In Hampshire we are quite a patriotic bunch. We are proud that our county serves as a base for all three of the armed forces. We also take pride in the role our county played as the staging post for the D-Day landings during the Second World War. We consider ourselves fortunate to have many ex-service residents within our community. We care deeply about security around here, and we do not take it for granted. Most of us want increased investment in defence.
Watching events unfold in Ukraine this year has been a shocking and devastating experience. Brits do not like to feel powerless: we all want to do something to help. Taking in Ukrainian refugees is an amazing contribution but not all of us have the capacity to be able to do this. Here is something everyone can do though: reduce your fossil fuel usage over the next year. Take your personal carbon footprint as close to zero as you can.
It is not an exaggeration to say that European security is now inextricably bound up with energy security. It is well established that Putin has weaponised European energy supplies whilst presenting a clear threat to freedom and democracy in Europe. Putin is benefiting right now from the sky-high gas prices which his war has created.
By reducing your reliance on carbon, you will be making a massive contribution to helping the UK to wean itself off fossil fuels. This will directly improve our security and the security of our allies. In the UK, our embargo means that we do not buy gas or oil directly from Russia; but the commodities markets are global, and prices will stay high so long as demand stays high.
It is not just Putin who we need to think about here. Many of the states which export hydrocarbons are morally questionable. Personally, I am not keen to increase this country’s reliance on Iran, Venezuela or Saudi Arabia. The world’s dependence on fossil fuels sustains autocracies around the world. As a result, democracy is in decline.
People have different views about climate change. Thank goodness this is a free country in which people can express their views. I have on occasion found myself disagreeing with both climate sceptics and climate extremists. But we live in an open democracy, and I will defend to the death their right to express their viewpoint (I think I am paraphrasing Voltaire there). As we all know, people in Russia do not have the same freedom of speech. Whatever your views on climate change, I ask you to consider that one effective way to defend freedom is to stop supporting oppressive regimes by dramatically reducing global demand for carbon.
I am not suggesting it is a walk in the park for individuals to reduce their carbon footprint. You need to do some research, speak to installers, fill in some forms. But it is a noble cause and a satisfying project. With gas prices heading ever higher, it will save you money over the medium term too.
You could install more insulation in walls and roofs, switch to an EV, fly less, install solar panels, buy local farm produce, dust off the bicycle, find out about your local community energy group (email: email@example.com). Everything makes a difference. If you would like advice on how to decarbonise your home, and access subsidies, please visit petersfieldcan.org. For more ideas, please come along to the Eco-fair on the Petersfield Heath on Sunday 17 July. Or pop along to the Eco Café every Tuesday morning from 10-12 at Gallery 30 in the High Street.
Your Councils are doing their bit. I am proud that Hampshire County Council is installing solar panels on over 300 schools. East Hampshire District Council is aiming to adopt a new planning policy which requires the very highest standards of sustainability for all new builds. But there is only so much that Councils can do – we need individuals to play their part too.
Together we can accelerate the energy transition and stand up to Putin. This will give us a much better chance of leaving behind a peaceful and sustainable world for our children and grandchildren. It will also help us to restore nature and improve air quality in this special part of the country.