We All Need to Declare a Climate Emergency

Today is Brexit Day, or, was supposed to be anyway. I had always planned to write something related to Brexit, trying to work out what is going on and in what direction we’re heading. But even those who have been following Brexit a lot closer than myself are lost on what is happening. Parliament can’t reach a consensus and it’s looking like we’re about to crash out of the EU without a deal.

It’s all that’s being talked about across all news channels. Which is why I’m not going to. Instead, there have been a number of other stories that have received almost no attention. One, in particular, is the growing number of cities and regions that are declaring climate emergencies – many of which are declaring them with a target date of 2030.

 

 

For me, with everything else that’s going on, hearing that cities and regions are taking control and acting on climate change where the national government isn’t is incredible news. So many boroughs, cities and counties have declared climate emergencies and most are planning to be carbon neutral by 2030. Below are just a few that have declared a climate emergency, with many more mentioned on the climate emergency website.

  • York
  • Portsmouth
  • Plymouth
  • Bath & North East Somerset
  • Herefordshire
  • Carlisle
  • Reading
  • Wiltshire

The move to declare these climate emergencies come at a time where the urgency to avoid global temperatures rising by 2℃ is becoming increasingly apparent. Islands are disappearing, historic flooding has devastated the US Midwest, and cyclone Idai crippled much of southern Africa. Those events individually aren’t evidence of climate change, but they are certainly a sign of things to come if we don’t act on climate change sooner rather than later. 

Whilst governments don’t seem to be doing enough to make the changes required quickly enough to achieve the targets that were set in Paris nearly three and a half years ago, the desire of society to make a change seems to be growing. First, it was school children walking out of the classroom and onto the streets to protest the lack of action being taken by countries all over the world. Now, local councils are standing up and declaring climate emergencies, acting where the government is reluctant to.

 

TES_CHILDREN_CLIMATE_CHANGE_0.jpg

Last Weeks School Climate Strikes. Source: Tes

 

This is what grassroots action looks like. Decisions like this taken by local and regional councils increase the pressure on national governments to call a national climate emergency and start making positive steps that reduce our environmental impact and the volume of emissions we release. Doing so can ensure that the UK plays its part in meeting the targets set under the Paris Agreement and keep global temperature rises below the 2℃ we need to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change. 

This is just the beginning.

The Conservative Response

The Conservative party may well be tearing itself apart on how best to deliver Brexit but they were able to respond to the increasing number of climate emergency declarations, including declarations from a number of Conservative-led councils. They have rejected calls to declare a national climate emergency, instead citing the very small drop in GHG emissions in 2018. It’s good, but nowhere near enough.

The environment minister, Therese Coffey, argued that the Conservative Party were “already ahead of the game“, citing their 25-year environment plan as evidence. However, that 25-year plan focused predominantly on plastics and ensuring that the natural environment is protected from dangers. Very little was mentioned regarding GHG emissions, exactly what calling a climate emergency would mean tackling.

Conservatives are nowhere near doing what needs to be done to take action on climate change. So what can we do?

How can you get Involved?

As I write this, I am also writing a letter to my local MP and finding the names of local councillors in order to write to them and encourage them to follow the lead of cities like York, Plymouth and Portsmouth. If the government won’t declare a national climate emergency, we must all put enough pressure on them to change their mind and do it before it’s too late.

So if you’re reading this and your city or local council hasn’t yet declared a climate emergency, then find out who they are and write to them encouraging to declare one. If the government aren’t going to act and take a leadership role in climate action, there’s nothing stopping any of us making the changes that need to be made and encouraging those in leadership positions to do what’s right.

I have, will you?

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