Freeing the movement from fossil fuels

At Co-operative Congress in June, attendees supported the notion that co-ops should aspire to be fossil fuel free by 2030. In this article we explore the thinking behind...

At Co-operative Congress in June, attendees supported the notion that co-ops should aspire to be fossil fuel free by 2030. In this article we explore the thinking behind the goal and what it might mean for co-ops.

Why fossil fuels?

A fundamental cause of climate change is fossil fuels. The goal could be about carbon but focusing on fossil fuels gets to the root.

Why zero or ‘free’?

The time for limited reductions has passed. For any chance of keeping warming to manageable levels a fundamental shift in how energy is produced and used is needed. Failing on this will have huge impacts on us all but in an unequal world, will disproportionately affect those already struggling or in need.

Why 2030?

It is soon enough to be effective, and long enough to seem doable. It is about demonstrating leadership and showing what is possible.

Can it be done?

It seems out of the control of an individual enterprise, and it is not something that a co-op can achieve alone. The nature of transformational change means uncertainty is inevitable but tinkering at the edges is not enough.

Co-ops won’t have all the answers up front – it is about using goals to guide decisions, and inspire creativity and innovation. It is also about looking at other organisations to work with and getting politically active to help push back barriers.

What does it mean for your co-op?

Energy: Minimise energy across all activities – avoiding the need for equipment, turning it off when not needed and buying only
efficient options. With over 70% savings possible from existing know how and 25% using no and low cost options, it really is a no brainer yet it is still much ignored. Change lighting, reduce heating demand through insulation, reduce travel demand. It might be harder if you are renting a building but things can be done.

Renewables: Most electricity purchased through the National Grid comes from fossil fuels so buying 100% renewable energy from Co-operative Energy Good Energy or Ecotricity is a great start.

Installing or supporting renewable energy is even better. Show your intent and sign up to RE100 (there100.org).

Getting away from gas is the way to go but is trickier for most at present. Ultra low energy buildings need little heating so green electricity or biomass are current lower impact options.

Products/services: Fossil fuels are used to produce many things, via the energy to make them, the materials involved (eg plastics derived from oil), transporting, use and disposal.

The COP21 climate change conference is taking place from November 30 - December 11
The COP21 climate change conference is taking place from November 30 – December 11

What options might there be to change?

Developing a purchasing strategy that has the fossil fuel-free goal at its heart is key and can be used to work with and engage suppliers. There is also the need to be open with customers about what you are doing and are trying to achieve.

Collaboration: Co-operation with other organisations, co-operative and otherwise, can generate new ideas, technology, knowledge and shared investment opportunities, for example in lower impact (and running costs) vehicles or renewable energy. This idea of working together is behind the new co-ops sustainability network.

Lobbying: There are areas that cannot be addressed without a real political shift. Will the UK achieve a zero fossil fuel electricity network? It seems hard to imagine right now but things can shift quickly.

Commit to the goal and make your voice heard. The COP21 in Paris – the big international climate change meeting happening in late November / early December – provides one opportunity for that.

Such a goal demands change that requires co-operation, courage and tenacity, which co-ops have in spades. Can it be done?

We think so.

  • In association with The Southern Co-operative which, through its support for the Sustainability Hub, is helping to promote responsible and sustainable business across co-operatives.
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