In David Cameron’s 3 minute speech to the opening plenary at the UNFCCC, on the first day of COP21, he said that tackling climate change was ‘difficult’ a grand total of 12 times, after asking what will we tell our grandchildren if we fail to tackle climate change.
Dave – we totally get it. Climate change IS difficult. For sure. But… the role of leaders is to make it less difficult, right?
Here are 12 reasons why David Cameron is making it more difficult to tackle climate change:
1. 1.5 to stay alive
The UK has committed to limiting average global warming by 2’C, along with most other countries. However, if the earth warms by 2’C, many of the small island states will disappear underwater to rising sea levels. On the first day at COP21, countries most vulnerable to climate change called for a renewed commitment to 1.5’C by all leaders. Cameron made no reference to this at all.
While the UK likes to laud itself as a big player on giving money to developing countries in ‘climate finance’, the reality is that many developing countries don’t think enough money is in the pot. The UK needs to give a proper signal to developing countries that long-term finance for countries adapting to climate change will continue to flow, recognising the historic responsibility that developed countries have in contributing to the climate crisis.
Wind energy is one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy, and the UK has plenty of windy days to make the most of. However, in the Conservative Party election manifesto (on which David Cameron’s government was elected), it pledged to ‘halt the spread of wind turbines across the country’. Madness.
Since then, the UK government has removed subsidies for onshore wind projects, changed planning rules to make it more unlikely for them to go ahead, and put the UK’s whole onshore wind industry at risk. This will make it much more difficult for the UK to transition to the renewable energy that is needed to tackle climate change.
Not satisfied in attacking the wind, the UK Government has also made sunnier days more miserable. Solar subsidies have been cut, and tax rules have changed to make it even harder for projects to go ahead. Again, this is madness! Solar power is AMAZING!!! Government polls consistently show that it is the most popular form of energy in the UK.
Plus, it has been coming down in price so much in the last few years that economists reckon it could be cheaper than fossil fuel energy within a couple of years. But David Cameron’s government is putting all this at risk by removing subsidies too soon, meaning that solar companies have been fading away like one big terrible total eclipse.
5. Community energy
And this is having a pretty detrimental effect on community renewable projects that don’t have the start-up capital to compete financially with big business renewables. Beautiful and inspiring projects like Balcome Solar Co-op have had to be shelved, which is preventing people from taking climate action in their communities.
Instead, the government is keeping power and wealth concentrated within large energy companies, and denying the opportunity to make the UK’s energy system more fair, democratic and environmentally sustainable. The government has also axed tax relief for community energy projects through a sneaky amendment to the Finance Bill, dealing yet another blow to the future of community energy.
David Cameron loves shale. He wants companies to frack all around the country – even under National Parks and protected areas for wildlife. This will be catastrophic for the climate, skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions from the methane that is produced whilst fracking for shale gas, as well as putting us on the dangerous path of yet more unburnable fossil fuels. James Hansen, a retired NASA scientist, recently said on fracking: “Well, that’s screwing your children and grandchildren. Because if you do that, then there’s no way to avoid the consequences [of] multi-metre sea-level rise.” Is that what you think we should tell them, Dave?
Hinkley C, the new nuclear power plant that David Cameron’s government has recently announced, is being sold to the public as a the solution to climate change. But nuclear power is a VERY expensive way of generating low carbon energy and is likely to put up energy prices for years to come, as well as taking several years just to build one power plant.
Nuclear is also not a very low carbon or ‘clean’ option – mining plutonium on industrial scales creates a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and there is also the *somewhat* sticky issue of dealing with toxic, radioactive nuclear waste. Instead, the government should be focusing on the UK’s huge potential for clean, green, renewable energy sources that can deliver emissions reductions cheaply and over a shorter timescale.
As well as nuclear, David Cameron is pinning his climate hopes on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technologies. In reality, CCS is a fairytale – it is not yet properly developed, and is not commercially viable to be used to reduce emissions. Instead, it’s allowing big polluters to keep polluting in the meantime, while claiming that their mess will be sorted out in decades to come. Get real, Cameron. PLUS, even if the government DO really want CCS, last week in the Comprehensive Spending Review they cut the only major CCS scheme in the UK. Say WHAT??
9. Green Homes
Cameron’s government has scrapped the UK’s main energy efficiency policy – the Green Deal. This allowed people to get money from the government to insulate their homes, reducing energy bills and also carbon emissions. As yet, the Government hasn’t replaced it with anything else. This has devastating consequences for fuel poverty, which is a massive problem in the UK as well as lots of other countries, as well as meaning that our homes continue to waste energy and use far too much of it, driving up greenhouse gas emissions.
10. Energy efficiency
The UK has also successfully lobbied the EU to take out the ‘legally binding’ requirement of energy efficiency from the EU’s 2030 climate targets. And energy efficiency is one of the easiest ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions! To tackle climate change we all need to use energy much more cleverly and less wastefully, like buying more energy efficient technologies and devices. The UK has undermined a key way in which this could be achieved.
11. Tax breaks for fossil fuel companies
The UK is the only country in the G7 to increase its subsidies for fossil fuel companies. This means tax breaks and financial support, but also means not forcing big fossil fuel polluters pay for the damage that they do in terms of people’s health. Every year, thousands of people die from air pollution caused by burning coal and oil. And the big polluters never pick up the growing health bill… We urgently need to STOP subsidising dirty fossil fuels and move that money into CLEAN renewable energy. This really is a no brainer Dave.
12. No decarbonisation target
Climate science tells us that we need to keep around 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to have any hope of limiting global warming by 2’C. The UK, with its historical contribution to climate change, must lead in this fight. Many countries vulnerable to climate change are calling for 100% decarbonisation by 2050. We want to see the UK commit to this target and seriously getting to grips with the scale of action climate change requires. Unfortunately, David Cameron’s government won’t even set a decarbonisation target in the UK, despite their independent advisors (the Committee on Climate Change) saying that we should do so.
So Dave, if we fail to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees (at the very most), maybe this is what we’ll tell our grandchildren. We’ll tell them that our leaders had the chance to chart a new course in Paris at COP21, but that they put their own selfish and short-sighted interests first. We’ll tell them that they stood up and gave speeches, full of grand rhetoric, and that they gave us all hope, yet they continued to do the exact things that are exacerbating the climate crisis and undermining our future. Was that the kind of message that you had in mind?
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