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