Monday, 3 January 2011

What happens to 10:10 now we're in 2011?

The 10:10 Campaign was one of the features of 2010, for people interested in sustainability issues, particularly climate change.

10:10 was founded by Franny Armstrong, director of the film about climate change, The Age of Stupid. Two things influenced her: a Guardian article by George Monbiot, laying out the kind of policies we’d need to cut the UK’s emissions very quickly, none of which sounded impossible to her; and the Climate Safety report (from the Public Interest Research Centre) that had identified a 10% cut in the developed world's emissions by the end of 2010 as the kind of target we should be aiming for, to maximise our chances of avoiding a climate catastrophe.

10% in 2010 seemed to Franny to be a far more tangible aim than the far-off targets – such as 80% by 2050 – that policymakers tend to talk about. It's easy for politicians, who know they won't be in office for that long, to talk about grand gestures like that; doing something that actually works is a different matter.

Franny and the Age of Stupid team gathered for a brainstorming session; everyone loved the 10:10 concept as it was simple, catchy, meaningful and something that everyone could get involved in – from businesses and hospitals to schools and families. Within weeks, the 10:10 idea had caught one. Local authorities, individual, celebrities, faith leaders, economists, universities – all wanted to be part of it.

10:10 was formally launched on 1 September 2009, when it took over Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall (and the whole of The Guardian's G2 supplement). Within 72 hours more than 10,000 individuals, businesses, schools and organisations had signed up. Politicians very quickly saw that they had better be seen to be supporting it. At the time, I wrote to my MP (Conservative), asking him to support it, and asking him what he was doing to cut his own carbon emissions by 10%. I got a politician's answer from him - yes, it's a good thing; yes, we're glad lot's of people are signing up; yes, we in the government support it . . . but completely ignoring my question to him about what he was personally doing!

By the spring of 2010, similar campaigns in other countries were taking off, and the campaign name and website changed from 10:10 to 10:10 Global, with the UK organisation being 10:10 UK.

Later in the year, the campaign was given a boost by a day of action on 10 October - 10:10:10.

I had some interesting conversations with people who thought that 10% was all they had to do - they'd done their bit and now they could relax. There was dismay when I pointed out that what we need to do is 10% per year - year on year on year . . . 'But that's hard!' they protested. Indeed it is. The first 10% is the easy bit. The next 10% is harder, and progressively more so after that. Also hard is not lapsing. If one of your first 10% actions was, for instance, to stop buying pre-packaged ready-processed food, and cook properly, from scratch, from raw ingredients . . . then the moment you're tired, stressed, or pressed for time, it's all too easy to slip back . . .

The first 10% can usually be done by adjusting things that don't really have to make much difference to our way of life. If you do all the home insulation (see posts coming next week and the week after), then you can cut your emissions with no change of behaviour. Putting out the recycling, for the local authority kerbside collection, requries only a small change in behaviour. Changing our cooking and eating habits is a bit harder. Changing our travel and transport behaviour may be really difficult, depending on where we live.

In the UK about 27% of the nation's carbon emissions come from our housing stock (heating, lighting, etc); about 20% come from the whole food production and distribution system (this includes the food we eat, the food we waste, the packaging, storage and transportation); about 20% come from all transport emissions (including food transport emissions already mentioned). Of these transport emissions, about 0.4 - so about 8% of the grand total of emissions - come from private cars. These figures are a  few years old, so at a rough guess it's probably about 10% by now.

If you'd like to know more about your food footprint, you can calculate your food emissions.

The sum of the personal decisions we all take every day are estimated to account for about 40% of the total UK carbon emissions.

After food, housing, recycling and transport, our steps to our next 10% start to intrude further into personal behaviour. Recycling is all very well, but it's better not to create the waste in the first place - some people call this 'precycling'. A good way of reducing food miles is to grow your own veg; another way of reducing food-related carbon emissions is to eat less meat - or none at all. Beyond these, all our purchasing decisions are up for grabs - buy less, buy local; but mostly, buy less, of everything! And for what you do buy, use the LOAF principles (local, organic, fair-trade, animal-friendly).

But back to the specifics of the 10:10 campaign: Patrick Barkham had a feature in The Guardian at the end of December, reflecting on his personal 10:10 vow to buy no new clothes in 2010. For him this was a big deal! He writes:
I made a dramatic and almost total reduction in my consumption of new clothes in 2010. More importantly, I weaned myself off that shallow, short-lived buzz I once got from clothes shopping.
This last sentence is the important one - this is what will make new behaviours 'stick'. He also points to the significance of publicly visible accountability - because all his friends knew about his clothes pledge, they kept him up to the mark. He says that his more private pledges slipped much more badly - no-one could see. This is why this post follows on well from my previous one, at the end of last year, which was catching up with Lizz's year of eco-challenge. Lizz was working on the tougher challenges anyway, having already done most of the easy things in her life - and doing it all in public has kept her to her pledges.

So we all need help to make our intentions real and long-lasting. The 10:10 campaign continues into 2011 and beyond. They're starting up a new website called my10:10, to help people track their carbon emissions and compare themselves with their friends. They are testing it at the moment - if you'd like to be part of the testing and development, email them at They're also soliciting new campaigning and policy ideas - email them at ideas@1010uk.orgAnd they need donations to keep going - you can donate at

And most important of all, of course - make your own plans for your next 10% reduction in 2011, and tell all your friends, so they help you to keep it real!
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