Councils and MPs Pushing for Carbon Neutral, we Salute Thee. Please Restrict Fireworks as Part of Environmental Changes

According to the BBC, “The UK is the first major nation to formally back a pledge to cut carbon emissions to practically zero in just over 30 years. As well as clearing the air of harmful fumes, the scheme – according to one expert on climate change – will also have surprising knock-on effects for the population as a whole.” That’s great but as we hear, it needs to be much faster than 30 years. And per a news report today, Finland has halved that. “Finland has pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2035 – that’s twice as fast as the UK government target. But to achieve this, it will have to make big changes..” As will we all. We need dramatic and rapid attitudinal and behavioural changes from individuals, government, local councils and business to save the planet.

On the news last weekend, it was even more encouraging to hear that many UK cities, such as Glasgow, Birmingham, Oxford and other councils are themselves pledging to be carbon neutral far sooner than the UK government target. Good on them! It does need to be now! As we have seen this week at the World Economic Forum and you can see the speech yourself at this link, where Prince Charles said, we need a “paradigm shift”. “We simply cannot waste any more time. The only limit is our willingness to act. And the time to act is now.” People of the world, we need to radically change the way we live and behave – we need to stop our lives of convenience and start one of consideration for the environment and wildlife. There is also the global summit in Glasgow, so the UK will be in the spotlight. Many by 2030 – so in 10 years and some by 2028. Great. Let’s support them! 

One easy change is to stop throwing gasses, metals and chemicals into the air. To help our environment and protect our wildlife from dying of fear, we can massively reduce the use of fireworks. Many countries allow them only one day a year and yet the UK – embarrassingly allows them every day of the year! Shame on us. As per a blog we wrote on the environmental impact of fireworks, as well as one on how detrimental they are to protecting our wildlife, “One way we can [help the environment] is by stopping the use of fireworks, whose metals, gunpowder, chemicals and packaging pollute and damage our environment.” 

Just a few days ago, the Guardian wrote about the pollution from the London fireworks. “For four hours, the air was filled with tiny particles of the metals that are used to make firework colours. These included barium, copper and strontium that produce white, green, blue and red colours, along with potassium and chloride that are used as firework propellants. Air pollution from northern France also reached the city later in the day.” What is that doing to our lungs – the trees – and our own lungs, those of animals, birds, what is going into the river and then the ocean…?

So many other countries have far tighter regulations on fireworks usage than the UK and allow them only rarely. In many European countries, they can only be used on one or two days of the year. In Germany for example, “Shops are only allowed to sell fireworks, rockets, wheels or bangers in the time period from Dec. 28 to 31…” In the Netherlands too, they are banned all year apart from in special cases. The only day they are allowed is on New Year’s eve – and then only from 6pm until 2am.

So why oh why, does the UK, who is apparently one of the nations trying to limit its environmental impact, allow them ON EVERY SINGLE DAY OF THE YEAR?! And without restriction?

Councils, government, please – you won’t be ruining people’s lives by reducing the amount they go off. And anyway, we are going to have to get used to far bigger changes to save the planet. People live quite happily in other countries without them! Fireworks are often shipped all the way over from China, the country with the highest carbon emissions. As per our blog and the Guardian article above, fireworks send toxins and metals into the environment. They scare birds, thousands of whom die by flying into stationary objects. We need to protect them. 

In this time of climate emergency, why not be like the Netherlands and ban them altogether, apart from rare circumstances? Or at least severely restrict them to a few days a year? Businesses will find other ways for people to have fun and fundraise! And one thing is for sure, we are going to have to make far bigger lifestyle changes than just stopping fireworks. And that’s the way competition and market forces work. It’s an easy step that doesn’t restrict our lives and that will improve the environment and the communities in which we live. 

We believe these may be some of the cities/councils going carbon neutral. Please write to your council and share this blog with them, particularly if they are one of those aiming to be carbon neutral – and if they aren’t why aren’t they. We are sure there are many more and would be happy to edit these as people find out more or less on this list. 

