On 30th November 2015, at the opening of the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris, David Cameron declared that “instead of making excuses tomorrow to our children and grandchildren, we should be taking action against climate change today” and two weeks later he joined 195 other global leaders in supporting the Paris Agreement – the first globally binding commitment on tackling climate change.
Today, at a grand ceremony in New York, around 155 countries have committed to signing up to the agreement – and we’re asking, is this another theatrical performance or an indication of meaningful commitment?
COP21 felt a bit like being at the theatre – there were famous faces, a crisis tinged by tragedy, a huge struggle, free ice cream at the interval, and finally the dramatic ending we all hoped for. But then everyone went home, took off their costumes and resumed their polluting, climate-change-indifferent lives. Instead of using the momentum of a global climate agreement and the promise of a ‘budget for future generations’ to create meaningful action in the UK, our government has been sliding backwards.
Since Paris, the UK government has enacted a 64% cut in subsidies for domestic solar power which, according to its own estimates, could wipe out up to 58% of jobs in the industry. In addition, the new Energy Bill has been making its way inexorably through Parliament, bringing with it the complete abolition of subsidies for onshore wind turbines – currently one of our cheapest forms of renewable energy generation.
In addition, Paris failed to prompt any action to address the fact that the UK is not on track to meet its current targets in line with keeping global warming to under 2 degrees, let alone increasing ambition to keeping it below 1.5 degrees.
With Osborne’s post-Paris budget touted as the one for ‘future generations’ we hoped that it was going to include at least some measures to tackle climate change – the biggest global challenge facing future generations. Instead we got massive tax breaks for the oil and gas industries, estimated to be worth up to £1bn. This comes on top of the £6bn per year of subsidies we already give to the oil and gas industry and our appalling status as the only G7 country to be dramatically increasing fossil fuel subsidies.
Greg Barker, once the UK’s climate change envoy, appears to have also been merely part of the Paris agreement theatrics – away from the international ‘stage’ his role has now been scrapped. Ironic, given that the Paris agreement should be a springboard for further action, with the need for every country to tackle climate change now urgent and indisputable.
But this isn’t a stage performance. There are real lives and livelihoods at stake, both in the UK and in countries most vulnerable to climate change. From today, 22nd April, the Paris Agreement is available to be signed and ratified by participating governments. In the UK, we need our politicians to stop acting and to start taking action on their promises.
Stop the theatrics: here is what the UK government could be doing to live up to their Paris promises:
The reverse of most of what we’ve listed above for a start! Such as setting targets and making plans to meet those targets to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees. As a rich, developed and historically-responsible country, the UK must do its fair share.
Linked to the above – don’t frack, or promote fracking or investigate fracking or plan for any fracking, you get the idea, just don’t frack ok? It’s not an established industry in the UK, it has a whole host of known and potential environmental problems on top of the fact that it’s an advancement of the fossil fuel industry!
Develop a credible energy efficiency scheme, as with the Green Deal scrapped the UK now has no coherent domestic energy efficiency policy in place. Reducing energy use whilst tackling fuel poverty should be addressed as a double whammy
Invest in sustainable transport infrastructure – we all need to get around, and as a nation we do love a good moan about public transport in the UK, but with a more reliable, efficient and cost-effective public transport network, we can all reduce our carbon footprint and have one less thing to moan about!
Give us clearer housing standards – the need for new houses in Britain doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, so why not make all those new houses (or any new buildings for that matter) as sustainable and efficient to run as possible – we’ve even heard rumours about carbon neutral houses, they’ve got to be worth a try surely?
Involve young people in environmental policy making – we (young people) are going to be the ones your decisions now affect the most, why not involve us in those decisions? We might even make environmental policy a bit less dull!
Implement Article 12 of the Paris agreement on climate change education by making it a priority in schools and inspire the next generation to play their part in tackling climate change. After all ‘education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world’ (Nelson Mandela).
Support the creation of green jobs for young people, bringing them into sustainable, expanding industries early.
- Give us a just transition to a clean, fair, future for all
As one of the richest, most developed global nations, with the tools and knowledge to tackle climate change, the UK needs to be leading the way on the commitments made in Paris and doing all it can to keep global average temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees. So as the Paris agreement is being signed today, we want the UK government to be there, to sign it, to stop with the theatrics and put your policy where your pen is!