Tag Archives: climate change

MOVE – Shuffling Humanity

It is just possible to read Parag Khanna’s latest work and take comfort in our prospects here in Europe’s troubled offshore island – but that optimism (as learned when coding in the late 60’s) – is a Multiple IF statement.  The likelihood of a positive outcome is dependent on passing a series of successively dependent tests, each with its own probability of success.  IF this, IF that, and IF something else, THEN this may be.  Optimists may rejoice that the ELSE, and the timeframe, remains unstated.  Even the far-seeing Parag Khanna can only divine a favourable outcome for Britain ‘despite itself’.

As we all edge ever closer to COP26 in Glasgow, and media outlets and governments turn their talents towards analysing climatic challenges, Parag’s focus is humanity – how mass migration will reshape the entire world.  Those of us who were captivated by Bronowski’s ‘Ascent of Man’ back in 1973 may still vividly recall the migrating Lapps and their reindeer herds.  Their nomadic wanderings across the arctic in search of grazing and shelter may have only recently faded but will be as nothing to the emergent mass migrations in search of climatic sufficiency, sustainability, and survival.

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COP26: Likely to save the planet?

Now, I’m not the sort of person that resorts to hyperbole for a dramatic opening sentence but, in case you hadn’t noticed, the future of the planet is hanging in the balance. This is not the statement of a wild-haired fanatic, living with badgers and chanting cross-legged in the woods but a widely acknowledged scientific fact. For the last few years a growing list of eminently respectable people have been warning us that urgent action is required: Sir David Attenborough does it, HRH Prince Charles regularly does it, António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations definitely does it, even peers of the realm do it. Given irrefutable scientific evidence and the reverberating voices of powerful and respected people, then surely, you would think, something is going to change. We know the causes of climate change. We know what action needs to be taken. So, what is stopping us?

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LibLink: Ed Davey says private capital must switch from dirty to clean

Now here’s an interesting thought. Why not ban any new listings of fossil fuel companies on the London Stock Exchange?

Ed Davey flags up this idea in an interview with The Guardian today to mark his first year as Party Leader.

Under the plan outlined to the Guardian by the Lib Dem leader, Ed Davey, another immediate policy would be to stop new bonds being issued in London to finance oil, coal or gas exploration.

Fossil fuel firms already listed in the UK would then have two years to produce a coherent plan about how they would reach net zero emissions by 2045, or risk being struck off the LSE.

In the longer term, pension funds would have to disinvest from fossil fuels by 2035, with all companies with fossil fuel assets removed from the exchange by 2045.

Ed said:

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Davey tells Johnson to save country and world from climate crisis

As COP26 approaches, Boris Johnson is looking more and more like a rabbit confused by headlights. Flashing into his eyes are the growing number of Conservative MPs who believe that greening the economy fast by driving ahead electric cars, reducing wasteful consumption and cutting our impact on the environment will damage “the economy”.

This is a Tory monopolistic view of the economy. Continue in the old ways that are destroying our planet. That must be good in their view because there is money in shareholder’s pockets.

It is proving hard to convince many national politicians, local councils and punters in the pub that we are in a climate emergency. My own council, Shropshire Council, was trumpeting its climate credentials this morning by promoting an environmentally destructive relief road around Shrewsbury. The details of its environmental improvements are under wraps for now but they seem to involve a tarmac for trees swap. Screw up the environment and plant trees in absolution. I don’t buy environmental confessionals.

But we still need to plant trees. Yesterday, Ed Davey challenged the government on its record of planting trees.

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: Hydrogen has huge potential for decarbonisation

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine looks at Hydrogen as a weapon in our arsenal against climate change.

She looks at many potential uses – from fuelling planes to heating homes and highlights the work of the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney:

EMEC is supporting a project known as HyFlyer which has already achieved the world’s first flight of a commercial-grade hydrogen electric aircraft in September of last year.

ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric Piper Malibu Mirage successfully achieved a 20-minute flight from Cranfield airfield in the UK in which the only fumes it produced were water vapour.

