Well, what a year 2019 was! The protests by Extinction Rebellion in April and the school climate strikes led by Greta Thunberg may have divided the public’s opinion, but they certainly seem to have spurred the government into some sort of action on tackling climate change. After all the posturing, bluffing, swerving and the seemingly endless TV debates, we have a new Prime Minister in Downing Street. It’s not for me to provide political commentary or opinion but I do believe that Boris Johnson will back the commitment made by Theresa May’s government to cut the UK’s greenhouse emissions to ‘almost’ zero by 2050. I also believe that whilst this is a big target, initiatives such as #OneSmallChange have an important role to play on the path to achieving this ‘zero’ target.
Why? Because there is a real growing mood for change and a feeling that we can each be part of the solution. We can, each and everyone of us, ‘own’ some of the change that is required. I spoke to a young graduate engineer only recently about just getting their first job. We spoke about their training plan and how it is a wonderful time to be starting out on a career in building automation and energy management, as the positive impact that engineers will make over the coming decades will be unprecedented.
Understandably, you might question my unerring optimism regarding this ‘mood for change’, especially when you read the 2019 Committee for Climate Change annual report on the actual progress towards the 2050 ‘emissions’ objectives. In a CIBSE Journal Article last year Hywel Davies summed up the findings in this report very succinctly. He reiterates that 2018 was defined as ‘could do better’, whilst in 2019 we ‘couldn’t do much worse’ with only one of the 25 specific recommendations from 2018 having been met! My answer to this is that yes, we are starting from a pretty low base in that respect and as the past three years have demonstrated, governments can on occasion take inordinate amounts of time to achieve very little.
This may lead to many people in the building controls industry to think that issues surrounding climate change are too big to be fixed and that their actions will not make much difference. However, if each one of us takes one small step towards changing everyday habits in the workplace, such as closing the window when the air conditioning is on, turning off the lights in the rooms that we do not use, or perhaps something more complicated such as changing the BEMS control strategy to automatically change a chiller setpoint based on overall cooling demand, together, it makes a real difference and it nudges all our behaviour in the direction to make a big difference in the long term.
In a year’s time from now, I am confident that we will look back knowing that we have not sat idle but have pushed on to make a real difference. In the spirit of messages espoused by big hitters such as the irrepressible Greta Thunberg and the indomitable Sir David Attenborough, it’s down to all of us!