Is government doing enough?

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We are heating up

A couple of recent articles in Rye News have reported on the rise of Extinction Rebellion in Rye. There has been the suggestion that it is unclear as to what precisely the government should be doing to prevent climate change.

Our own MP, Amber Rudd, wrote an article last week in the Hastings and Rye Observer, in which she stated that ‘leaving the environment in a better state than we found it is a priority for everyone. It is something I am extremely committed to and so is the government… I’ve recently played my role in pushing the government to commit to eliminating our net carbon emissions.’

One of the key tenets of Extinction Rebellion is to ‘tell the truth’. Here are just a few articles that appeared in some of the press over the last months, these include:

  • Efforts to end fuel poverty and energy waste by making the UK’s draughty homes more efficient have collapsed by almost 85%. The number of energy efficiency upgrades undertaken each month has fallen to 10,000, compared with an average of 65,000 a month in 2014. At this rate it would take 96 years for the government to reach its own targets to reduce fuel poverty. It is a fraction of what is required to ensure 1.2m homes are renovated each year until 2035. [1]
  • The government’s own advisers have declared themselves shocked that the UK has no proper plans for protecting people from heatwaves, flash flooding and other impacts of the climate crisis. The Committee on Climate Change said the UK’s climate crisis preparations were being run like Dad’s Army and left the population at real risk, adding that funding for programmes to tackle problems resulting from global heating had been cut. Just one of the 25 emissions-cutting policies it said were vital in 2018 have been delivered in full. [2]
  • Sales of low-emission cars in the UK have fallen for the first time in more than two years. In last year’s Budget, subsidies for plug-in hybrids were scrapped, and reduced for battery electric vehicles. Efforts to sell such cars were being undermined by confusing policies and premature removal of subsidies. [3]
  • A report by MPs calling for fast-fashion retailers to address their impact on the environment and working conditions has been rejected by the government. MPs made 18 recommendations including requiring firms to contribute towards the clean-up costs for waste garments. The fashion industry accounts for 20 per cent of wastewater and 10 per cent of carbon emissions globally. [4]
  • Britain increased support for fossil fuel projects overseas to almost £2bn last year, marking an elevenfold increase over the previous 12 months. Parliament’s environmental audit committee said the UK was sabotaging its climate credentials by providing “unacceptably high” subsidies that locked poorer nations into a fossil fuel future. A separate study this year found the UK led the European Union in giving subsidies to fossil fuels. By comparison, support for renewables last year slumped to £700,000. [5]
  • Ammonia and nitrogen pollution, mostly from farms, is harming more than 60% of the UK’s land area and hitting the most sensitive habitats for plants and wildlife hardest, a government report has found, despite there being no clear plans to monitor or reduce its impact. England is worst hit, with 95% of sites overloaded with the pollutants. At least 3,000 deaths a year could be prevented by halving agricultural emissions of ammonia. [6]
  • Tree-planting in England fell well short of targets in the past year, despite government promises to restore and plant new woodland across the country to combat the climate change crisis. Only 1,420 hectares (3,507 acres) of trees were planted in England in the year to March 2019, against the government’s target of 5,000 hectares in the period. Figures show that planting of new trees, and replacing those felled, in England is near a historic low. [7]
  • The number of jobs in renewable energy in the UK has plunged by nearly a third in recent years, and the amount of new green generating capacity by a similar amount, causing havoc among companies in the sector. The drastic fall in jobs came as the government effectively shut down schemes that rewarded consumers for buying solar panels, withdrew subsidies for onshore wind and reduced incentives for low-carbon energy. [8]
  • A vital global climate monitoring scheme on Ascension Island, a remote UK island in the middle of the Atlantic, is being axed. It provided crucial data about how oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide and the atmosphere’s response to our burning of fossil fuels. [9]

These articles – which don’t even include more widely covered aspects such as fracking or airport expansions – are not indicative of a government that is committed to eliminating our net carbon emissions anytime soon, in fact all indications are that the direction of travel is backwards. The government is not meeting most of its own environmental targets, which are much more modest than those that are needed in reality, as called for by Extinction Rebellion.

Amber Rudd claims to be supporting Energise Sussex Coast, which amongst other things is involved in installing solar panels to schools in Hastings. However, local initiatives on their own, laudable as they are, will not by a considerable margin make the difference that she claims.

It is of great concern to many that this government is failing to take the matter of climate change seriously. Setting targets for more than thirty years from now, without any tangible action in the meantime, is no solution at all. The government must call a climate emergency now, and act accordingly. As the former Environment Secretary, Amber Rudd more than anybody knows the truth. It is time to tell it.

[1] “UK energy-saving efforts collapse after government subsidy cuts”. The Guardian. 18 July 2019.
[2] “UK’s lack of plans to protect people from climate crisis ‘shocking’, say advisers”. The Guardian. 10 July 2019.
[3] “‘Grave concern’ as sales of low emission cars fall”. BBC News website. 4 July 2019.
[4] “UK government rejects calls for fast fashion retailers to address impact on the environment”. Independent.co.uk. 18 June 2019.
[5] “UK committed nearly £2bn to fossil fuel projects abroad last year”. The Guardian. 27 June 2019.
[6] “Ammonia pollution damaging more than 60% of UK land – report”. The Guardian. 18 June 2019.
[7] “Tree-planting in England falls 71% short of government target”. The Guardian. 13 June 2019.
[8] “Renewable energy jobs in UK plunge by a third”. The Guardian. 30 May 2019.
[9] “Vital global climate monitoring scheme axed on remote UK island”. New Scientist. 6 June 2019.