The next phase of the project is targeting a successful commercial-grade flight of a 19-seater craft, potentially in 2023. The green hydrogen fuelling systems required for flight tests will be delivered by EMEC.

Perhaps the best indicator of the potential for hydrogen-powered flight is that the project is backed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Aerospace Technology Institute and Innovate UK.

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Climate Crisis – the challenge is to confront reality

As COP26 – December’s international convention in Glasgow – becomes a major media focus, the scrutiny of environmental plans and policies will be intensified.

Parties across the political spectra are now preparing proposals that will sound good but not offend their core supporters.  They’ve had plenty of practice.  References to fine words buttering no parsnips date back to at least 1634.

To identify the underlying causes of ecological distress one must first strip away mis-characterisations (it’s just a natural cycle) and finger pointing or ‘othering’ (it’s all their fault) and vested interests that stand in the way of progress.  It’s time then to critically review where leaders think they are leading.

Under Ed Davey the Libdems don’t just have a plan – we have a Green Recovery Plan but is that enough to get to the heart of the issues?  Given the scale of the challenge, are the plan’s elements sufficient?  Will many millions of small initiatives be practical and effective, or are major policy reforms required?

  • Save British Countryside
  • Green Every Home
  • Clean Air for Kids
  • Transport revolution
  • Energy Switch

Looking at the details behind these headlines there is much to applaud – and nothing to cause offence.  But will these elements be enough to arrest the current levels of our planet abuse?

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Wera Hobhouse on 100 days to COP26

Yesterday, MPs debated COP26 Conference Priorities in a Westminster Hall debate. The debate was co-sponsored by Wera Hobhouse. Lib Dem MP for Bath. She said this is the biggest opportunity for real climate action since the 2015 Paris agreement, after which we have had a “string of incredibly disappointing COPs”. Wera called for the government to get its own house in order instead of paying to lip service to climate change. The Government has failed to set any direction on how to heat homes in the future, how to expand the electricity grid for increased electricity need, let alone on tackling emissions from heavy industry, shipping or aviation.

COP26 must be a COP of global solidarity. It is time for the Government to put their money where their mouth is. The world is watching to see whether the UK will step up to the plate.

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World Review: Cuba, climate change, the Taliban and foreign aid

Cuba may be reaching the end of its search for Utopian Socialism – shop shelves are empty and people are hungry. Ten years from now 2021 will be known as the year that the world was dragged kicking and screaming to the reality of climate change. The Taliban continues its march to victory with the capture of a key border crossing in the southeast corner on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Boris Johnson’s win on foreign aid this week was the world’s loss.

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Ecocidal thoughts

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Ecocide, unlike Geocide, has yet to be embedded in international law.

Ecocide, as envisaged, would perhaps be reserved for extreme forms of our everyday Planet Abuse and directed at corporates and government leaders whose policies wreak so much damage.  Even so, the chances of such condemnation becoming law are minimal – and the chances of it acting as any deterrent, even less.  Like so much else in the hot air of climate debating circles, the notion of Ecocide is as purely symbolic as national flag waving or political greenwashing.

On the other hand, everyday Planet Abuse is more easily understood by individual citizens and communities.  For sure, there are challenges in tracking useful metrics: many places and people will see different priorities, and we are still a very long way from the general taboos that progressive societies try to muster for, say, Domestic or Racial Abuse.

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World Review: Netanyahu, G7, corporation tax and going green

In this week’s look at world news, LDV’s foreign affairs editor Tom Arms reviews the situation in Israel where Netanyahu looks set to be ousted by a coalition held together, for now at least, by their opposition to the country’s leader of 12 years.

Cornwall will host the G7 summit later this week. Boris Johnson could join his peers having been defeated in the Commons over cuts to overseas aid. Coronavirus, climate change and promotion of green industries are on the agenda.

Finance ministers are expected to agree a base rate for corporation tax today but it is not necessarily a done deal. The proposal must be approved at the G20 summit meeting in Venice in July and countries that benefit from a low corporation tax regime, such as Ireland, are bound to challenge the proposal.

