Ranking personal climate actions

What are the most effectives actions that you as an individual can take, to reduce climate emissions? If you’re talking to someone about climate collapse, they might want to know what they can do about it.

Recycling is great, but doesn’t reduce carbon emissions

It seems to depend on who you ask, but all the credible sources I found (via a quick Google) say that recycling is pretty low down the list – no surprises there.

Lists of most effective individual actions vary, but there’s a lot of overlap

An article in Newsroom’s futureproof e-newsletter tries to answer this (read it on Substack):

  • Number 1 – according one study – is leaving your car at home at the top of the list.
  • Or, it’s having one less child (according to another study).
  • Number 7 is moving to a plant-based (ie, vegan) diet.

A recent study concludes that vegan diets result in 75% less climate-heating emissions, water pollution and land use than diets in which more than 100g of meat a day was eaten. Read about the study in this Guardian article.

An article by the Imperial College of London comprehensively lists the top 9 climate actions as:

  1. lobbying central and local government
  2. eating less meat and dairy
  3. reduce flying
  4. leaving the car at home
  5. reducing energy use (this might be more relevant in the UK than here in NZ – what do you think?)
  6. respecting and protecting green spaces
  7. banking and investing your money responsibly
  8. reducing consumption and waste
  9. talking about the changes you make

Read the article here.

Top ten climate actions for central government

So, if the most effective way to reduce climate emissions to to lobby central and local government to effect wide-ranging changes, what should we ask government to do?

The Climate Shift coalition, which Fridays for Future Te Upoko o Te Ika and around 40 other environment groups have joined, have a list of ten actions aimed at all political parties coming up to the 2023 general election.

I’ve summarised them here:

  1. End new oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction
  2. Transition to public and locally-owned, nature-friendly, renewable electricity
  3. Transition intensive dairying to low emissions farming
  4. Ensure our laws reflect the urgency required to address the climate crisis
  5. Protect communities by making room for rivers to flood safely and enabling a managed retreat
  6.  Renewing and scaling up our climate finance commitments to our Pacific neighbours
  7. Maximise native forests’ role in absorbing carbon and in protecting communities from flooding and erosion
  8. Maximise native forests’ role in absorbing carbon and in protecting communities from flooding and erosion
  9. Protect the role wetlands and estuaries

Read the full list of demands on the climateshift.org.nz website.