Last Wednesday night a bipartisan UK Parliament passed an extraordinary measure: a national declaration of an Environment and Climate Emergency.
The UK is the first national government to declare such an emergency. The decision marks a renewed sense of urgency in tackling climate change, following a visit to Parliament by teenage activist Greta Thunberg , the broadcast of David Attenborough’s documentary Climate Change: The Facts and 11 days of protest by environmental group Extinction Rebellion that paralysed parts of London.
With 70% of Australian media run by a climate sceptic it is not surprising that this major story was largely ignored.
There are now some 49 million people living under national, city and local declarations of a climate emergency around the world.
What is a climate emergency?
While there is no precise definition of what constitutes action to meet such an emergency, the move has been likened to putting the country on a “war footing”, with climate and the environment at the very centre of all government policy, rather than being on the fringe of political decisions.
The UK are legally committed to a 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 (relative to their 1990 levels) and was recently recognised as one of just 18 developed economies that have driven down carbon dioxide emissions over the last decade.
Some city and local councils have set out their climate emergency policies to become carbon zero by 2030 built around renewable energy supplies, more energy-efficient housing and a host of other measures. Yesterday’s decision in Parliament implies further national reductions and investment in this space.
Counting down to 2030
The year 2030 is an important target. In spite of what climate contrarians might voice very loudly, five of our planet’s warmest years on recordhave occurred since 2010, whilst 2018 experienced all manner of climate extremes that broke numerous global records.
It’s sobering to realise that, because the oceans are a major sink of heat, the estimated 40-year delay in the release of this energy back into the atmosphere means the conditions of the last decade are in part a consequence of our pollution from the 1970s.
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This article was published by The Conversation on the 2nd of May 2019.