supports the goal of a more sustainable future.