Should Climate Change Have a Place at the Christmas Dining Table?

By Jasmine Clark, Cambridge Carbon Footprint

For many, Christmas might be the first time in a while that families have gathered under one roof. And a lot has happened over the last 12 months. In November we were tuned into COP26, drawing attention to the imperative to act in the face of the climate crisis and limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Communities have come together and marched for climate justice, and the impacts of climate change have become evident across the UK, with 2020 being the first year to have temperature, rain and sunshine rankings all in the top 10. So with Christmas dinner around the corner, should we be inviting the topic of climate change to have a seat at our communal table?

My initial response is 100% yes, having these conversations plays a central role in tackling the climate emergency. A key element of our Cambridge Climate Change Charter is to empower people to demonstrate climate leadership, and to speak openly about these issues to increase awareness and action. Reflecting on my own experience, these open conversations with my family have resulted in the uptake of positive environmental action over the years and created a space where we can share and work through our feelings together. And with three quarters of the UK population now reporting to feel worried about climate change, people are more receptive to these needed discussions.

However it’s also wise to be pragmatic over Christmas, and take time to reflect on who’s sitting around your table. When talking about climate change it’s important to connect to people’s key values and how they can relate personally to the climate crisis. 

And at a time famously known for joy, broaching topics that cause worry can be difficult. Focusing on the positives of climate action, such as people’s ability to be part of effective change, the sense of community and the co-benefits of acting, might be more welcomed than the intricacies of climate change itself.

Talking about climate change can certainly have a place this year. If raising the topic at the table is daunting, try more subtle ways to open up a conversation. Talk about the food you’re eating, how you’re shopping this year; Christmas is a tax on all areas of your carbon footprint, so there are many opportunities to introduce climate discussions. Sharing new year’s resolutions is also a nice segue into possible actions people can take. And remember – these conversations take time, and while you may not see an immediate impact, you might just plant the initial seed that allows climate positive behaviour to grow.

Article first appeared in the Cambridge Independent on the 15th of December 2021.

Learn more about the Cambridge Climate Change Charter and demonstrating climate leadership on our Charter webpages.