This week marks the tenth anniversary of the Climate Change Act: the first piece of comprehensive climate legislation in the world, which has served as an inspiration for other countries. Partially as a consequence of the act, we’ve had some heartening news. Last year, carbon dioxide emissions in the UK fell to levels seen in the 19th century; and recently, the capacity for renewable energy surpassed that of fossil fuels.
But thanks to a recent report from the Intergovernamental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we know that the 2008 act is not ambitious enough, and its limitations present enormous risks to our society, our children and everything we hold dear.
Climate change is already causing immense damage, increasing the intensity of hurricanes, wildfires, floods, famines and droughts. According to the IPCC report, if we go above a 1.5C temperature rise, we risk losing all global coral reefs, displacing millions more people and passing climate tipping points which could trigger uncontrollable changes.
In light of the science we have, it would be insanely irresponsible of us, and our elected government, to not take immediate actions to avoid warming of more than 1.5C. To achieve that goal, the IPCC tell us that the whole world must be carbon neutral by 2050.
In the past year, I have interviewed many scientists and technologists about the environment — exploring everything from advances in renewable energy, lab-grown meat, to nascent carbon capture technology. Over and again I hear the same answer: we already have the technology to solve this problem, what we are missing is the political will. With 168 MPs already voicing their support of a net-zero emission target, that will may be emerging. Yesterday, Michael Gove, the environment secretary, said that only way to safeguard the planet is “by heeding scientific warnings more keenly than ever before and supporting scientific research more strongly than ever before”. Meanwhile, Norway just committed to be a carbon neutral by 2030, Iceland by 2040, Sweden and California by 2045.
I’m encouraged that the Government has asked the Committee of Climate Change to set out a pathway to net-zero emissions, and I wholeheartedly support all the parliamentarians calling for a new legally binding target of net-zero emissions in the UK, to be achieved before 2050.
We are at a unique and historic juncture in time. We are the first species and generation to be deeply, and clearly, self-aware of the damage we are causing to our environment, to our only home.
We will be the generation — and this will be one of the governments — that is either celebrated for solving this crisis, or blamed for its apathy.