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Forum 21 agrees with a previous government's Chief Medical Officer that climate change is the greatest threat to the planet. Recent figures show that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have passed 400ppm, the highest level for 3m years (IPPC May 2013 ). There are already noticeable changes to our climate.
So all the work of the Forum is dedicated to a sustainable future that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and cuts our carbon emissions.
Saving energy is essential to reduce carbon emissions and avoid climate change. Figures have suggested that if all our homes became fully energy- efficient it would reduce our national energy needs by around 40%. Since most of the homes that will still be around in 50 years time have already been built there is an enormous retrofitting task to be done. Making the problem more acute in West Somerset are the 60% of homes with solid walls, making insulation more difficult and more expensive.
So for the last seven years our energy efficiency campaign has been helping West Somerset households to obtain grants for insulation and heating, and offering behavioural tips. For five of those years our team of trained energy volunteers has been carrying out home energy surveys which mean that we can make more targeted suggestions. With Transition Minehead and Alcombe the Forum put on a successful Renewable Energy Fair in Minehead in 2010.
Every year in this country we throw away over 4 million tonnes of food every year, costing each household at least 420. The figures are staggering. Every day we throw away: 5.1 million potatoes, 4.4 million apples, 7 million slices of bread,1.3 million yoghurts and yoghurt drinks,1.2 million sausages, 0.7 million eggs 0.7 million bars of chocolate and unwrapped sweets
Financially this is appalling. Not only does it cost us personally to throw away food, it also costs the country another billion pounds to collect and dispose of it - mostly to landfill. But we are not just wasting food and money. We are wasting energy too. Everything we eat has had some energy used to produce it.
This is all bad news for the environment. When we know that we have to reduce our carbon footprint to avoid disastrous climate change, it is shocking that we waste so much. And it's a moral issue too. When millions of people in the world don't have enough to eat, how can we justify being so wasteful about our own food?
There are some things we can do. We can buy local food instead of food that has travelled miles to get here. We can buy less processed food. We can be smart about only buying what we need. And we can be imaginative about using what's in the fridge or the store cupboard. All skills that will be essential in a climate changing world.
If climate chaos is to be avoided we will need to reduce our carbon emissions from transport by four per cent every year from now through to 2030. Most carbon emissions from using transport come from cars and planes.
The really sustainable transport options are buses, trains, coaches, walking and cycling. Cycling and walking are the zero carbon options that also offer great health benefits. Many people leave their bikes unused through worry about risk from vehicles. Forum 21 sees a solution, at least in the Minehead-Williton coastal strip, as the creation of a network of mostly off-road safe cycle routes. The Cycle West Somerset project (now called the Steam Coast Trail), should provide an attractive boost for local tourism as well as a great way to help local people to get back on their bikes.
Apart from our wonderful steam heritage railway, train travel for local people means the national network. An improved railway service from Minehead to Taunton would help people to leave their cars at home.
Forum 21 has produced a position paper outlining its policy on nuclear power. Its main premise is that we believe there are better and safer ways of producing renewable energy at lower cost. Read Forum 21's position statement here: Forum 21 Position Statement
For information about the proposed new build reactors at Hinkley Point, go to the Stop Hinkley website- www.stophinkley.org; or to the DECC website www.gov.uk/government/policies/increasing-the-use-of-low-carbon-technologies
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