The world is waking up to the problem of climate change; we need to start listening and we need to start acting.
Greta Thunberg has inspired schoolchildren across the globe and they are walking out of school and demanding urgent climate action. This is both inspiring, but deeply worrying. These children are worried about their future and the world has a duty to do something to reassure them. Groups like Extinction Rebellion are bringing cities to a halt, telling politicians to tell the truth about the damage we’re doing to our planet.
The Chair of the Committee on Climate Change said in June 2019 we have a moral duty to act, and in 2008 the UK passed the Climate Change Act, becoming the first country in the world to set mandatory targets for the UK to cut emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.
This is not enough.
Humanity is staring down the barrel of a gun. In March 2019, the UN said there was just 11 years left to prevent irreversible damage from the climate change. If we do not the world will suffer the worst impacts of climate breakdown. Extreme weather events, rising sea levels, destruction of nature and failure of agriculture with food shortages will create huge global inequalities.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement signed in 2016 agreed to limit warming to 1.5 °C. This means the UK needs to lead the world again by setting meaningful targets to achieve net-zero emissions. The world is failing to heed the warnings. Populists across the world are actively damaging the climate – from Donald Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement to Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil standing by and letting the Amazon burn.
Our natural world is collapsing.
- Across the world humans are threatening 1 million species with extinction;
- In the UK, between 1970 and 2013, over half of species declined, with 40% showing strong or moderate declines. Numbers of wildflowers, butterflies and birds are all dropping;
- Just 17% of England’s rivers and 14% of surface water bodies are in a good condition, 4 in 10 rivers in the UK are polluted;
- 39% of our Sites of Special Scientific Interest are in good condition;
- A loss of insects will make it impossible to farm effectively while also hindering progress towards tackling climate change.
Air pollution is affecting our major cities.
- Our cities are suffering from an air pollution crisis. A move from petrol to diesel has led to a dangerous rise in emissions – particularly Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulates and Ozone (O3);
- These emissions cause 40,000 early deaths a year and it is road vehicles that are responsible.
The impacts of these emissions go well beyond lung diseases, such as asthma and cancer. They cause or contribute to diabetes, dementia, heart disease, premature births and impaired lung development in children. New research shows they have an impact on mental health too. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable. The crisis is estimated to cost the NHS about £20 billion per year.
Plastic pollution is the scourge of our oceans.
- Plastic pollution is at the forefront of people’s minds. Since Blue Planet 2 broadcast in 2017 more and more people are aware of the damage plastic’s cause to our natural environment;
- The UK produces 2.26 million tonnes of plastic packaging every year – in 2017 less than half of plastic packaging was recycled;
- Of all the plastic waste ever produced in the world 90.5% has never been recycled;
- In 2018 the UK exported over a quarter of its plastic waste. In January 2018 China banned imports of much of the plastic waste the UK produces. Since then, the UK has relied mainly on Malaysia, Turkey and Indonesia to pick up the slack;
- However, many countries cannot process all the waste they receive and often it is contaminated or low-grade plastic – it therefore often ends up in landfill, defeating the purpose of exporting it abroad.
- Citizens’ assemblies will decide what action should be taken on the climate crisis;
- The Treasury’s ability to stymie green measures will be neutralised;
- The Green Investment Bank, that was sold off by the Tories in 2017, will be revived;
- We will bring back a department of climate change, closed by the Tories three years ago;
- Local government will be given new powers to cut emissions;
- There will be a moratorium on airport expansion;
- An end to fracking.
The Lib Dem's target is that UK would achieve net-zero carbon status by 2045 – five years sooner than the current government goal.