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Baroness Sheehan leads debate on climate change targets in Lords

Yesterday afternoon, the Grand Committee of the House of Lords debated climate change targets. The debate was initiated by Shas Sheehan who emphasised the importance of grasping the nettle of collaborative action on climate change during 2021. She criticised the UK’s investment in fossil fuel projects oversees and worldwide fossil fuel subsidies totalling £3.9 billion annually.

Baroness Sheehan highlighted the planning system which is not aligned with the government’s climate change targets.

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Yesterday was Earth Day – was it also the day we really began to tackle the climate emergency?

Earth Day is now in its 51st year. If Donald Trump had gained a second term, it would have probably gone unnoticed in the Capitol yesterday. But Joe Biden is now leading America and he used the occasion to host an international summit and announce deep cuts in carbon emissions. Pledges came in from leaders across the world.

Boris Johnson got his pennyworth in earlier announced that he will set in law “world’s most ambitious climate change target”, cutting emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 compared to 1990 levels in pursuit of zero carbon by 2050. Admirable stuff. More important than the headline figure is that the UK’s Carbon Budget will incorporate our share of international aviation and shipping emissions, which each contribute three to four per cent each to global warming.

Are we turning the corner at last in getting the political commitments we need to drive the business and societal changes needed to tackle climate change? Maybe.

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The Earth is not ours to abuse, we need to protect it for future generations

On 22 April 2021, The Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day will bring together leaders of major economies, including some of the world’s main polluters. Hosted by Joe Biden, the two-day conference aims to “galvanise efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis”.

In this month of Ramadan, Muslims globally should think deeply about climate change and steps they can take to address the issue.

Ramadan is a time when families and communities come together to celebrate and help each other. Muslims deliver food packages to the needy and recognise the importance of never wasting food, which in turn benefits the environment. Islamic teachings relate to the earth; planting a tree, for example, is like giving to charity, yet many Muslim’s awareness of this is staggeringly narrow. India, for example, has the world’s second highest Muslim population (as of 2018), yet is the world’s 2nd largest emitter of greenhouse gases. It is therefore countries like these where education and everyday changes to lifestyle habits are fundamental in helping to address climate change. It is not just the responsibility of a few countries, but of every country and every individual.

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Climate Change: We must not discourage young people

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When the Southampton Daily Echo ran a story recently featuring the likely sea-rise impact on Southampton, it unleashed a torrent of outraged climate change denial. Climate Central’s data was viewed as preposterous, extremely unlikely and unwarranted fearmongering. Barely 20% of respondents agreed with the report.

That reaction – the refusal to countenance the full impact of the way we live now – is perfectly understandable. There are not many things these days as trusted as bricks and mortar…as safe as houses. Unfortunately, that trust flies in the face of science. While countries are firmly in the grip of an addiction to never-ending growth, it is difficult to face up to the consequences of damage to our planet.

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We can’t solve climate change and biodiversity loss without solving planning – a view from the grass roots

I am writing from the heart following a battering few years trying to protect biodiversity landscapes from new developments and to get sustainable transport written into housing and supermarket schemes.

On biodiversity, all we have got from developments in my expanding rural town is tokenism. Replacement trees within manicured landscapes. Not the untidy scrubby bits of landscape that are or will become biodiversity rich.

On sustainable transport, the car remains king. There are no plans for bus routes to serve four major housing developments. The out of town supermarket, with the backing of councillors and planners, doesn’t even have a bus stop.

The planning system is working against our national and international ambitions to enrich biodiversity and tackle the climate emergency.

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Which will be the first place to ban climate-busting ads?

Well, there is still all to play for – Labour Bristol has failed to be the first local authority to take a stand on advertising high carbon products like polluting SUV cars.

They have agreed to ban fast food advertising on council-owned advertising sites, like bus shelters, but they failed to follow up on the rest. They say they would need to go out for consultation on it and they fear ‘consultation fatigue’.

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Book review: How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

“So, who am I to lecture anyone on the environment?” asks a man that flies in private planes and owns big homes. Okay. He is trying to mitigate his impacts through sustainable fuel and carbon offsets. But is Bill Gates the man to tell us how to fix climate change?

