In the past, the UK was at the forefront of action on climate change. The Climate Change Act 2008 is legally binding and commits the UK to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. This goes beyond the EU as a whole’s pledge to the Paris negotiations of at least a 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
However, the policies of the Conservative Government since 2015 have undone a lot of good work, and so far taken us in the opposite direction from what is needed:
- New Statesman article: “The Conservatives have forgotten the greatest challenge of all: climate change”, 5 October 2015
- Guardian article: “The nine green policies killed off by the Tory government”, 24 July 2015
We need to remind them of what is important and that they act for us.
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Write to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Climate change mitigation means reducing the risk of climate change and its impacts. The big challenge is to reduce the carbon dioxide and methane emissions from the way we produce and consume energy, while ensuring energy security.
To ‘decarbonize’ our energy supply, we need to stop burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – and move to renewable energy as quickly as possible. This does not mean wasting time on fracking as a ‘bridging’ fuel.
Nuclear is touted as carbon free, but it will be decades before any new stations can be built, the ’embodied energy’ of constructing the stations is very high, few large stations are much less flexible on the grid than many small stations, it is more expensive than renewables, and there is of course the issue of safety and the problem of spent fuel storage and decommissioning over thousands of years.
The support should be for solar electricity, offshore wind, and other clean energy technologies. But the Government has instead attacked these while continuing to subsidise fossil fuels and nuclear to the tune of £billions.
- Guardian article: “Major energy U-turn needed to meet Paris targets, government warned”, 13 December 2015
The lead department on mitigation used to be the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but DECC was axed by Theresa May in her reshuffle and climate change moved to the new Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Write to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Defra, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is responsible for climate adaption, ie adapting to the predicted changes in the climate, weather, flood risk, etc. Also, agriculture contributes about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock farming is especially significant.
Write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer
The economy is entirely dependent on the environment. George Osborne never appreciated this, and viewed environmental care as red tape. The jury is still out on Philip Hammond. If we spend a bit on avoiding climate change now, the UK will save more money in the long run. And if we create a stable environment for investment in renewable technology, we create jobs. Seems more sensible than outsourcing nuclear construction to China.
Write to the Prime Minister
Theresa May is where the buck stops.
Write to your MP, MEPs and local councillors
Your MP can ask questions in parliament and work behind the scenes to represent your interests, but they need to know what those interests are. Governments are swayed by public opinion, and have been known to make u-turns.
MEPs have a lot of power via European policy, and champion their regions. For example, Molly Scott Cato, the Green Party MEP in the South West, is working very hard in the areas of climate change, energy and farming.
Your local councillors have influence over your local environment and carbon emissions through for example planning, transport, housing. Many councils pledged in December 2015 to become carbon neutral by 2050.
You can write to your MPs, MEPs and councillors at writetothem.com, and some are also on Twitter. It might be helpful to tailor your letter to your MP using the information about their activities and voting record at theyworkforyou.com.