Climate Change: What can we do?

Posted on 10/11/2015

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Last night’s Cantelowes Labour Party meeting was a bit of an eye opener.

Linda Etchart, an expert in global development, talked about how the Paris Summit (#COP21) is a vital time in the fight against climate change.

The environment was a non-issue at the last election with no party making a forceful case for a green economy (yes, this includes the Greens, their message on the economy just didn’t cut through).

In fact some on the left, including trade unions and some on the left have previously been hostile to environmental action as so many jobs are tied up in carbon economy (e.g. GMB support for fracking), this is changing. The international trade union movement is now pushing for a just transition to a low carbon economy. After all, there are no jobs on a dead planet.

But a dead planet is where we’re heading. Experts say we need to keep the global temperature increase below a 2 degree rise from industrial revolution levels to 2100. But at the rate it’s going could be 3.5 degrees (if not more – see yesterday’s news on the latest worrying figures).

And Conferences so far have been a failure – Rio 1992 was described as a suicide note. Copenhagen 2009 failed to commit anyone to targets. Ahead of the Paris Summit, countries have submitted targets which will form their contribution to tackling climate change. These are set out in full on the Climate Action Tracker website – the EU ranks as “medium” for its efforts. But based on the current state of play (129 submissions covering 87% of global emissions), the Tracker shows we still won’t stay within the 2 degree limit.

So we must do more nationally and locally. Nationally, we need to increase ambitions about cutting carbon, investment and innovation in renewables, support job creation via renewables, tackle illegal logging, push for targets and make sure they are enforceable locally by judges.

Locally, we can also campaign and take action. Some of the suggestions discussed last night include:
  • Pensions. The largest Swedish pension fund has divested entirely from fossil fuels, yet in the UK the teachers union pension scheme refuse to recognise rights of members to have their say, so they are investing in cluster bombs and fossil fuels. We need campaigns to persuade asset managers to divest in fossil fuels (e.g. this for Councils also see this article and the Guardian’s hub on the issue).
  • Renewables. The UK government is now supporting fossil fuels and moving away from renewables. Yet, we can reward organisations that place an emphasis on renewables for example Goldman Sachs have quadrupled investment in clean energy.
  • Take over the grid. Towns are taking over electricity production. Berlin, Hamburg and even villages are doing this in Germany. Nebraska has also done this in the US. Why not London?
  • Switch suppliers. If everyone moved away from the big 6 it could have a huge impact as there are organisations that provide 100% of energy from renewables, such as Ecotricity (although there are some concerns about their tax arrangements) and Green Energy.
  • Scrap diesel busses and campaign for cleaner air zones – which also removes nitrates and other air pollution gasses. We can also support plans to ban taxis in high pollution areas.
  • Ensure Heathrow development (or other airport expansion) really is carbon neutral and tackles air pollution.
  • Ensure our homes are well insulated and consider installing solar panels, wind turbines and compost loos.

In Camden, we’re fortunate that despite the cuts our Council has continued to maintain a Green Camden resource and freephone helpline.

These may be small steps, but if we all take them it can help take a bigger leap forward.