Rebecca Willis: Climate change had a higher profile in the UK election campaign than ever before, with parties competing hard over their offer to concerned voters. But this was a debate that the Conservatives – who won a landslide majority – largely stood back from. Their manifesto was light on detail compared to the other parties, and Boris Johnson chose not to take part in the first ever UK televised leaders’ debate on climate. Conservative candidates were conspicuous by their absence in local climate hustings, too. Neither was climate mentioned in their legislative plan for the first hundred days. The Conservative government did legislate for a net zero carbon emissions target back in June, following the advice of the Committee on Climate Change. And there was an explicit manifesto pledge to deliver on this target, with no signs of backtracking. In his speech to the party faithful on the morning of his election, Johnson declared his ambition to “make this country the cleanest, greenest on Earth, with the most far-reaching environmental programme”, adding: And you the people of this country voted to be carbon-neutral in this election – you voted to be carbon-neutral by 2050. And we’ll do it. But targets don’t reduce carbon. Policies do. And despite its much-admired Climate Change Act, the UK’s policy record lately has not been good. The Committee on Climate Change have repeatedly warned that the UK is off track to meet future commitments, a verdict shared by the independent Climate Action Tracker project, which assesses each country’s performance against the Paris Agreement. It rated the UK as “insufficient”, with policies compatible with a 3°C world – not the 1.5°C level that we desperately need. If the new government is serious about its commitment, it will have to signal this soon, and with confidence. Steps that it could and should take straight away include: instigating a swift review of governance for net-zero, giving responsibility and resources to other government departments, and, crucially, to local areas, to deliver on carbon strategy; prioritising climate and environmental protection in negotiations for a trading relationship with the European Union; moving quickly to consult on a phase-out date for petrol and diesel vehicles, as promised in its manifesto; removing the de facto ban on onshore wind energy, which the Committee on Climate Change advised needs to increase in capacity by 1GW a year; confirming its opposition to fracking, and making its moratorium permanent; pledging to formally consider the results of the national citizens’ assembly on climate change, Climate Assembly UK, due to report in 2020.
The Conversation 13th Dec 2019 read more »
Before the election, the prime minister, having left the Channel 4 climate debate to a more capable ice block, found time to assure Mail readers that their tree planting would be “a vital part of our response to climate change”. And especially vital for the party – endorsed by the Mail – that is committed to spending £28.8bn on road-building: ie encouraging, not restricting, transport emissions. Following the Conservative victory, no tree angel need worry about frequent-flying levies, or public transport nudges, or disincentives on acquiring a new, pay-later, SUV that emits a quarter more CO2 than a medium-sized car. Last week, financing packages were cited as one reason that sports utility vehicles outsell electric cars in the UK by 37 to one, and threaten our ability to fulfil EU emissions targets. Globally, SUVs are the second biggest cause (after power) of the rise in CO2 emissions. The beauty of organised tree planting as a demonstration of environmental concern is its essential conservatism. No behavioural changes are involved. People will still let your thuggish SUV out at city junctions. Actually, planting trees for the planet is the probably the closest most of us will ever come to feeling like the frequent flier and busy package holiday escort Stanley Johnson. We may not be able to spell Pinocchio or spawn a Boris, but with one sapling and a trowel we can experience what it is to call oneself a committed conservationist without sacrificing anything larger than a plastic straw. Learn from Stanley. After sucking up to some Extinction Rebellion protesters, the supposed conservationist said he saw no need to stop flying. Ever.
Observer 14th Dec 2019 read more »
One of the toughest things for those of us who actually accept the science on climate change is to maintain optimism that anything will be done. After weeks like the one we’ve just had, I sometimes wonder how long it will be before our major political parties shift from talking about reducing emissions and instead arguing over how to best deal with the impact of climate change. You know the sort of thing – “Should we means-test free access to P2 masks?” or “Should there be a mutual obligation regime for climate-change relief?” – and before you know it the Australian and the other climate change-denying News Corp media outlets will be running editorials about how “we need to get more people off climate change welfare”. It is a shift we need to fight against – the war to prevent disastrous climate change is not lost, but it will be if we allow political parties to raise the white flag.
Guardian 15th Dec 2019 read more »