A wake-up call to Parliament on climate change
Climate Change Amongst the many shocks and surprises this year in the world of politics, there has been a quiet but important strengthening of global momentum to tackle climate change.
The Paris Agreement was ratified at unprecedented speed, and the recent global treaty banning HFC refrigerants further signalled world leaders’ commitments to facing up to the scale of the challenge. But despite some good news, we must not forget how far we have to go: as it stands, global mitigation commitments place us, at a minimum, on a path towards a terrifying 4°C increase in global temperatures, and Donald Trump, a climate sceptic, has been elected to the White House.
What does this means for those of us in the UK?
We need to fight to ensure that, at the very least, the UK meet its targets as set out in the Climate Change Act. As it stands, the government looks likely to miss its 2030 goals so we eagerly await the Emissions Reduction Plan from the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This strategy should do exactly what it says on the tin, and will need to include bold plans for the future of heating, transport and power generation. It will need decisions that look beyond the short-term electoral cycle in order to set us on the path to a zero-carbon economy as soon as possible.
It is not by any means an easy time for leadership and vision on climate change: there is nervousness in the energy sector created by uncertainty on climate policy; incorporating a new runway at Heathrow makes it almost impossible to meet climate change targets; and, of course, the economic instability caused by the referendum vote on our relationship with the European Union. But leadership has never been more necessary: we cannot meet our carbon targets without creating a bold, dynamic and long-term strategy for transitioning to a system based on clean and healthy renewable energy. Energy efficiency is perhaps the lowest hanging fruit of all – it could lead to thousands of new jobs, make energy bills cheaper, and hugely reduce carbon emissions from homes and businesses – and we should be encouraging the government to make strides on this.
Where does Parliament fit in to this?
With 2016 set to be the hottest year on record and serious concerns being expressed from within the scientific community about the record-low levels of sea ice, it is now more urgent than ever that Parliament pushes the government to act faster on climate change. We must push for ambitious and long-term policies that drive innovation across different sectors, as well as securing the continuation of important EU legislation in this area when the promised ‘Great Repeal Bill’ arrives.
The All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group (APPCCG) seeks to play an important role by convening and facilitating the sharing of expertise from academia, business and civil society within Parliament. We hope this helps MPs to better scrutinise government and raises the profile of climate change on the national stage. With the upcoming Emissions Reduction Plan, the 25 Year Plan for the Environment, the industrial strategy, potential triggering of Article 50, the government’s air quality plan, and the Budget in March, there’s no shortage of opportunities to influence and shape the debate.
Climate change is the greatest challenge humanity faces in the 21st century and it’s going to need all of us to help stop the worst of it. The need for a joined-up, coordinated movement of businesses, community groups, universities, politicians and parliamentarians working together has never been greater. I hope the APPG on Climate Change can go some way towards bringing MPs together to that end and I very much hope you’ll join us.
APPCCG and Mediaplanet hosted a parliamentary event in 2017 to discuss the ‘Climate change: what’s next’ campaign. Watch a clip from this event below.