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What's so important about COP21?

All eyes will be on Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015 for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (known as COP21).  The conference is being seen as last chance saloon to reach a global agreement on carbon targets. The great hope is that these targets will limit climate change to manageable levels.   But why does this matter so much? And what can we all do about it?

We know that climate change will have severe impacts on people, plant and planet.  At Pukka we start with plants.  For the last ten thousand years since humans moved from being hunter gatherers and started cultivating plants and herbs, we’ve enjoyed average global temperatures that haven’t fluctuated beyond + or - 1 degree C.   This stable climate has enabled agriculture to flourish, with generally the right amounts of light and rain for plants to grow reliably in most regions in the world, and with relatively predictable harvest times. So even the ‘relatively safe’ two degrees of global warming the COP21 negotiations are aiming to limit us to will take us into unprecedented territory for agriculture. 

Despite the amazing abilities of some plants to adapt to droughts or floods, on the whole, plants only have limited abilities to adapt to major changes in climate. Put simply, they cannot uproot and quickly move to a safer place like most humans can. A 20 year review published this week showed that 90% of all disasters are weather-related (Source http://www.unisdr.org/archive/46793).  The continued increase in numbers and severity of unpredictable weather events as a result of climate change will mean ever more difficult growing conditions. Bad news for plants. Bad news for farmers. Potentially devastating news for a planet full of humans and wildlife who rely on plants for nourishment, shelter and health. 

So what can we do about it?

The scale of the challenge of climate change means that we must all take positive action.  Governments, companies, individuals. The good news is that we can all do something. And together it will all count. This gives us hope.

At Pukka we have a vision of creating a Pukka Planet benefitting people, plants and planet.  Doing everything we can to limit our impact on climate change and adapt to its effects play a central part of this vision.

In 2015 we became a certified Carbon Neutral Company.  And we’re aiming to help our whole supply chain – from our farmers in the field to our customers enjoying our teas and remedies – to do the same by 2045*.

How did we get to Carbon Neutral?  And how can you?

To get to neutral, we’ve found it helpful to think through the following steps. 1. Reducing energy use by avoiding using energy in the first place or by becoming more energy efficient.  2. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable options. And 3. Offsetting any remaining carbon emissions.   

Our products are certified organic.  Organic farming is far more climate friendly than conventional farming. Other ways we reduce our energy use at Pukka include choosing energy efficient IT equipment, and promoting our bike to work scheme.  In our daily lives we can all walk more or get on our bikes. Choose organic. Fill up our kettles with only the amount of water that we need, or switch off lights when we leave a room.  For other fantastic and easy ideas visit https://www.wearedonation.com/DoActions/

We’ve also replaced fossil fuels with renewables.  The electricity and gas for Pukka offices and warehouses is supplied by Good Energy which ensures 100% renewable electricity from British sunshine, wind and rain. You can sign up to them too for the energy in your home. 

After these efforts to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, at Pukka we commit to annually offset our remaining carbon emissions. We work with a company called carbon footprint to do this. This means that we calculate how much carbon we use in our business operations, they check our calculations and then we reduce the same amount of carbon elsewhere through an amazing Gold Standard cookstove project.  As well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions from forest degradation, the project also improves the wellbeing of rural communities. 

Anyone can measure their carbon footprint and do the same – for example see http://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx. Or take a short cut by knowing that the average UK footprint is 9.4 tonnes and offset that amount. Although if you fly, you’ll need to add some tonnes on to that.

Offsetting has had a bad reputation in the past, but that is no longer deserved.  Using the reduce, replace, offset mantra means you are offsetting within a framework of improving efficiency and reducing carbon use as much as possible, so that offsetting becomes the last step, not the first.  And using certified Gold Standard offsets ensure they are top quality and have fantastic social benefits.

So there you have it, simple steps for everyone. No matter what happens at COP21 we can all take action.  We all have hope.

Vicky Murray spoke at the Eden Project’s Festival of Hope on Sunday 29th November 2015.

*Why 2045? This United Nations Environment Programme report declares that global carbon neutrality needs to be reached by the second half of this century to avoid severe impacts to people, plants and planet.

Meet the author

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Vicky Murray, Sustainability Manager

I spend most of my time with one eye on the future. When you bring tomorrow’s challenges into focus you begin to demand a lot more from today! My job here at Pukka is to look for opportunities for us to do things in ways that will have maximum benefits to people, plants and planet. I live to spend time in beautiful nature – particularly blustery walks with my family along the Northumberland coast. And work to passionately protect it.

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