Will the Paris Climate Summit bring us the political commitments to prevent serious impacts of climate change?
In Marlborough we’ve collected hundreds of messages for the Prime Minister calling for climate action. We plan to deliver these on November 29 when a coachload from here attends the largest ever UK climate demonstration - part of similar actions across the world.
Public pressure is greater than ever and, according to one of the world’s most influential climate scientists, Prof John Schellnhuber, this is what is “really holding the key”.
This accords with former EU Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard who recently said that “In Europe we have huge business interests versus progressive climate and European policies...... the main reason we managed in October 2014 to get 40% domestic emissions reduction by 2030 is the European public who make it almost untenable for a leader to ignore climate change. Environmental organisations have done a fine job keeping the issue on the agenda.”
So, despite the hitting-the-head-against-the-brick-wall feeling, we must carry on.
Increasingly the issue is being kept on the agenda across all sectors of society. In a high profile speech to Lloyds Insurers, the Governor of the Bank of England spoke of the risks to financial security from “global impacts [of climate change] on property, migration and political stability, as well as food and water security”.
And he mentioned the exposure of investments to a ‘sub-clime’ financial crisis as fossil fuel assets become stranded – unable to be got out of the ground if we are to limit global temperature rise to reduce climate impacts.
Successful campaigning resulted in the UK having the world’s first Climate Change Act - a legally-binding framework to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
However, since the May election, our energy policy has regressed and the Minister for the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) admits we don’t have the “right policies” to meet our renewable energy target.
While we celebrate the campaign success to ditch coal, we remain the only G7 nation increasing fossil fuel subsidies and the new gas plants just announced would have to be closed well before their sell-by date to meet international climate obligations.
Former UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Crispin Tickell describes the Treasury being “at war” with DECC: “We have seen the dark hand of the Treasury reducing expenditure on low carbon sources without apparent regard to the implications for climate change…..”
The Chancellor is failing our future climate security and our economic prospects by disregarding the second industrial revolution (a thousand-plus jobs have already been lost from the UK solar industry). While other countries take advantage of the fact that around half the global energy infrastructure being built today is renewable, our Government is ignoring the cheapest clean options: energy efficiency, and solar and onshore wind. With renewables’ prices falling, the global market booms.
Anticipated commitments to GHG reductions at Paris will spur further significant solar and wind energy expansion, driving down costs and bringing increased emission reductions. The UK should be at the forefront.