The evidence to support that climate change exists is surely now indisputable. The world is now 1.2 degrees Celsius warmer, than it was in the 19th Century and the amount of Carbon Dioxide or CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by 50% since pre-industrial times. Alarmingly, sea ice has melted by 8.8% as compared to the 1981 to 2010 average.
In the world we are experiencing rapid climate change, which is being caused by burning fossil fuels for heating homes and transport and industry, which all release greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, but also methane gas too. These gases trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere and cause global temperatures to rise. Climate change is also causing a big increase in extreme weather events, like floods and forest fires.
The aim of the world is to half global emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050, keeping temperature rises to 1.5%. A number of pledges have been made, and a draft text agreed, at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.
The COP26 draft text asks countries to detail their plans to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a much faster speed than before. It also asks developed nations to double the amount of climate adaption finance they give to poorer countries.
Trees absorb vast amounts of CO2, so 100 world countries, making up about 85% of the world’s forests have promised to end deforestation by 2030. An issue with this pledge is there is little or no enforcement policies to make sure the pledges become a reality. Actually, this is a big problem, we all need to lobby and pressurise everyone involved to ensure that the climate change pledges become a reality. More countries signing up to legally binding agreements would help. It’s clearly in everyone’s self-interest, regardless of their political allegiance, that climate change is slowed and reversed.
A plan to reduce methane emissions by 30% has been agreed by 100 countries. Methane is responsible for one third of harmful emissions and is mainly created by agriculture, waste disposal and fossil fuel production. One way we can all help reduce methane emissions is by eating less beef.
With regard to climate finance, at COP26, 450 financial institutions, who collectively control £130 trillion, have agreed to back clean technology such as renewables and direct money away from the fossil fuel burning industry. Also, rich countries are being asked to give poorer countries £100 Billion of climate finance.
Good progress has been made by successive governments in the UK with the switch to renewable energy. Low carbon electricity in 2020 made up 57.5% of UK energy supply, but yes, we can’t rest until low carbon electricity makes up 100% of supply.
The proposed change to electric cars in the UK is encouraging, but we are severely short of electric charging points, we currently have about 25 000, but to make the switch to fully electric work, we are going to need about 250 000 + charging points. The Conservative government need to do a lot more on charging points. Industry experts predict that electric cars will get cheaper, as economies of scale come into play.
Labour Party policy on climate change is to work to keep the 1.5% temperature increase target alive. Labour also pledge to provide £28bn of finance annually for climate finance if elected. Labour plan, via their Green New Deal policy initiative to introduce a massive retrofitting policy to insulate every home that needs it. Keir Starmer has also pledged, at this years party conference to introduce a Clean Air Act and also that every policy Labour implement would be required to meet a net zero test.
This month, the topic at the Meon Valley CLP meeting was climate change. Various members contributed ideas, we talked about the need for more green bus services and trains. It was pointed out that you can fit around 50 people onto a bus and 500 people onto a train, that’s 550 people potentially not buying and running cars. Buses and trains emit much less emissions per person as compared to running a car, even an electric car.
We also agreed that more bicycles, including electric bicycles are an excellent idea. Electric bicycles can make a longer bicycle journey more realistic and help us keep out of cars. We can also all help by insulating our homes, switching to heat pumps, reducing food waste and making better, greener, buying choices. Sustainable farming should also be encouraged and it was suggested that financial incentives/subsidies could be utilised to encourage less energy use.
With regard to education, a member pointed out that some of the issues may not be relevant to ordinary people. So, we should highlight the damage that climate change can do to people’s health, to help drive the message forward.
Everyone agreed that we should stop using coal and gas and keep switching to renewable energy production, like wind, wave and solar and it was discussed that nuclear power stations have a role to play. Perhaps smaller nuclear power stations, as recently discussed in the media, would be quicker to construct and less upsetting for people living in the vicinity.
A video I watched from The Economist made an interesting point, that while climate change impact may be catastrophic for the world, it’s not going to be apocalyptic, which I found personally encouraging to hear. But this point is not meant to be interpreted as seeking to downplay the enormity of the situation we’re in.
Everything we can do to help stop climate change is extremely valuable. It’s very worthwhile for us to personally do all we can to help reduce emissions, whether it’s eating less red meat, or taking up cycling, or buying good quality clothes that last longer.
My own instinctive reading of the situation is, yes things are going to get worse, before they get better. But if the world can really get serious about cutting emissions, we may be surprised how quickly temperature increases can be slowed, and eventually reversed.
This article is the personal view of a member of the Meon Valley Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and may not represent the official policy or views of the Labour Party.