Bill Gates’ philosophy is one of improving life chances and lifestyles while cutting carbon emissions. It is an unashamedly market-led approach, creating incentives through carbon pricing and reducing the cost of greening energy. His approach is to roll out new technologies for energy and food production, not to change the fundamental ways that society works.

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Climate and Ecology Bill Event

The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE Bill) would “set an emergency path for the UK to follow” and allow it to play a “fair and proper role in limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C and restoring the natural world”. Yesterday, I took part in Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas’s debate on the Climate and Ecological Emergency in the UK, and you can listen to my contribution here and read the Hansard record here.

It was a fantastic opportunity to raise some of the themes that had emerged from a CEE Bill Alliance panel I had participated in previously, where I spoke about why the Liberal Democrats are supporting this vital piece of legislation. Alongside Lord Jonny Oates, our Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change in the Lords, Cllr Jackie Hook, Executive Member for Climate Change on Teignbridge District Council and Sarah Lunnon, CEE Bill Alliance Coordinator, I discussed why the CEE Bill is such a key part of our future.
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Company law needs to change to encompass environmental and societal responsibilities

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We continue to destroy our only planet, driven on by the moneymen and women. Politicians, in awe of the economists, see growth as the answer to every question. Anyone who stops to think for a moment can see that more and more growth is not any sort of a solution to today’s problems on a planet with limited resources.

This view of economics is hard wired into our society through the legal system. Most company directors have as a prime responsibility, that they must maximise the money made by their shareholders. Failure to do this means that they can be sued. Without changing company law to expand director responsibilities to include environmental and societal issues, we will remain locked into money being the measure of everything. And consequent ongoing environmental destruction.

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Ed Davey on Marr: We need £150 billion green recovery, not weak and timid government

“We are not a rejoin party” was one of the first things Ed Davey said in his New Year interview with Andrew Marr. The starkness of that statement is bound to disappoint some Liberal Democrat members and activists who are committed to this country ultimately being part of the EU again. Party strategists are adamant that now is not the time to have that argument and that we need to re-establish our credibility after the 2019 election. Perhaps being proven right will take care of some of that issue. We just need to make sure that we can be better at benefitting from being right than we have been all the other times when we have called a major issue correctly – think Iraq and the 2008 economic crisis.

It’s also not what our policy, passed at Conference in September, says:

Conference resolves to support a longer term objective of UK membership of the EU.

I would have preferred to see a very quick addition to Ed’s line that we didn’t support Brexit for all the reasons we can see it going wrong before he emphasises the need for the closest possible relationship with the EU. There is nothing wrong with saying that while rejoin isn’t on the table now, we think we’ll get to a place where it will be a viable option. There is nothing wrong with keeping that hope alive.

However, he was very strong on one issue that differentiates us from the Labour Party. Keir Starmer is not going to fight for freedom of movement of people. The Liberal Democrats will. Ed said that taking away the freedom to live, work and raise families across the EU is illiberal. The issue is one that impacts on so many families in this country and should increase our support.

That’s a major point of difference with Labour and should attract young people.

The conversation then turned to students. Ed said that the Government had let down schools, universities and students. He called Gavin Williamson the worst education secretary in living memory, who had mismanaged the crisis for everyone in the education sector. He argued that students should be refunded some of their fees and the Government, not the universities should pay for this.

Marr then turned to another really important issue for Lib Dem voters – the environment.

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Fighting a losing battle: why Lib Dems should back the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill

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On Wednesday, Caroline Lucas, the sole Green Party MP at Westminster, did what she does best. She tabled a private members bill.

The Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill would mandate that the UK:

  • goes further in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reflecting our historic emissions and relative capacity to rapidly decarbonise;
  • takes steps to protect and restore biodiversity and soil;
  • accounts for overseas activity (e.g. in supply chains) in emissions accounting;
  • acts on the basis of currently available technology, rather than hypothetical future solutions;
  • establishes a citizen’s assembly to build consensus around specific policy actions.

