We need no further research to inform us that climate change is happening and this global issue requires a fast and decisive response. So why is the UK, a country once considered to be the leader on climate change internationally, moving backwards?
We became one of the first countries to produce a legally binding national framework to cut emissions with the Climate Change Act 2008, but since the election David Cameron has dithered and the conservative government have cut green domestic policies, which include:
- The removal of support for new onshore windfarms;
- Axing regulations planned for 2016 to make all new homes zero-carbon and killing off its flagship “green deal” home efficiency scheme;
- Removing tax relief for community energy schemes;
- Removing subsidies for larger solar farms and threatened to slash support for small domestic installations by 87%;
- Ditching a pioneering £1bn project to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and store it underground;
- Selling off the green investment bank, and
- Removing tax incentives for cleaner cars.
How, as a country are we going to meet climate targets after ditching these policies? As our Prime Minister, David Cameron has claimed that his responsibility is to keep British people safe so why does he expose us to such threat? We are already experiencing the catastrophic effects of climate change, with Storm Desmond providing an alarming example. The flooding in Cumbria, caused by record rainfall, has forced thousands of people from their homes and caused damage estimated at £500m. Scientists have stated that global warming has made the flooding 40% more likely to occur. Events such as this should be a wake up call. There is massive support for renewable power in this country. It’s time for ministers to listen to the science and the public, making tackling climate change a top priority.
When we talk about the impacts of global warming we also need to remember that we are impacting many vulnerable countries which have such low emissions of their own that they cannot do anything themselves to remedy the problem that they did not cause. For example, Pakistan contributes to less than 1% of global emissions, but melting glaciers, messed-up monsoons, intense heatwaves and severe floods are not just future projections, these are realities Pakistan is already having to adapt to.
I fail to comprehend the mindset of our government whom can so readily act with such speed and aggression in the handling of the Syrian crisis without a clear strategic and intelligible purpose. There is so much passion in this case, even when there is so much uncertainty regarding the outcomes. Cameron claims to protect us from global threats, yet contributes to a catastrophe likely to dwarf anything ISIS could unleash. We can refer to this as the Churchill syndrome: the belief that, to be a great leader, you need a great conflict. The threshold for bombing has always been low, and the threshold for protecting the environment has always been high.
Climate talks in Paris are now over and the world has set itself a serious goal: limit temperature rise to 1.5C. Or failing that, 2C. This global agreement is a historic moment and it means that the whole world has signed its part in halting climate change. However, whilst there is no denying that this is a positive step forwards, there are no real plans to make this a reality. Limiting temperature increase to 1.5C has already been branded as aspirational, limiting temperature increase to 2C is also going to be no walk in the park. We are going to need to stop fracking, install solar panels, end huge subsidies doled out to fossil fuels and hand these out to renewable energy immediately. We need to act with speed – but given the current attitude of the conservative government towards green policies, we are most certainly going to need a miracle.