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What can I do to help fix climate change? Your ultimate guide to taking action

There’s plenty you can do to help stop climate change, from individual action to making impact as part of a collective movement. Here’s all you need to know.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that time to prevent catastrophic global warming is running out.

The world’s chance of keeping global heating within reasonable limits – 1.5C – will vanish if rapid action to reduce greenhouse gases is not taken immediately, the report said. 

Such warnings hardly make for cheerful reading – and IPCC reports can make many feel disheartened about the future of the planet. 

Yet while the outlook is certainly grim, the most recent report once again stressed that there’s still time to avert disaster if we act swiftly – with action the only way we can turn our fortunes around. 

When faced with a problem of such scale, it can be easy to feel that we can’t make a difference as individuals – but this isn’t the case.

As an individual, or as part of a collective, there are plenty of ways you can take action today to help shift the dial on climate change.

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To help you get started, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to taking action on climate change wherever you are.

We’ve broken down key environmental and climate issues, outlining what the problem is and what actions – both big and small – you can take to help fix the problem.

Many of the issues we outline are interconnected, meaning if you choose to act on even one of them, you’ll likely be having a positive impact on other key problems facing the planet. Read on so you can start making a difference today.

The basics 

In August 2018, a young Swedish girl began a one-person “school strike” outside her country’s parliament in protest against the government’s inaction on climate change.

Fast-forward four years, and that girl – Greta Thunberg – has inspired millions of others around the world to take climate action too. She herself is perhaps the best example of her handbook’s title: No-one is too small to make a difference. 

Individual action by itself will never solve the climate crisis – but it’s important to remember that you are capable of making big changes by influencing others or joining a collective. 

Behavioural science dictates that we are influenced by what we see around us. This means that decisions you make over what you eat, how you travel and what consume is likely to influence those around you.

Beyond individual action, your power to make a difference as part of a group is enormous. 

News about climate change is often negative, but over the years climate groups have secured numerous wins for the planet, from halting fossil fuel projects to scoring concessions from politicians and taking polluters to court – and winning.

You’ll find climate and environment campaign groups everywhere in the country, and if there’s a particular issue you’re passionate about, there’s almost certainly a group you can join to take action.

Your local newspaper as well as Facebook groups are great places to start searching. Many large climate and environment charities such as Friends of the Earth have local branches with locally-specific campaigns which you could also join.

If there’s not a campaign group near you, consider starting one. Other groups around the country will likely be happy to offer advice on getting started, and you could end up making a real difference. 

The Big Issue has a complete guide to organising a protest if you’ve never done so before.

Petitions, letters to MPs and appeals to councillors are all great alternative options for pushing for change on issues you care about. 

You can use the free tool writetothem to find out who your local representative is and send them a letter or email from there. 

You can start a petition on a variety of websites, but using the parliament tool gives you the best chance of impact: if petitions receive over 10,000 signatures they must be responded to by the government, while petitions with over 100,000 signatures must be debated in parliament. 

Taking action, however small, is a great way to combat feelings of despair and eco-anxiety, as well as being a constructive way to help the planet. 

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Fossil fuels 

Fossil fuels are perhaps the most important puzzle piece in the climate crisis – without reducing our output, saving the planet will be impossible.

This is because fossil fuels are the driving force behind climate change. Every time we burn oil, gas or coal, we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which builds up and creates the warming effect wreaking havoc on our planet.

As an individual, there are small changes you can make to your own lifestyle in order to reduce your consumption of fossil fuels.

This could involve switching your home heating source to renewable energy companies such as Good Energy of Ecotricity or finding out whether your pension fund or other investments are financing the fossil fuel industry – and divesting accordingly.

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Giving up your private car or simply using it less and opting for public transport is one of the most impactful ways to reduce your individual output. 

Of course, it is not individuals but large entities such as oil companies which are primarily responsible for driving fossil fuel use.