  • Nottingham
  • Bristol
  • Glasgow
  • City of York
  • Birmingham
  • Winchester – wants to look at how to reduce its carbon footprint
  • Exeter city
  • Manchester
  • Liverpool
  • Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council
  • Edinburgh
  • Lambeth Council
  • Kensington & Chelsea

Other things you can do to help make a difference:

  • Share this blog in every group you are in on social media and in emails – particularly those not related to fireworks, to reach new audiences
  • There have been 3 debates and a Petitions Commitee inquiry which the UK government are expected to reply in 2020. Now is the time to write to your MP and ask them to push the government to take drastic action. Reduce the number of days to just a handful a year and ban the sale to the public.
  • Write to your councils asking them to change what they allow. You can use the RSPCA template to ask them to change which are allowed and share the blogs we have written
  • Ask your friends and neighbours not to let them off or if they insist, to at least use those with lower bang ratings – which are available among most fireworks sellers and those that do displays
  • Support petitions 
  • Record every firework you hear through the year. FAB are collating this information for your MP letters.
  • Read more blogs on the impacts of fireworks and share these too: Environmental impact, impact on wildlife, impact on war veterans and sufferers of PTSD and on assistance dogs

Let’s look forward to a world with cleaner air, less noise and more consideration for wildlife and our environment.

Images by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

85% of the British Public is Worried about Climate Change – yet we Assault the Environment with Chemicals and Metals from Fireworks…eh…?

Seems a bit of a contradiction…that we are concerned about the environment, yet we shoot metals, gases and chemicals into the environment. Friends of the Earth recently stated, “A new poll reveals that 85% of us, the British public, are worried about climate change. The urgency and concern rises year-on-year as time slips away to save our planet.”  Sir David Attenborough says we face, “Irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies ….It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies.” On 1 May 2019, the UK Parliament declared a climate emergency, making the UK the first country to do so.

Michael Gell has been in touch with FAB about the impact of fireworks on the environment. Michael has a long and impressive wealth of experience in science and the environment, which you can read more about.Over the years, he has provided expert advice on national environmental pilot programmes and design and operation of greenhouse gas disclosure platforms. In 2009 he was a member of the World Economic Forum Task Force on Low Carbon Economic Prosperity. In his blogs, which warn of the environmental emergency we are in, he says that we are at a key decision time for humankind. We can either carry on how we are and destroy the planet and cause lots of suffering for humans and animals. Or we can radically change the way we live – across all areas of life – and have a chance of saving the one planet we all share. Now is our last chance. 

If you find the reality of the environmental situation we are in disturbing and depressing, the good news is that IF we change, according to Michael, we do have a chance. “The choice being faced is …to choose uninhabitability of the earth, or to mobilise and make a sharp turn by slamming the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions, putting a stop on the ransacking and poisoning of the earth and designing and building the necessary systems (technological, economic, behavioural, social, etc) in a last chance pitch for survival.” 

And for those of you that won’t read further – one way we can do that is by stopping the use of fireworks, whose metals, gunpowder, chemicals and packaging pollute and damage our environment. It’s an easy decision. For everyone else, please read on. It’s important. 

Michael explains that there are different bodies or people that impact change – central government, local government, industries and citizens for example. The good news for us all is that citizens can drive the changes that governments and industries need to make – and already for example, people eating less meat is forcing businesses to produce more plant-based food.  Just look at the supermarkets, how their shelves are filling with the new products. They are being led by citizens.

So we have 10 years to make many of the changes that are necessary. And right here, right now, we could easily remove a pollutant – fireworks – and find more environmentally friendly ways to have fun and celebrate – one for you to think about the next time you are thinking of letting that firework off – at your wedding, party or new year celebration – just consider the impact you are having on the future of our planet. An article in BBC Science Focus says, “Though beautiful, fireworks pollute the atmosphere so may not be the most green choice of entertainment.” 

