Smarter choices on climate fuelled by concern for children

You don’t need to be Sir David Attenborough to help the planet – start by getting a smart meter, advises Shaun Milne

People are thinking more about the world they are leaving for their children.
People are thinking more about the world they are leaving for their children.

Staring into the camera’s lens he looked every bit the clichéd old man in his sand-coloured slacks and fawn V-neck sweater, which has given up any hope of containing the crumpled collar of the mint-green shirt he was wearing as it made a bid for freedom live on TV.

But, with his Arctic-white shock of hair, heavy-set jowls and tired eyes that have probably seen more of the planet than anyone else on Earth, at 94 years old Sir David Attenborough is still wearing incredibly well.

Appearing on an early morning question-and-answer segment for the BBC Breakfast show, where children were quizzing him on everything from his favourite animal to his new documentary, a six-year-old girl called Molly stopped him in his tracks.

A smart meter can help people identify ways in which they can save energy, save money and also do their bit for the environment on a national scale, all at the same time.

Holding up a home-made poster with the words “save endangered animals” drawn in coloured crayons – with the words “Thank You” underneath for good measure – Molly asked simply what else she should be doing to help.

Attenborough’s smile evaporated, just briefly, his eyes staring down at his knees as he scrambled to find the right words to match the moment.

Composure regained after a moment, he beamed at her in a way which must have made her feel like the only person watching the programme and said: “Don’t waste – and encourage EVERYBODY you know to persuade people we’ve got to have international agreements to save the world.”

He added: “Mummy and daddy put in [power] those people who make those laws, ask them to make international laws that are going to help save the planet.”

If you pause to consider it, this weight of responsibility on Attenborough, the levels of expectation on his shoulders to lead by example, must be huge. Here, a child, asking a grown-up how she can help save our world.

Children just like Molly are speaking up, pleading with adults to hear them and to recognise the genuine fear in their young eyes. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl climate activist is probably the highest profile after her involvement with Schools Strike for Climate.

But there are home-grown campaigners in Scotland too, such as Holly Gillibrand from Fort William, Dylan Hamilton in West Lothian and Glasgow-based Erin Curtis, who have been vocal in their concerns for the planet they will one day inherit.

It seems now the grown-ups are listening. Just a year before world leaders meet at Cop26 in Glasgow next November to discuss climate change and a possible new accord on global targets, an exclusive new One Pulse poll commissioned for Sustainable Scotland in partnership with The Scotsman and Smart Energy GB, could act as a beacon of hope.

Some 72 per cent of people questioned say that they now actively worry about how climate change will affect their children, and their children’s children.

An overwhelming 93 per cent of those quizzed also said that they were keen to do their bit for the environment – suggesting that Scotland may be on the cusp of a climate-focused revolution in the years ahead.

The biggest breakthrough could come through people’s willingness to tackle energy use, in particular by embracing new habits with an understanding of how smart technology could help them to take steps to become more environmentally friendly.

One such device is the smart meter, which can help people identify ways in which they can save energy, save money – and also do their bit for the environment on a national scale – all at the same time.

The poll showed that reducing energy waste was identified as being a key potential benefit, with greater visibility of energy use being highlighted by a sizeable 76 per cent of those surveyed as a key tool in helping them become more energy efficient. Smart meters, of course, being among the best ways to track this.

The hundreds of thousands of people who already have smart meters installed across Scotland are testament to the willingness of people to embrace technology. There is a dawning realisation that we need to adapt to new ways of doing things if we want to contribute towards the environmental changes needed.

It is a defining moment, perhaps, when people accept that tools such as smart meters are the smart choice for not just themselves but also their children and grandchildren too.

The cost of the energy you use – from boiling a full kettle of water to charging an electric car overnight – is visible on the in-home display unit which comes with every smart meter.

They also provide more accurate bills and send automatic meter readings to your energy supplier, putting an end to scrabbling about in cupboards with a torch and trying to remember which digits to take a note of.

Some 60 per cent polled said they had increased recycling of their household waste, while 65 per cent were now trying to use less plastic altogether. Around 42 per cent of people said they had also switched to active travel, saying they now walked or cycled more than before the pandemic.

Such momentum suggests a shift towards a more proactive approach from adults. It also suggests this is now embedded in the public psyche, thanks in no small part to two years of school climate strikes, protest marches and digital vigils held by children and youth activists.

With the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement approaching on 12 December, it may well be that Scotland’s voice over the next 12 months becomes smarter and more important than ever.

To find out more about smart meters, contact your energy supplier, or visit www.smartenergygb.org for more information

This article was paid for by Smart Energy GB. Smart Energy GB is the organisation tasked with informing Britain about the benefits of smart meters.