Earth on fire from climate change

As a new MEP representing the North West, it’s been a fascinating and hugely positive start. Being part of the larger European Greens group has made so much more seem possible.

The power and influence of the Greens in Europe has already led the way on banning single-use plastics and chasing down tax-dodging corporations but with urgent action required to avert the worst of the climate emergency, time feels short.

Cooking the climate books

There’s a clarity and unity on the issues we’ve discussed this past week, which has been a breath of fresh air; soon stifled this morning by a Financial Times article revealing that UK cabinet ministers are essentially ‘cheating’ with the figures on carbon; in order to improve how we appear on performance, without doing what’s needed.

It reports:

Ministers decided over the weekend to use past over-performance in emissions reductions by all sectors of the economy, to relax the agreed limits up to 2027, ignoring a warning from the government’s climate advisory group.

It’s like we’re putting out a fire and we’re doing a little better than we thought… so we all take it a bit easier now.

They’ve taken what should be a ‘credit’ in our reductions (due largely to the recession) and instead added it to the next accounting of the reductions target, in order to achieve less during that period. Is this cheating? Mike Childs of Friends of the Earth is quoted as saying: “It is not illegal, but it is definitely fiddling.”

Morally dodgy, financially dodgy and ethically dodgy

This really matters on many levels from moral to financial and ethical.

Morally: Is this how we want our government to view the crisis in our environment and climate? As a set of figures to be manipulated rather than facing the hard, important truths and getting us safer, sooner?

Financially: Should the economy outweigh the environment when decisions about climate action are made? Do the interests and influence of big business play a part in the thinking that prioritises their interests, over the health and well-being of the people and resources we rely on to survive?

Ethically: According to a report out this week, nearly 30,000 early deaths could be prevented every year in the UK if we stop burning fossil fuels. Prof Sir Andrew Haines of European Academies’ Science Advisory Council said: “Climate change has to be ranked as one of the most serious threats to health.”

A government failing on climate

With the government hoping to host next year’s COP26 UN Climate Summit and Theresa May set to adopt the recommendation of Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for “one of the most ambitious long-term carbon targets in the world”, the messages couldn’t be more mixed or convoluted.

The current state of the world has to be faced head-on with the kind of truth and clarity I’m witnessing in our European group but failing to see any hint of in this government.

It was only a month ago that the a Climate Emergency was declared in Westminster; an act that still didn’t put a halt to fracking, new runways or a new coal mine nor did it see new policy support for renewables. In fact, the reverse as the number of jobs in and building of renewable energy in the UK plunged by nearly a third in recent years. These figures come from a new report from the Union Prospect that acknowledges “between 2014 and 2017, the government cuts to incentives and support schemes started to seriously bite” with investments down more than half.

With Theresa May going on Friday, Trump appearing against a flood of protests, and Brexit chaos stuck on the circular track of the Tory leadership contest, there’s lots of reasons to declare this government morally bankrupt. The future will put climate inaction at the top of the list of reasons for that verdict if the government doesn’t face reality soon.