These provisions are the price we must pay if we are to bear our full responsibility for the climate change. We cannot rely on sci-fi ideas which may never be realised, or ask those least responsible to bear the greatest burden. We may have devoted little attention to biodiversity, habitats and soil in the past, but these have profound importance, supporting food chains and acting as carbon sinks, not to mention being intrinsically valuable.

Even the citizen’s assembly, which I am temperamentally averse to as it allows government to abdicate their responsibility to lead, here serves only an advisory function, helping to build consensus without the usual risks of direct democracy.

There’s much to support and little to criticise.

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Tax carbon and reduce poverty

The 2019 Autumn Conference approved a generally good Policy Motion F29 Tackling the Climate Emergency, listing actions which reduce UK emissions to net zero within a few decades. It included point 2d – “Greening the taxation system to make the polluters pay and to reward progress towards net zero.”

This appears to be a statement of intent rather than a genuine action point. I believe that we should go further, committing to a carbon tax designed to:

  1. reduce carbon emissions – globally
  2. fight poverty
  3. protect the UK economy against unfair competition from overseas polluters

This might sound a classic trilemma (three mutually incompatible goals), but one policy can deliver all three. Here’s how.

We currently have a mishmash of carbon pricing measures (Climate Change Levy, Fuel Duty, etc.) which affect specific sectors.

  • These only exert downward pressure on fossil fuel consumption in some sectors, and prices are generally too low to drive rapid reductions.
  • They are potentially regressive, impacting the poor more than the rich.
  • They risk carbon leakage – when emission reduction policies in one country lead to increases elsewhere.

The solution is a carbon tax, dividend and border adjustment.

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South Lakeland District Council: Climate Action Plan

I very much favour articles that are about climate change, biodiversity etc. and I had a write up from Cllr. Dyan Jones from South Lakeland District council, on climate change, that I thought I would share with LDV readers

Tahir Maher

Wednesday Editor

————————————————————————————————-

Here in Cumbria, South Lakeland District Council takes the business of climate change seriously, and sustainability underpins everything we seek to do.

Declaring our position last year; recognising the emergency, committing to action and unanimously agreeing to make this a public commitment, we set out to inform, influence and implement actions to address this emergency in all areas under our direct …

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Transforming our economy while remedying our environmental crisis – Part 2

In a previous article, I started to highlight policy areas that could advance our fight against the climate emergency and looked at legislation and taxation. This article continues the discussion and looks at additional policy measures to drive change in the way we treat the world we live on.

3. Education – all schools should have climate crises as a part of their social learning – this can be written into the personal, social education time which schools use to address and educate on issues. For adults, continued government promotion on single-use plastics, diets and other life choices is essential, and each individual must take responsibility for their actions. The crisis is unfathomably large but broken down into a single person among 8 billion, and a single footprint to wipe clean, if we all clean up after ourselves, it is possible.

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Transforming our economy while remedying our environmental crisis – Part 1

The fight against climate change is a global one; we understand the issue and science. We also understand the urgency, and in the Paris Agreement, every country committed to reducing emissions to target a significantly lower than a two-degree rise over pre-industrial temperatures. While the complexities are significant, the issue is that globally we continue to put too many greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. The wealthy western countries have been the leaders of this pollution which are making the entire planet suffer, and the poorer countries are suffering more than the wealthiest; we need to lead the recovery.

The good news is that solutions do not have to be complex. For a start, we can put less harmful gases in and take more out. To achieve net-zero means that whatever we put in, we take out, essentially like wiping a footprint in the sand clean, so it looks like you were never there. At net-zero we, as humans, stop making the problem worse. However, we can strive to be better and to take more out than we put in, to allow the planet to get back to its natural cycles of carbon release and absorption.

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Climate change is real!

At a risk of writing another article about a topic we have heard a lot about in the past few years, this one, again, focussed on climate change. Why? It is abundantly clear to all who read from a scientific perspective, that climate change is happening. We have seen wildfires destroying large swathes of land in Australia and the USA, we are seeing weather changes causing flooding and destruction in the UK, and an ever increasing magnitude of storms. We have been warned by scientists, the United Nations and many international governments that the time to take action is NOW.

