How Individuals and Businesses can Make a Difference

 
Addressing climate change may seem like a daunting task, and it may appear to be the responsibility of governments because of all the policy level actions required. Governments do indeed have a lead role to play in setting the agenda for climate change adaptation and mitigation in their national context and putting things in place to ensure that the necessary steps are taken. However, ordinary citizens in UKOTs can also make a difference. In many cases, all that is needed are small changes in lifestyle and habits.
 

Reducing personal vulnerability

Individuals, households and businesses can take proactive measures to reduce their personal vulnerability to natural hazards. It is important, for example, to avoid building homes and businesses in hazard-prone areas, such as flood plains or certain sections of the coastal zone.

 

In cyclone-prone regions, reducing vulnerability includes such things as ensuring hurricane-readiness of homes and buildings by the following:

 

  • Have a plan in place to secure property, including a system for protecting windows and glass doors. This could be permanent storm shutters or having on hand 5/8” marine plywood cut to fit and ready to install.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten roofs to buildings’ frame structure.
  • Regularly prune trees and shrubs around buildings.
  • Keep up with routine maintenance and keep rain gutters and downspouts clear of debris.
  • Identify where and how boats will be secured.
  • In regions prone to drought or periods of water shortage:
  • Plant drought tolerant plants in gardens and practice water conservation techniques such as the use of mulch to reduce evaporation.
  • Reduce domestic water consumption, including through the installation water-saving devices.
  • Create a soak away system and introduce gray water recycling and rainwater harvesting.

 

Reducing energy use

Several simple steps can be taken to reduce transport and residential energy consumption.

 

Transport

  • Drive less and drive more slowly. Cars pollute more when they travel over 90km/hr.
  • Do not idle cars for longer than 10 seconds, idling for longer periods uses more fuel than shutting off and restarting the care.
  • Car-pool or use public transport.
  • Purchase energy efficient vehicles when replacing existing models.

 

Household

  • Power down by turning off appliances when not in use.
  • Improve heating and cooling energy efficiency. Reduce home heating in temperate climates and cool less in tropical climates. Use double pane windows to improve insulation in temperate climates and construct buildings in the tropics to take advantage of air flows.
  • Use energy-efficient appliances. New refrigerators, for example, use 40 per cent less energy than models made just 10 years ago.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with efficiency rated fluorescent ones. Energy efficient light bulbs use 75 per cent less energy and last 10 times longer than conventional ones.

 

Practicing good environmental habits

Look after the environment and it will look after you. The damage to the environment caused by human activity makes UKOTs more vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. Good environmental habits like disposing of garbage and waste properly and not cutting down trees also contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

 

  • Keep rivers and watercourses free of garbage, debris and effluent to help maintain the health of wetlands and reefs so that they can perform their ecological coastal defence functions.
  • Maintain and protect mangroves. Keeping mangrove forests intact allows them to maintain their living barrier function. Converting mangroves for human use like construction of roads, homes or businesses, dumping garbage in mangroves, or cutting them down for fuel wood or agricultural stakes are all activities that compromise the health of mangrove forests. Their ability to support marine and bird life is affected and they are less able to play their filtering role that reduces the amount of land-based run-off and debris that enters the seas. They are also less effective in protecting the coastal zone from storm surges and wave action.
  • Maintain and protect coral reefs. Pollution from activities on land – improper waste disposal and run-off from farming and industry – affects the health of coral reefs, as do activities in the sea. In addition to reducing the land-based sources of reef stress, it is important to ensure that commercial (fishing) and recreational (scuba diving, snorkelling and swimming) do not contribute to damaging reefs.
  • Avoid unsustainable farming practices. The misuse and over-use of pesticides and fertilizers, over-cultivation on marginal lands, and inappropriate farming techniques on hillsides all contribute to soil erosion and soil loss. Some of this soil ends up in inland water bodies (rivers, lakes, ponds); some makes its way to the marine environment.  Pollution of water sources reduces the amount of fresh water that is available for domestic and commercial use. In drought-prone areas, this could lead to competition over a scarce resource.

 

Improving business practices

Understanding both the need and the opportunities for adaptation to climate change are fast becoming essential requirements of both governments and the private sector of vulnerable countries. No matter how big or how small, businesses can also do their bit to tackle climate change. Doing their bit it is not just about doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do; there is more and more evidence that adaptation and mitigation can help reduce risk and save money. In other words, it makes good business sense.

  • Manage risk. As extreme weather events and intense natural hazards increasingly become a part of life in some UKOTs, businesses of all sizes will have to look carefully at their exposure to risk and take proactive measures to reduce it. This could mean taking steps to secure equipment, vital records, and buildings during cyclones or taking measures to ensure consistency of adequate water supplies during periods of shortage. Reducing risk also means adhering to building codes, complying with environmental regulations and legislation and not taking short cuts. Much can be done at the design stage to minimise risk, from choices about building materials to where to site buildings and even architectural features.
  • Increase energy efficiency and use renewable energy sources. Businesses in UKOTs are not likely to face a cap on their emissions any time soon, but the savings that come from increased energy efficiency and from replacing fossil fuels with alternative sources of energy will make a difference to their bottom line in the medium to long-term. Increasing energy efficiency can be as simple as replacing light bulbs, powering down equipment that can be turned off when not in use or making modifications to production line processes. The cost of investing in alternative sources of energy, such as solar or wind technologies, may initially be high but will translate into savings in the medium to long-term.
  • Use clean technology and sustainable product sources. As with shifting to alternative energy, the initial outlay for newer, cleaner technologies can be high, but they too generally translate into savings in the medium to long-term.

 

Advocating for implementation of national adaptation plans and sustainable development policies

Citizens play an important role in holding their governments to account. UKOT citizens and citizen organisations can call for national climate change adaptation plans to be developed and implemented. They can use avenues such as the mass media to promote the implementation of sustainable development policies. Examples of such policies include the designation and proper management of protected areas, the implementation of coastal zone plans and compliance with development planning regulations.