Action on climate change must come from the ground up

Claire Haigh
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When it comes to tackling climate change, grass roots campaigns really matter.  How else do we get the general public to engage sufficiently in the issue for politicians to feel they have the mandate to make the difficult decisions?

Experience has shown that however compelling climate science becomes – and the latest report from the IPCC is the most sobering yet – it is difficult to keep the issue top of mind.  Even the recent flooding and extreme weather events have been insufficient to deliver the much needed step change in public and political opinion.

The Fabian Society has called for a more popular environmentalism.  They point to the fact that attending international climate conferences or going on media attention-grabbing trips to the North Pole have traditionally been what politicians do in order to prove they ‘get’ green issues.  However, these efforts have failed to embed the environment in the political mainstream meaning that green issues have been allowed to slip down the agenda in recent years.

It is in this context that campaigns like “Catch the Bus Week” are so important.  If we are to engage the general public we need to do so in a way that is real and tangible.  And taking public transport is very often cited in surveys as one of the main things people can do to “do their bit for the environment”.

There is no doubt that tackling the UK’s dependence on car travel will be crucial to achieving the Government’s pledge of delivering an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.  Cars produce around 60% of domestic transport emissions, which as a sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of all emissions in the UK.  Opportunities for the substantial and low cost savings that can be achieved through modal switch must be maximised.  And buses have a key role to play in delivering this urgently needed reduction in carbon emissions.

As “Catch the Bus Week” draws closer it is fantastic to see so many bus operators and local authorities participating.  The week provides a much needed opportunity for a national celebration of the many benefits of bus travel, which too often don’t get enough attention.  As an inherently local product buses often struggle to get the national recognition they deserve.

But more importantly the campaign has a very serious purpose: in rallying the kind of grass roots support needed to send a clear signal to Government, political parties and policy makers alike that climate change must be treated as an urgent priority.

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