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COP26 and the Surreal Reality of a Changing World

4 Nov 2021 4:00PM

Justine Oakes, Sustainability Manager at the University of Suffolk on COP26: 

Over 120 world leaders, their civil servant policy entourages and over 25,000 representatives from academia, business, and community groups from across the world are currently meeting in Glasgow for COP26. 

The Conference of the Parties are meeting in an attempt to push the legally binding agreement made in Paris 2015 to hold rising global temperatures as advised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to 1.5C, below the original 2C initial figure to remain comfortably habitable and swerve the worst ecological tipping points. 

Temperatures around the world are already at about 1.2C, with greenhouse gases on the upward trend as population increase, the just levelling up of the developing world and global manufacturing practices outpace the science and the potential ability of natural ecosystems to adapt. 

In context, unanimous global scientific modelling expects an increase of 1.5C to still result in rising sea levels, increases in heatwaves, droughts, floods, fiercer storms and other forms of extreme weather, which will continue to impact on agriculture, food and water scarcity, climate related poverty, habitation, health and global security.  But creates a safer space to exist within.  Greenhouse gases can endure in the atmosphere over a timescale of many human lives, so reductions made now will not be fully realised until future generations.  The impact of their presence, however, is beginning to be experienced already. 

The United Nations supported by the work of leading climate scientists, drew on over 6,000 referenced studies each of which support the requirement to hit a year on year 7% reduction in global carbon emissions by 2030 based on our current trajectory in order to meet 1.5C.  The inference being that if we do not, we will dramatically overshoot and be unable to adapt. 

However, to meet those goals, each country will need to step up non-binding national targets to cut, or in the case of developing countries, to curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.  This is the core ambition that the conference seeks to achieve. Commitments to genuinely cut carbon and the exploration of a road map as to how that will be achieved in a way that balances the global CO2 emissions in an affordable and achievable way for each nation. 

What Can We Do? 

East Anglia is the region most at risk from climate change so even small changes can make a big difference. 


At work and home, turn it off, or turn it down.  

Electrical appliance: Not using them? Then turn off the TV, computer, washing machine, oven at source. According to Energy Saving Trust research, between 9-16% of the electricity consumed is used to power appliances when they are in this standby mode. The average household consumes about 1.2kWh of standby power daily, equal to 8.76 tons of CO2 annually. 

  • Use your heating controls. For most of us, the first step in cutting carbon emissions it to take control of our heating.  Reduce by a few degrees, shut windows and close doors.  Do you need to heat rooms you are not using? Can you pop on a jumper? 

  • Upgrade your heating system if you can afford to.  Look out for grants for air source heat pumps and boiler replacements from your local council and think about switching away from oil and gas when you can. Some of these replacement schemes may attract additional renewable heat incentives. 

  • A smaller budget?  Heating controls are evolving rapidly and investing in modern, thermostatic radiator valves ensure that you only heat rooms you’re using. And remember to turn off the heating when you go out, rather than leaving it on at a low temperature. 

  • Switch Energy Provider when your contract is up for renewal and look to find a renewable energy tariff deal from a reputable provider.  Or if you have some money to invest, consider installing solar panels and generating your own energy.  Modern panels work well in a northern climate and when combined with battery storage can provide a considerable portion of your energy needs. 

  • Insulate your home and cut back on heat loss by making sure that the walls, roofs and windows are insulated. Keep an eye out for Green Home Grants and contact your local council to see what’s available.  Smaller budget? Your household may be eligible for a low-income scheme, which covers up to 100% of the cost. 

  • Lighting is a quick win for home energy efficiency. A modern LED bulb uses 80-90% less energy than a traditional one and the energy saved will soon outstrip the cost of the initial investment.  Some brands can last up to 7 times longer too. 

  • Choosing Energy efficient appliances is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Wet appliances, such as dishwashers and washing machines, typically account for 10% of a typical household’s energy bills and therefore electricity consumption.  Frequency of use is one factor, but choosing lower temperatures and airing clothes on a line rather than using a tumble dryer and only running dishwashers when full for example, will reduce energy consumption.  Only a few plates?  Then hand wash in a bowl and use the water on the garden in the summer months. 

  • Make space for nature:  The role of biodiversity and the natural environment is crucial to supporting the uptake of carbon from the atmosphere and is a vital part of reversing the impact of climate change and biodiversity loss. Find a space in your garden to plant a tree, grow a native hedgerow, or plant wildlife friendly pollinator species.  No garden?  Consider doorstep pots and windowsills, even the smallest space can make a difference and bring you a lot of joy. 

Travel and Transport  

  • How are you travelling? Fossil fuels emissions from travel and transport count for a large volume of U.K. greenhouse gases.  
  • Can you walk, or cycle on shorter hops? Can you take the train or bus? 
  • If using a car think about car sharing through the Suffolk car sharing scheme, or switch to hybrid or electric when the time comes to replace your vehicle, making the most of our campus EV charging facilities. 

To find out more about what the University of Suffolk is doing regarding sustainability please visit 



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