The article states, “Fireworks propel a cocktail of chemicals into the atmosphere, many of which can harm both people and the environment. The vivid colours in firework displays come from metallic compounds such as barium or aluminium that can have negative impacts on animal and human health.” It goes on to explain that in order to create an explosion, you need a lot of oxygen, so many fireworks contain oxidisers known as perchlorates. These can contaminate rivers, lakes and drinking water. If our rivers and lakes are contaminated, that affects anything living in, dependent on or drinking from the river. Fish, ducks, swans, deer and more. And the water goes downstream and into our oceans, carrying the problem even further.

Michael Gell points out that a DEFRA report acknowledged the impact of fireworks. “Best estimates of emissions of air pollutants from use of fireworks are as follows: Copper 2.8 tonnes (6% of emissions in 2000), Potassium 100 tonnes (9.3% of emissions in 2000), Sodium 5.5 tonnes (0.5% of emissions in 2000), Magnesium 73 tonnes (7.6% of emissions in 2000), Barium 65 tonnes, Strontium 9.9 tonnes, Aluminium 86 tonnes, Titanium 5.3 tonnes, Carbon dioxide 160 tonnes (trivial), Carbon monoxide 120 tonnes (trivial)”. This was over 10 years ago and fireworks have increased exponentially since then. It is worth noting that climate emissions are also associated with the extended lifecycle of fireworks – from manufacturing (often in China), shipping, sales and of course emissions from emergency, health, veterinary and other (e.g. building repair) services required to address the aftermath of their use.

The Scottish government’s Safer Communities Directorate has in October this year, published information on the impact of fireworks – on health, the environment and noise effects: “Short term health effects may include asthma attacks, coughs, fever and severe asthma, and even pneumonia (Hirai et al., 2000). Longer term health effects may also include respiratory and cardiovascular system diseases, and an increased risk of cancer. …High build-up of metal elements through both fine and coarse particulate matter in the body can adversely affect human health.” If it does this to humans – where more time and effort on research is spent, think what it is doing to all the wildlife breathing in the air we pollute for them? And what all of that is doing to plants, water, trees that protect us…

The Directorate says, “There is some evidence from outwith Scotland to suggest that restricting firework use could benefit the environment by reducing pollution from fireworks emissions as well as secondary fires.” Repeat – we are in a climate emergency – and restricting fireworks would benefit the environment by reducing pollution. Got it? They are not good. We can live without them. No brainer.

An ITV article on 5th November 2019 also refers to the toxicity of fireworks. “Bonfires and fireworks send November 5 air pollution levels soaring, study suggests.” It refers to a study where thousands of sensors take readings of particulate matter. “A study in Newcastle and Gateshead found that in 2018, pollution levels were four times higher in the evening of Bonfire Night than they were earlier in the day.” We already have issues with our air quality, and yet the article states, the pollution levels rise to “Eight times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safe limit of 10 micrograms/m3.” 

Do I need to go on? We are in a crucial point in the history of our earth, when every one of us can make a difference by our decisions, behaviours and actions. And for our consciences, we have to. Fireworks pollute the air, the particles release metallic substances and chemicals into the environment, covering our trees, going into our rivers and lakes and into oceans – contaminating the world we live in – that we have 10 years to protect. Isn’t it time to simply remove this pollutant and stop letting off fireworks?  In 2019 Sainsbury’s became the first major supermarket to stop selling fireworks at its 2,300 stores across the UK.  Given that the UK government has declared a climate and ecological emergency, wouldn’t a sensible action be to ban fireworks…

It’s time for we human beings to be drastically more considerate of the environment, stop abusing it and the natural world. To stop behaving like nothing else is impacted by our actions. It’s time to be considerate and ban fireworks! 

The Fireworks Campaign (FAB) is releasing a series of blogs and images on the impact of fireworks. You can find out more and read about the effects of fireworks on war veterans and other PTSD sufferers and please share these with anyone you know, to help spread the awareness of their dreadful impact.