As such, joining a collective to put pressure on politicians and companies will be one of the most effective ways to combat fossil fuel use

The International Energy Alliance has warned that further exploration of oil and gas fields is incompatible with climate change targets. In spite of this, the UK is on course to approve around 40 projects by 2025

One way you could prevent such expansion is to find out whether a project is set for approval in your local area by looking at the list collated by Friends of the Earth and seeking out, or setting up your own, local campaign group to oppose the project. 

Stop Cambo campaigners successfully halted approval for the Cambo oil field last year, and the group is now campaigning to stop other projects planned around the UK. You can join the campaign by inputting your email address and details on their website.

There are a number of other campaign groups opposing new oil and gas exploration which you can join. This includes UK Divest, Just Stop Oil and Fossil Free UK

In the context of the current energy crisis, Friends of the Earth is also running a campaign calling on the government to levy a windfall tax on oil companies following record profits. You can sign the petition – and find other climate petitions – on its website.

Transport and air pollution 

The way we travel is having a significant impact on the planet, with car and plane use having increased substantially over the past few decades.

The individual actions you can take to combat this issue are fairly obvious: drive and fly as little as possible, opting for electric vehicles, public transportation or cycling or walking instead. 

On a broader scale, there are lots of UK-based groups attempting to reduce high-carbon travel, especially in the aviation sector

A number of airports in the UK are planning to expand, and local campaign groups have been fighting against these plans.

Recently, a campaign group in Leeds successfully overturned plans to create a new terminal building at Leeds-Bradford airport. 

The Aviation Environment Federation has a list of the airports in the UK with plans to expand. It is highly likely a local campaign group opposing the expansion exists in your local area, so you might consider joining it to offer your assistance.

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National campaigns such as Stay Grounded also campaign around the issue of aviation. You can sign up to their newsletter on their website.

Travelling more sustainably can be difficult if you live in an area with poor public transport links and infrastructure – so another way you could make a difference is to campaign or lobby local leaders around this issue.

Campaign for Better Transport is one campaign group organising around this issue. You can sign up to its newsletter to take action at this link.

In your local community, you could consider trying to set up interventions such as low traffic neighbourhoods to drive down carbon emissions as well as air pollution. The Guardian has a step-by-step guide to get you started.

Biodiversity and nature restoration 

The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, with just half (53 per cent) of its biodiversity remaining. This has been driven by a number of pressures including poor agricultural practices, pollution and climate change.

Humans depend on a healthy ecosystem for survival, making it imperative to conserve and restore the natural world.

Luckily, improving biodiversity is actually one of the easiest things you can start doing from today, especially if you’re lucky enough to have access to outdoor space. 

If you have a garden, allowing some of it to grow wild without mowing it or letting fallen leaves lie on the ground can help wildlife in your area, with insects, birds and small mammals benefiting from the cover.

Similarly, installing bat boxes, hedgehog houses or bird houses can help wildlife shelter. If you have less space, a “bug hotel” might be an option. The Woodland Trust has a complete guide to creating a bug hotel on its website, which may be a fun activity for families to do together.

Creating water holes, putting out bird feed and planting native wildflowers are all other ways you can help wildlife survive. Be cautious if purchasing “wildflower” seeds from supermarkets, as some may not actually be native to the UK and you may be doing more harm than good. 

The World Wildlife Foundation has a good guide on planting wildflowers on its website.

If you don’t have green space of your own, even a planter on a balcony with wildflowers in it could be enough to help out pollinators.

You could also consider volunteering at a local wildlife project, community garden or allotment. The Wildlife Trusts has a host of volunteering opportunities, and you can sign up to hear about them here.

There are also dozens of tree-planting projects taking place around the country which you could take part in. Alternatively, organisations like the International Tree Foundation are offering grants to communities looking to plant trees in their local area.

If you would like to support the survival of key animal species, there are countless numbers of UK-based charities you can donate to or sign petitions with to protect birds, hedgehogs and other wildlife.

This includes the RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, but almost every threatened species in the UK will have a charity campaigning to protect it. 

