Friday, 19 July 2019

Climate Emergency - Heading for 3 degrees - How do we stop it?

Tough but still not enough!
What do we know? We know that the carbon savings agreed by governments from around the world will not meet the Paris Climate goals. They will in fact take us to a 3 degree world by 2050. A global temperature rise of 3 degrees across the world is a world where large regions of the world become uninhabitable, where the sea rises by a metre every 20 years, where coastal cities are either inundated or fortresses, with many millions of refugees, where agricultural production will crash. The Home Counties of England will be more like Marrakech. 500 Million tonnes of carbon will be released from melted permafrost locking in future temperature rises. People will die in their millions. So our current inadequate Nationally Determined Contributions to reduce carbon emissions are effectively a death sentence for countless people and will condemn many millions more into stifling, miserable and poor living conditions.

So what made Climate Change into a Climate Emergency? Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the United Nations sponsored body produced a special report on Climate Change stating that  serious action to limit emissions was too slow and that if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change then action needs taking now. Currently it is estimated that the Earth's temperature rises by an average of 0.2 degrees every 10 years. So with global temperatures already estimated to be nearly 1 degree above post industrial levels we need to act very swiftly to have a chance of stabilising our Climate. Last years IPCC report said within 12 years it is now 11 years and the clock is still ticking downwards.

So what does this mean for us as local authorities?

Many of us (over 100 now at the last count) have declared Climate Emergencies. The first was in Bristol City Council following a motion proposed by the Green Party Councillors there. Many Councils have now followed their lead including my own Kirklees Council.

In Parliament the Green Baroness Jenny Jones introduced a Climate Emergency debate to the House of Lords and Caroline Lucas MP raised it first in the Commons as an Early Day Motion and in May Labour tabled a motion which was agreed.

Last week Leeds City Region announced that all the Councils within their boundaries will be net zero carbon by 2038. This target is undoubtedly tough but not enough. 2038 according to the science is 8 years too late, but it is a start and we should embrace it as an encouraging first step. Leeds City Region is a huge area consisting of the Councils of Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees, Calderdale, Harrogate, Craven, Barnsley, York and Selby so to get this degree of joint commitment is impressive.

The new Leeds City Region Climate Coalition needs a new committed partner and that has to be the UK Government. All the Council Leaders in the City Region need to send a letter to whoever the Prime Minister is next month and tell them "Congratulations  you are now a member of the Leeds City Region Climate Coalition!". With membership comes responsibilities and we need their commitment to ensure we reach even the 2038 target and certainly the 2030 target that we really need to achieve.

The concern now is that feeling that the Councils that make up the Leeds City Region don't really appreciate what they have signed up to and consider it 'Business as Usual' but with a few green initiatives. What is needed now are robust action plans that demonstate what actions will be taken and by when and how much carbon emissions will be reduced by and how quickly.

A demonstrable sense of urgency is essential in a climate emergency






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