The Queen’s speech delivered on 21 June 2017 may have been somewhat lacking in substance, as well as the pomp and glory that usually accompanies the State opening of Parliament, but there was one crucial line that many heard with relief: “My government will continue to support international action against climate change, including the implementation of the Paris agreement.”
This affirmation of the UK’s commitment to the Paris Accord, which was drawn up at COP 21 in December 2015, comes at a time when America’s withdrawal could have put the historic agreement at risk. Despite this withdrawal, many American States and businesses have declared that they will continue to work towards meeting their greenhouse gas targets, so compelling is the evidence that climate change is a real and present threat.
In July 2016, the UK Committee on Climate Change (CCC) issued its Risk Assessment 2017 Synthesis report, outlining the areas that are of greatest concern, including flooding and coastal change, deaths and health issues from heat waves, risk of water shortages, the impact on wildlife, affordability of food, and the rise of new and emerging pests and diseases.
The report highlights the fact that there has been a global increase in temperature of 0.85°C since 1880, leading to higher average temperatures and an increase in extreme weather conditions. Sea levels around the UK have risen by 15-20 centimetres since 1900, and the projected rise of 50-100 centimetres by 2100 will increase the risk of flooding and significant change to our coasts.
We are at a tipping point if there is to be any chance of containing the rise in global warming and slowing the march of climate change. It is easy to feel helpless in the face of what we see happening to our planet, and the stark facts that science is showing us. However, the window of opportunity to turn things round is still here – for now.
As individuals, we can make a difference. We can each alter our behaviour or make choices that help; from small steps like turning off a light, to more major decisions such as the type of car we buy or where we get our power supply from.
In turn, businesses need to take responsibility for their impact on the environment, and how they can mitigate that, or even to turn it to positive effect. This is where real change can occur. Not in the rooms of State or Parliament, but person by person, business by business.
In the next blog in this series we will be looking at the principles of Trias Energetica, and the first of these three key steps that can be taken to help combat climate change.