Creative Development Officer Adriana Spence writes about the first anniversary of the Paris Agreement and suggests five ways you can make a difference today.


The 12th of December, 2015 was a historic day. The world could breathe a collective sigh of relief, as representatives from 193 countries signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

A year on, we’re glad that the UK is among the 115 countries that have now fully ratified the agreement. This has done much to soften fears that the demise of the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) would be the death knell of this government’s commitment to progressive climate change policies.

This positive step by Mrs May’s government is to be applauded - but will it translate into the speedy progress that our environment needs? Policy measures and regulations required to turn words into action just aren’t happening quickly enough. There are also lots of holes in our plans, particularly around the thorny issues of sustainable transport, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and sustainable heat supplies.

This is where we, as citizens and consumers, need to advocate for better solutions to the most important issue of our time. Every day, members of society can use our time, skills and talents to drive change at our workplace, at home, in our schools and communities.

Harnessing the champion within you is crucial.

On the increasingly high profile issue of terrible air quality in inner-city areas, we worked with local champions (AKA residents of the Barbican Centre in London) to take action on air pollution in the streets around their home with Clean Air Action Day. After GAP training, they approached drivers of stationary, idling vehicles to ask them to switch their engines off. The actions of this dedicated group saw a significant reduction in air pollution in a number of hotspots close to their home.

And at GAP, we’re well aware that champions come in all shapes, sizes – and ages. Our youngest are 8 years old! As part of our Water Explorer programme, they are continually coming up with innovative ways to reduce the environmental impact of their actions. So much so that globally they have saved 13,000 tonnes of CO2 and 5 million m3 of water (the equivalent of 65 million bathtubs full of water).

The government’s commitment to the Paris Climate Change Agreement was a pledge to secure our environmental future. A year on, realising that vision will depend on us all being willing to champion the cause in our everyday lives, and talking to others about our choices. Don’t be outdone by an 8-year old. Harness the champion within you!

Five things you can do today to make a difference:

1. Write to your MP urging them to join the Greener UK coalition (145 MPs have already) to restore and boost the UK’s environment and uphold its environmental protection laws during Brexit negotiations. You can use Write to Them to do this online.

2. If you live or work in a city, write to your local council office and demand air pollution reduction measures for your area. Get others on board too!

3. Choose to have a meat-free day. Around 16,000 litres of water go into making just one kilo of beef. That’s 200 bathtubs full of water.

4. Rethink what you are buying and throwing away. Eating local and seasonal food can curb your carbon footprint by 300 kilos of CO2 per year, and make sure to use all the food you buy. Purchase that one, great jumper as opposed to those 4 cheap ones that will disintegrate after a wash.

5. Sign up to a mindfulness course. Mindfulness has been linked to reducing psychological distress and addictive behaviours, improving life satisfaction, as well as increasing mindful purchasing and getting more value from existing possessions.