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  • Andy Clark

It's a "Climate Emergency" - So What?



"Sorted"

Last week the UK Government (following the Scottish Parliament - credit where it's due) declared that we are officially in a state of "Climate Emergency".


In many ways this is a great thing! Most of all it shows that [thus far] the protests and movements over the last few weeks and months have not gone unnoticed, and there is at least a stir in parliament to start taking this seriously. It's great news because it means that public actions can make a difference. It's great news because this might be a defining moment in the climate crisis and the history of the world.


With that in mind, one could start to entertain the thought that we might actually be alright :)

...


This declaration has almost certainly come straight off the back of Extinction Rebellion's three demands during their protests (among other significant factors at the same time):

1. The government must declare an "emergency" and work with "other institutions" to make changes

2. The UK must enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025

3. A citizens' assembly must be formed to "oversee the changes" needed to achieve this goal


Note that the Rebellion were asking for Net Zero (ie. when we've cut emissions completely from most sources and are positively sequestering the rest with trees and carbon-capture technology) to be reached by 2025. This is a more ambitious target than the IPCC's previous report that the world could exceed 1.5ºC warming by 2030 - which would require Global Net Zero Emissions to avoid - but since when have Extinction Rebellion been unambitious?


This is when it starts to get a bit less exciting.


Declaring this "Climate Emergency" does not legally hold the government to any action at all - not unlike the Paris agreement which, it has been noted this week, we are starting to slip short of.


The government's official advisory board on climate change (the Committee on Climate Change) who are by and large a mix ambitious and conservative, then released a report revealing how the UK might reach Net Zero by 2050.


I am very much in two minds about this, and I have to start with the positive: Net Zero by 2050 is, in the context of the present, a great target to have, and (if this were a part of government planning or a manifesto and not just a committee report) is a significantly greater aspiration than we're currently seeing just about anywhere else in the world.


It's often stated how the UK is a bit of a leader when it comes to climate change action (it's also criticised), but with our standing as one of the world's richest nations we really should be.


However, if we're not Net Zero until 2050 we'll very likely overshoot the critical 1.5ºC of global warming - and that's simply not acceptable. (And that's even with the UK 'leading the way' and being one of the first nations to be Net Zero!) With the rest of scientific consensus saying that we have ten and a half years to make radical changes, I'm a little amazed that the CCC would give the UK a relaxed THIRTY YEARS to make these changes!


... and that is even assuming we have any significant action at all. Because to date, our government has been going in quite the other direction.

For the last decade or so UK Government has radically cut funding for renewable energy development,

whilst doggedly pursuing fracking,

building new runways,

and developing plans for a new coal mine.

It's also terribly telling that Environment Secretary Michael Gove, during the movement to declare a "Climate Emergency" in parliament last week, refused to back the declaration of "Climate Emergency".

This is the same Michael Gove who, after whispering sweet nothings to environmentalists since he won his position, recently stated that he's keen to leave the EU so that he can approve the building of new houses on ecologically important land that's currently protected by the Habitat's Directive... in his position as Environment Secretary!!!


So I'm not holding my breath. But I am doing quite a lot of other things to try to save the freaking world while there's still time - and if there's one thing the last few weeks have shown it's that small actions by individuals can, actually, make quite a difference.


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