By Chartered Environmentalist John Box, CEcol CEnv FCIEEM
The words “I’m too young to do this. We children shouldn’t have to do this.” and the blog title are from Greta Thunberg. Greta started a school strike in Sweden in August 2018 in protest about international inaction over the climate crisis. This simple action has catapulted her to global prominence. But we all need to be involved in the climate crisis and demand that our politicians and governments make our planet their priority.
We have until 2030 to avoid the worst
Global temperatures are currently 1°C hotter than pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement strengthened the global response to this threat by aiming to keep the global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. We have only 11 years for global heating to be kept to a maximum of 1.5°C. Even a further 0.5°C of heating will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. The recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to limit the increase to only 1.5°C but these changes are affordable and feasible. Limiting the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C could prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic. This requires halving global emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030 and ending emissions by 2050.
In response to the statutory Committee on Climate Change report released in May, the Climate Change Act 2008 was amended in June and commits the UK government by law to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050. This would require tens of billions of pounds of investment every year which is about 1-2% of our GDP. Not acting would be far more costly. The report from the Committee on Climate Change states that a net-zero target is not credible unless policy is ramped up significantly.
The UK Government has the legislative means and the money to tackle this huge challenge over the next 11 years. But does it have the will for such a huge transformation of how we all live? The House of Commons declared an environment and climate emergency in May. But this does not legally compel the Government to act.
Local Authorities have also been declaring climate emergencies. We know political will can be transformative and such actions encourage and motivate us all. But what are the delivery details of these declarations – and by when? Time is short.