The science is clear, the climate is changing. The Met Office is one of the UK’s foremost climate change research centres, carrying out world-leading research.
With over 8,100 peer-reviewed articles in scientific literature since 1981, and as a leading contributor to international climate research such as Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, the Met Office has a deep understanding of how greenhouse gas emissions are impacting our climate. We also know that rapid and significant cuts to emissions can still help us to mitigate against the worst impacts of climate change.
Desire to change
The Met Office asked a representative sample of the British public about the climate action they are taking and their perceptions on whether people in the UK are doing enough to reduce their carbon footprint.
The results showed that over half of those surveyed (59%) are making conscious decisions to live a low-carbon lifestyle, including 17% who make these decisions even when it is inconvenient for them.
When asked if people in the UK are doing enough to lower their carbon footprints, nearly two thirds (65%) of respondents said we should be doing more.
This suggests that a majority of the British population are willing to make conscious efforts when it comes to cutting emissions, so let’s turn our attention to some of the steps people can take at a personal level.
In order to minimise the damage from climate change, action is needed at all levels of society, but here we explore what actions people can consider taking in their lives that will have the greatest impact. Whilst not everyone will be able to make these changes, for a variety of reasons, it is worth reflecting on what is achievable so that our combined efforts can make a real difference. Many of these changes also have co-benefits – that’s to say they might also reduce costs, improve air quality or have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.
Whilst a large proportion of UK adults rarely or never fly, for those that do, taking one fewer long-haul flight a year can make a significant impact on your carbon footprint.
A much larger proportion of people have access to a car or van, with only 22% of UK households without a car. When buying a car, switching from a petrol/diesel vehicle to an electric one will reduce carbon emissions and be cheaper to run. Whilst they can be more expensive to buy, in many cases they have a lower cost over four years. Find out more in this article from the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles which debunks some of the myths around electric vehicles.
The food we eat and the food we throw away is responsible for a notable proportion of our individual carbon footprint, so changing what we eat and reducing food waste can help lower this.
The Climate Change Committee recommends a 20% reduction in meat and dairy consumption by 2030 and the UK Government’s Eatwell Guide includes some suggestions of alternative protein sources, many of which are cheaper than meat. You can find out how to reduce your food waste at Love Food Hate Waste, which will save you money as well as reduce pressure on land use. Wrap calculate that waste food in the UK would make over 15 billion meals a year.
According to the Sixth Carbon Budget on buildings from the Climate Change Committee, direct greenhouse gas emissions from buildings were around 17% of the UK total in 2019. Lowering demand for heating homes can help reduce this through insulation and smart heating controls. A bigger shift, however, is required in terms of the fuels used to heat homes. Approximately 74% of the UK’s heating and hot water demand in buildings is met by natural gas, and the Government’s Net Zero Strategy indicates the need to move to heat pumps (air- and ground-source) and hydrogen boilers to decarbonise buildings. Whilst these are expensive options, grants are available towards the cost of heat pumps. You can find out more about saving energy in your home at GOV.UK.
Small actions also count!
We have focussed here on some of the most important changes people can consider making to their lives in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but even the small actions can make a difference. Take a look at our everyday actions webpage for some suggestions of ‘quick wins’ – many of these come at no or very little cost.
Adaptation remains important
Even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, we’re already committed to a level of global warming and associated impacts from past emissions released into the atmosphere. It is therefore important to plan for these changes and mitigate the risk. Learn more about adaptation.
Follow #GetClimateReady on Twitter to learn about climate change and science and look out for more practical ways you can take action on climate change.
 Department for Transport – National Travel Survey 2021: Household car availability and trends in car trips
 The Climate Change Committee – https://www.theccc.org.uk/2022/06/13/governments-food-strategy-a-missed-opportunity-for-the-climate/
 The climate Change Committee – https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Sector-summary-Buildings.pdf