Image Credits: BBC .

8 COMMENTS

  1. Well done Dominic with your research.
    Amber Rudd is now confirmed as a minister in the new government, and is being economical with the truth, as is the whole Cabinet.
    To cut spending on insulation, tree planting, solar energy, electric cars, etc is stupid. It’s as though the government has made a list of all the projects which must be supported, then cut them all.
    The last few days of freak hot weather across Europe has shown that Climate Change is not an esoteric theory. It is happening now and with increasing rapidity.
    Government has to put the subject at the top of its agenda and take action now, not in 30 years time.

  2. For those bleating about climate change, for the record in 1976,we had 16 days of temperatures over 30c 86f, and also 5 days exceeded 35c 95f.lets make a start by banning wood burners, if we are going to be serious about climate change.

    • Yes 1976 was hot, I remember it well. But don’t confuse weather with climate shifts.

      The thing is that the 1970s as a whole was not unusual. The average global temperature for the decade was in line with the average for 1950 – 1980 which is the baseline commonly used to measure the temperature anomolies that we refer to as climate change. The 1980s was warmer than the 1970s, the 1990s warmer still, and the 2000s the warmest modern decade. The current decade is in line to beat this but we still have 2 more years to measure to know for sure. And globally 9 of the warmest years on record have been this century

      This suggests to me that the climate is shifting and we should all be wondering how far will it go and what will be the impacts. I would also expect my elected government to have this as a priority, which unfortunately they do not.

  3. WARNING: Not everybody accepts the facts about climate change. It is tempting to assume that the understanding most people have about climate change and species extinction is shared by everyone. But this is not the case. If contemplating more extreme actions to persuade the government to face up to the “emergency” it would make sense to remember that this group of people who still doubt the facts are a politically important part of our society. It will require patience and good manners to convince them to support the urgent actions and changes to our lifestyle that are inevitably going to be needed. But their support is essential.

    • I cannot agree Christopher. The precautionary principle would dictate that those who doubt the science should nevertheless immediately stop burning fossil fuels until they know that it is safe to continue – that burden is on them. There is no excuse in this day and age of the internet and libraries to not engage in science and factual evidence, which is as you know compelling. There is no point therefore in engaging now with invincible ignorance, which many environmentalists have been attempting for decades. Time has run out, not everybody needs convincing to enact change.

      • Further to Dominic’s reply to Christopher, it’s not actually necessary to convince the sceptics, and I have given up spending any time trying to persuade them. Instead, the goal of Extinction Rebellion is to get 3.5% of the population sufficiently engaged to get out on the streets and cause disruption through non-violent direct action. There will of course be a larger group who support the action but aren’t able or willing to to take part. But it does *not* need to be everyone, it just needs to be enough people to create system change. This is a life or death situation now, so we are not going to wait patiently for everyone to agree. If the socioeconomic system changes such that the environmental damage stops, even the sceptics will be living green lives, because that will be the only option.

  4. Carbon free energy is not carbon free. Electric vehicles require huge amounts of Co2 emissions to produce. The batteries, which have a limited life, create as many problems in attempts to recycle them. Solar panels and windmills use huge amounts of material, but cover nature in swathes of concrete preventing nature’s own method of dealing with carbon. Added to the madness is the fact that wind power is only 20% efficient and requires costly back up. The increase in allergies is certainly not helped by the mania for airtight homes and the black mould now so prevalent because of them.

    Nuclear. Hydrogen, wave and energy from waste including sewage are all environmentally friendly. Why are we, largely, ignoring them? It seems absurd that climate warriors are effectively supporting big business in destroying the planet with steel, carbon fibre, copper and concrete just because wind is supposedly free.

    732 years ago a huge storm destroyed old Winchelsea and rearranged the coastline and river courses in Kent and Sussex. The following year the same happened in the Netherlands. There have been five mass extinctions on our planet, all before fossil fuel was used. If we had a time machine we could sit out side the Town Hall and whisk ourselves from the tropics to the Antarctic, because all those conditions have been experienced in the town. Indeed. Our last mini ice age was in Victorian times when factories and houses chucked coal smoke into the atmosphere with gay abandon.

    Reading some of the comments from extinction rebellion took me back to the days of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The only certainty of fanaticism is that it makes things worse. Mother nature is a survivor and we are just the latest species to have hitched a ride. If we want to continue I think it’s time for cool heads and common sense.

  5. I read all the above and the conflict of views between commentators here is one big reason why we remain inert, seemingly hapless victims so far to a climate crisis of our own making. The evidence of mass global climate crisis is overwhelming. We need to act now, we need new strategies in which to act, government here is not sufficiently effective, so XR is attempting to jump in and actually do something. That should be applauded and encouraged with all of our support and engagement, because we all do need to act now. XR are developing their strategies, they are a new organisation and developing their strategies piece meal, some seemingly bizarre, but let’s give them our support and see where we go. Otherwise nothing substantive is happening. Rye and its environs is topographically most vulnerable to sea level increases, so we all here should be doubly concerned to act: and act now. Let’s all at least attend the imminent XR local meeting and learn more what we might all do in that regard.

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