Is it the end of the gas cooker?
The groundbreaking Paris deal on climate change made this past December has far reaching implications and will continue to be discussed in parliaments and policy units around the world, but what does it mean for ordinary people? Recent floods have made clear some of the risks associated with doing nothing so how should we expect our lives to change as we now try to take concerted action?
What happened in Paris
The Paris talks involved over 150 world leaders representing 195 countries (with some island nations sending joint representatives) and resulted in an agreement to limit the global average temperature rise to just 2C, with efforts to be made to keep it below 1C. This may not sound like much, but according to the experts, even this small rise could lead to serious flooding in some places and drought in others, destroying crops and reducing the world's food supply, as well as increasing the risk of forest fires in the global south. It could also see sea levels rise by almost half a metre over the course of the century, putting coastal areas at risk and destroying water supplies and agricultural land in low-lying areas. Due to the dangers this represents, the signatories to the Paris deal agreed to take immediate measures to reduce overall carbon emissions by 12 to 14 billion tonnes.
The shift to greener energy
The single biggest contributor to Britain's carbon footprint is everyday household fuel use. There are less damaging ways to produce electricity - through solar power, wind power, tidal power or, more controversially, nuclear power - but not much can be done to make burning gas eco-friendly, so we can expect to see gas prices rise and gas appliances like cookers and heaters gradually be phased out. A third of us currently use gas, so this will mean a big national change over the next 15 years. The good news is that the resulting scale of demand can be expected to significantly reduce the cost of alternative appliances.
Alongside choosing greener energy options, we can look at reducing overall energy usage. This may involve the return of subsidies to help homeowners install double or triple glazing or insulate lofts. It could also mean the introduction of tax incentives to encourage companies to develop appliances with better energy ratings. Many consumers hope that this could also discourage the reported practice of building appliances with intentionally short lifespans, as the manufacturing process can also contribute significantly to the production of atmospheric pollutants.
A response from industry
There's no doubt about it - change on this scale is going to shake things up. The question is, will businesses see it as a crisis or an opportunity? Unilever CEO Paul Polman opts for the latter. He sees it as something that will give a natural boost to those companies willing to innovate and invest in finding creative solutions - so that you may give up your gas cooker, but only to replace it with something better.