Climate Change Emergency

Nations gathered in Paris in 2016 to agree a bold ambition hold global temperature rises to 2C above preindustrial levels, preferably 1.5C, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Last week thousands of young people took to the streets to demonstrate against climate change. There is growing concern that we’re not going to meet our climate change targets.

New figures recently released by the Department for the Environment show that emissions of air pollutants have not dropped significantly over the past three years, despite the Government promising to tackle air pollution as a priority. Methane emissions are on the rise too. Methane is produced by cattle but also comes from decaying vegetation, fires, coal mines and natural gas plants. It is many times more potent as a cause of atmospheric warming than carbon dioxide yet we do little to curtail its production.

The figures show that this Tory Government is failing to tackle air pollution, which they described themselves as ‘the biggest environmental threat to public health.’

Long-term exposure to these emissions can cause heart and lung problems as well as potentially contribute to cancers, with the young and the old being particularly vulnerable. Air pollution has been linked to an estimated 40,000 premature deaths in the UK and labelled a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation. 

If we are serious about tackling air pollution and global warming we must act positively and act now. We are due to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2040. For me and many others that’s far too late, advocating 2032 as a more realistic target. The government must ramp up incentives to improve the charging infrastructure and restore the subsidy on electric vehicles which has recently been cut. Feed-in tariffs on solar panels  will end on 31 March 2019 marking the end of an incentive that has heralded an energy revolution in small scale renewables. Last July over 10% of our energy was produced by solar which would not have been possible without the feed-in tariff.

Have a generation ever been more poorly served than by this government? People deserve better and Liberal Democrats demand better. We would pass a new Clean Air Act, giving people the legal right to unpolluted air wherever they live. New Clean Air Zones must also be brought forward in the most polluted towns and cities. Cornwall Councillors have recently declared a ‘climate emergency’ and have committed to being carbon neutral by 2030. That’s an ambitious target but not unreasonable given the technological advances we have made and will continue to make in renewables, recycling and carbon neutral manufacturing.

The actions we take today will impact on our children and for generations to come. It’s no surprise that they are concerned for their future, but some commentators have criticised our youngsters for skipping school last last week to demonstrate. I suggest that going on a march to save the planet and understanding what is going on politically is the best form of education they can have. They have every right to demand a better future and we all know its not the Tories who will give it to them.

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