At our own Liberal Democrat conference, whilst making our statement that we were going to cancel Article 50 as our leading policy in September 2019, we did also approve our policy as it pertains to climate change. Reducing the amount of pollution is one thing and we need to get the entire planet to be carbon neutral and the carbon negative, and we need to do it as quickly a physically possible.

As of last year, we added 33 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, that is 33,000,000,000,000 tons. This is an enormous number and there are only two ways to adjust for it, we put less, or we take more out, and a combination is key. Governments can, and should, be leading the way, encouraging use of re-usable power sources, promoting eating that is good for the individual and good for the environment, car-pooling discounts, cheaper public transport; there are ways. If we consider that in the wake of COVID-19, which is hopefully a shorter term initiative, we have mobilised entire countries and the entire world to stay home, to socially distance, and to change their behaviour, why are we so inept to deal with what is, ultimately, a challenge to every species and the very future of our planet?

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Lib Dems lead cross-party call for urgent support for airlines in return for climate action

The Liberal Democrats are leading a cross-party effort to secure Government agreement for an economic package to support the UK’s airlines in return to commitments to tackle the climate emergency.

Writing to the Chancellor, the cross-party group of parliamentarians have warned that without government support future fares may raise while “tens of thousands more will lose their jobs through no fault of their own.”

MPs from across the political spectrum have signed the letter and agreed “if public money is used to save them, they must be required by law to do more to tackle climate change.”

Liberal Democrat Transport …

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A private member’s bill to keep fossil fuels in the ground – where they belong

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Last year Theresa May’s government declared a climate emergency and put into law the aim to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

But here’s the rub. The UK government’s current primary objective for offshore oil and gas is to enable as much as possible to be extracted. This is written into the Petroleum Act 1998.

To many people it is a matter of common sense that opening up new oil and gas fields – and building new fossil fuel infrastructure – is incompatible with acting to tackle the climate emergency and meeting the net-zero target by 2050. It is also incompatible with our commitments to the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The bald truth is that even if current developed reserves of fossil fuels are realised, we will easily pass the aspirant 1.5 degrees centigrade rise in temperature agreed in Paris; in fact we will hit the 2 degree rise in global temperatures that the IPCC have said will be catastrophic for the planet. To put things into perspective, currently global temperatures have risen to 1 degree centigrade (compared to 1880). According to NASA, the last five years are, collectively, the hottest on record.

Attitudes are changing. The World Bank announced in 2017 that it will phase out finance for oil and gas extraction. Mark Carney, when he leaves the BoE at the end of January, will take up a new role as UN envoy for Climate and Finance. He has already penned articles warning that divesting in fossil fuels by large institutions is happening too slowly and has warned that up to $20 trillion of “stranded assets” could be wiped out by climate change. There is growing acceptance that an economic transition is already underway, and we ignore it at our peril.

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24-26 January 2020 – the (long) weekend’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats welcome Citizens’ Assembly
  • Liberal Democrats: Sadiq Khan’s mass surveillance roll-out unacceptable
  • Ministers must explain soaring cost of HS2 to Parliament
  • Government must review assisted dying laws

Liberal Democrats welcome Citizens’ Assembly

Ahead of the first meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly on climate change, set up by House of Commons Select Committees last year, Liberal Democrat Climate Action Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

The climate crisis is doing irreversible damage to our planet. The UK must cut its emissions to net-zero, be it by improving how we heat our homes or cutting emissions from flying.

This Citizens’ Assembly could help the government take the difficult decisions

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Greenpeace climate change petition – shouldn’t we be doing this sort of thing rather than still having “STOP BREXIT” on our home page?

The home page of the Liberal Democrat website, 10:55 22nd January 2020

This week, Greenpeace UK have collected almost 600,000 signatures for their petition to the government to act now on Climate Change.

The text of the petition gives a succinct list of initiatives which the government should be embarking on now to minimise the climate emergency:

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