Plastic and waste 

Plastic pollution, along with other waste, is negatively impacting ecosystems around the world, with microplastics now found everywhere from the sea bed to the food that we eat.

Creation of plastic also drives the climate crisis, as oil is required to make it.

Driving down this deluge of waste will require effort on all our parts – and that begins with cutting your own waste as much as possible.

There are lots of simple switches you can make, including avoiding single-use plastic, taking a reusable cup to coffee shops and swapping your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one

Plastic-free refill shops are becoming increasingly popular, and offer a way to restock on all kinds of household items such as shampoo, cleaning products and food items without the need for plastic packaging.

These shops frequently stock other plastic-free items which can help you avoid waste.

If plastic is unavoidable, make sure you recycle it where you can. If you’re not sure whether you can recycle a certain type of plastic, The Big Issue has a complete guide to what you can and can’t recycle.

To waste less in general, you should think carefully before making any purchase about how necessary it is, and how long you’ll use it for – or how quickly it will perish.

Plastic is wrecking ecosystems across the globe.

Food waste, which drives methane emissions, is a significant contributor to the problem of waste worldwide. 

You can reduce your output by planning meals ahead of time, freezing what you don’t eat and composting anything which is no longer usable. For more tips on reducing food waste, we’ve got a comprehensive guide here.

Of course, individuals are not the only contributors to the problem of waste, plastic or otherwise. Many local and national businesses still rely on plastic in their supply chains and output, so you could consider getting in touch or starting a petition to put pressure on them to reduce their impact. 

Many fast fashion brands, for example, are guilty of creating huge amounts of waste, with many garments burned overseas, contributing to climate change.

Individually, you can choose to shop second-hand or buy from sustainable sources. To act on the fashion industry more widely, you could join an anti-fast fashion campaign.

Fashion Revolution has a tool which you can use to search what actions and campaigns are happening near you which you could join in on.

Water and air pollution 

The UK’s air and water sources are severely damaged by a range of pollutants, including emissions from car exhausts, agricultural runoff and sewage. 

While these are not strictly climate-related problems, high emissions from vehicles do drive climate change, while poor-quality water and ecosystems can hamper our ability to fight climate impacts. 

On air pollution, you can check how high levels are near you by entering your postcode into the BBC’s tracker.

If you live in a big city, it’s likely there may already be a local group near you campaigning to reduce air pollution. 

There are lots of interventions you can campaign for locally which can make a big difference, such as limiting car use near schools or implementing low-traffic neighbourhoods, as mentioned earlier.

Water pollution – especially in rivers – is a huge problem, with none of England’s rivers passing tests for pollution and just 14 per cent considered to be in “good” ecological condition. 

Sewage dumped into rivers is a huge contributor to this pollution, and if you see a spill you can help by reporting it to the Environment Agency.

Alternatively, Surfers Against Sewage has a “safer seas” app for reporting pollution in coastal waters. The charity also runs – and encourages others to organise – beach cleans which you can participate in.

If you’d like to campaign to prevent pollution in rivers, there are many local and national campaigns you can join. The Rivers Trust, for example, has plenty of ways you can get involved on its website

Local river groups across the country have seen success through campaigning, with the Ilkley clean river group successfully securing bathing water status for a stretch of river in the town – the first in the UK.

This means the Environment Agency will have to test the water more frequently for pollution. 

Agriculture and diet 

Agriculture contributes a large portion of carbon and methane emissions to the atmosphere globally, while unsustainable farming practices damage the environment. 

Meat and dairy products are particularly large contributors to the greenhouse gas impacts of agriculture due to the methane emitted by cows, the forests cut down to make way for cattle and the water and feed resources used to sustain animals. 

One of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint on a personal level is to cut out or cut down your meat and dairy consumption.

You could also consider encouraging others to do the same. One way to do this is to encourage your workplace or educational establishment to try “meat-free Mondays” or incorporate more plant-based options into their catering. 

Charity Sustain also runs a number of campaigns encouraging more sustainable food production and farming across the UK. You can find out more about their campaigns, and get involved, on its website.

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