At the weekend Britain witnessed its biggest march demanding Government action against the threat of global warming. HELEN MEAD looks at efforts being made locally to help combat climate change.

In a world where reports of climate change are often accompanied by images of factories belching out smoke, or huge passenger aircraft emitting vapour trails, it is hard to imagine how turning off the TV or lowering the central heating thermostat can help to save the planet from a future environmental catastrophe.

But these seemingly insignificant acts, made by people the world over, can go some way to addressing global warming and, in the words of Tony Blair, the "disastrous" consequences.

By making small changes to the way we live, we can make a difference. And for the future of the human race we could be talking about the difference between life and death.

About 25,000 people joined the rally, in central London, ahead of UN climate change talks taking place this week and next. The action also follows the publication of the Stern Review which suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20 per cent.

In the coming months, the message that we can all help will be hammered home to the people of Bradford through a high-profile campaign by Bradford Council, which is making great strides in its efforts to reduce damaging emissions.

The authority has successfully applied to the Defra - the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs - for funding from the Government's Climate Challenge Fund to enable it to forge ahead with initiatives that will help people to play their part in the global bid to ensure that the world remains a place for future generations to grow up and thrive.

Bradford Community Broadcasting (BCB) also received cash through the fund, and will work on the campaign alongside the Council.

The aim of the campaign - which includes market research, high-visibility advertising and work with schools - is to demonstrate that climate change is real and its happening now', and that as well as a being a global concern, it is a local issue.

Says Duncan Graham, Bradford Council's head of marketing, communications and tourism, who is heading the climate change marketing campaign: "This is all about raising awareness of what global warming is and what it means for everyone. People know that climate change means warmer temperatures, melting ice caps and other natural disasters such as droughts, but while the focus is often on other countries, the changes do affect us."

He refers to the summer of 2003, when the hottest temperature ever recorded in the UK, 38.5C, was logged in Kent, while across Europe the heatwave left 35,000 people dead. Rainfall patterns too, he adds, have changed, resulting in more concentrated downpours and flooding, causing havoc locally and leaving many homeless for long periods.

Powerful images of such events caused by climatic disruption will be used when the awareness campaign begins early next year. These will be used alongside short, powerful phrases, and will include the message Tomorrow's Climate - Today's Challenge.' Press and radio advertising will be used, and a localised website will also be developed with links to information from Defra, along with guides, posters and flyers.

The Council stresses that its intention is not to create fear among the public, but to highlight that the issue is with us at a local level' and that everyone can help in some way.

"People can do their bit, but it is important that they understand what global warming is and how it affects us here in Bradford," says Mr Graham. "They need to consider knock-on effects of climate change, such as insurance premiums, which have risen dramatically due to claims for flooding and subsidence caused by drier summers and periods of heavy rainfall."

Householders are to be made aware that, although they may not think it, simple measures help and progress can be made, whether by switching the TV off instead of leaving it on standby, turning the central heating thermostat down, or replacing light bulbs with energy-saving ones.

"Every tonne of carbon dioxide that is prevented from entering the atmosphere makes a difference globally - every little bit makes a difference," adds Mr Graham.

"The message to reduce the carbon footprint is being relayed nationally and internationally. We want to translate it to something specific for Bradford and give people both the right information and put them in touch with the right organisations that can help them to help the planet."

He adds: "There is a time lag of around 30 years between a drop in greenhouse gas emissions and a fall in global temperatures. Consider that if what is happening now is the effect of our lifestyles 30 years ago, what it will be 30 years from now - how many more cars are on the roads, how many more flights there are, how many more homes have central heating, and so on. If we do nothing now, what will be the outcome in another 30 years?"

A key starting point, market research will focus upon attitudes to climate change. Says Mr Graham: "We would like to find out how much people understand of what is happening, and how committed they are to doing something about it."

Incorporated into the website will be a blog asking people to reveal what they are doing to help. Individuals, families, businesses and schools will be able to write their own comments, offering information on how they are reducing CO2 emissions.

Bradford Council's own efforts to combat climate change include re-signing the Nottingham Declaration - a voluntary commitment between local governments to tackle the problem. Launched in 2000, it addresses issues such as waste management, recycling and energy conservation.

The initiatives the authority has introduced include displaying the energy and water consumption of Council buildings, introducing a car sharing scheme for employees' journeys to and from work, collecting rainwater to use in nurseries and recycling garden waste to make compost. A solar-powered electricity system is already working in Bradford Central Library and the Council is also looking at introducing wood-burning stoves at City Hall and Ilkley Town Hall to replace old, inefficient, oil-fired boilers.

As part of the Council's campaign schoolchildren will be encouraged to help protect their own environment as well as the planet through specially-produced theatrical workshops.

Mr Graham adds: "We need to think about future generations. Unchecked, we - like the dinosaurs - will be extinct."


  • Turn your thermostat down by one degree C. This will cut your heating bill by about ten per cent per year.
  • Turn off your TV and other electrical appliances rather than leaving them on standby. If everyone in the UK did this, say Friends of the Earth, it would save one million tonnes of greenhouse gas being pumped into the atmosphere.
  • Always turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  • Use energy-saving bulbs. If all UK households replaced one light bulb with an energy-efficient one, the money saved could pay about 75,000 family fuel bills a year.
  • Use the half-load or economy programme on your washing machine.
  • Wash clothes at lower temperatures. Washing at 30C as opposed to 40C uses 40 per cent less energy and is generally as efficient.
  • If possible, buy locally-produced food.
  • Try to walk or cycle to school or work rather than drive.

Source: The Energy Saving Trust