The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which met up in Incheon, South Korea between 1st-5th October have forcefully proclaimed that “it’s the final call” in the fight against global warming.
In the report ‘Global Warming of 1.5C’, scientists such as Mike Hulme, Gavin Schmidt, and Kevin E. Trenberth predict very confidently, that global temperatures are expected to reach 1.5 C between 2030 and 2052 if we continue at the current rate of human activities. They add, however, that if we limit temperatures to an increase of 1.5 degrees then the risks to marine biodiversity, fisheries and eco-systems and their functions and services to human are reduced.
Needless to say, keeping the earth away from an increase in temperature of 2 degrees is extremely important. The main question, therefore, is how we achieve this sustainability. Strategies suggested by the 33-page Summary for Policymakers document include buying less meat, milk, and cheese – and buying more locally sourced goods. Other ways include using public transport, electric cars and using video conferencing as an alternative to travelling. Now, as someone who consumes vast amounts of meat, dairy products and drives their own car, these suggestions seem radical. But, just by cutting down in small amounts can very much help.
Headlines such as ‘Losing Earth’ simply produce fear, rather than hope. It also perpetuates a narrative that the fight is over and the Earth is doomed. Rebecca Solnit epitomized the purpose of the IPCC report as there is a need to prevent a temperature increase over 1.5 degrees but there is still a chance to seize the best-case scenario rather than surrender to the worst.”
Domestically, the Climate Change Act of 2008 is what governs the United Kingdom’s climate policy. Targets include reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The London School of Economics recently produced a report on the effect this act has had in the past 10 years. From the outset, the report argues that The Climate Change Act has been instrumental in advancing climate action over the past decade”.
The overriding consensus was achieved as a consequence of both Labour and the vast majority of the Conservative MPs supporting the Climate Change Act of 2008. Only five Conservative MPs voted against the climate change bill, including current MPs: Christopher Chope of Christchurch, Andrew Tyrie of Chichester and Phillip Davies, MP for Shipley. Prior to austerity taking precedence in response to the global financial crisis, the legacy of the 2008 Climate Change Act was epitomised by David Cameron wanting the coalition to be the greenest government ever.
It is extremely likely that Brexit will ultimately not produce a divergence from the UK’s commitment to tackle climate change. The 2008 Climate Change Act is a commitment that the UK Government must adhere to: reducing emissions by 80% in 2050 from 1990 levels, equivalent to the EU Commission’s 2050 low-carbon economy target.
Cooperation on the grave issue of climate change is both in the interests of the UK and EU, with the Committee on Climate Change advocating that post Brexit, the UK should remain in schemes such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme as one example. The EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive is enshrined within UK law but any attempt to diverge would be ludicrous. The directive is designed to limit dangerous pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide. Alan Andrews of Client Earth argued that the consequence of any divergence would be the loss of momentum behind controlling air quality and disastrous consequences for public health. Diverging from targets to limit air pollutants would be politically insensitive, failing to win a majority in the House of Commons. Therefore, irrespective of withdrawal, the UK will continue to play a leading role where cooperation is in the greater good and at the expense of the mythical, non-tangible notion of sovereignty.
Internationally, it is without question that the economies of China and the U.S.A need to do more. Donald Trump withdrawing the U.S from the Paris Accord was seen by many as a turn away from climate change policy in the U.S.A. However, it is to be noted that he is capped to two terms of 4 years each. So, Trump’s scepticism towards climate change policy will not be a perpetual case for decades to come as it is perfectly reasonable to assume that the U.S. will rejoin agreements such as the Paris Accord in subsequent presidencies. Despite the US withdrawal, EU member states such as Sweden, France and Germany are considered “EU Climate leaders” and are continuing the pledge made by the EU to make a 40 percent cutback on greenhouse gases by 2040.
Reasons to be optimistic go beyond international policymaking and include new and emerging strategies. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO in an interview with tech YouTube sensation, Marques Brownlee, said that he is a confident that Tesla could produce an electric car which could be available for $25,000 (£19,195). Additionally, the company ‘Beyond Meat’ are making strides in producing plant-based burgers. There is also carbon capture, a process which involves physically extracting carbon dioxide from the air. Whether different strategies can be achieved within the time frame is another debate but with innovators such as Elon Musk, then the future for tackling climate change is bright.
Featured Image: CNBC