The government must act now to reduce climate change | Max Parry

Earlier this month, Theresa May and Michael Gove announced a new ’25-year environment plan’. Behind the flashy title and robotic soundbites, the Conservatives are introducing some very important, and long needed environmental reforms. The main pledge being the commitment to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. As a result of this, waste including carrier bags, food packaging and disposable plastic straws that clutter the countryside and pollute our oceans will be abolished. But with scientists predicting that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans that fish, is it enough? Is it too little too late?

The Conservatives will also be closing the loophole surrounding plastic bag costs for small businesses in England (which is already a policy in Wales), encouraging plastic free supermarket aisles and creating an extra 500,000 hectares of wildlife habitat, all of which will be overseen by a new environment watchdog.

However, whilst most agree it’s a step in the right direction, many experts are critical of the plans. Friends of the Earth’s CEO, Craig Bennett, criticised its failure to “get to the heart of the problems – especially the nation’s fossil fuel addition”.  Louise Edge of Greenpeace along with many other campaigners was disappointed at the absence of a bottle collection scheme “The most glaring gap is support for deposit return schemes. These are tried-and-tested ways to keep plastic bottles out of the environment and have strong public backing, yet there’s no trace of them in the government announcement.”

Craig Bennett is right, the focus needs to be on climate change and its main cause - fossil fuels. Forget Brexit, deal or no deal. They are all completely insignificant compared to climate change. In fact, everything else is insignificant (except perhaps nuclear war). Climate change is arguably the single most important issue our world currently faces, because without doing something about it now, we will have no world.

Over the past few years, there has been incredible progress on climate change. The argument is no longer whether it exists (today only 13% of the UK deny climate change), instead the argument has shifted to how best to combat it, how best to lobby governments and how to influence business to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement (2016) was a monumental step in the right direction, where 200 plus countries committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, for the first time in history. But with a climate change denier in the White House, and America subsequently withdrawing from the Paris agreement, the rest of us need to step up our efforts, including the government.

We all know that the effect of climate change would be catastrophic for humankind. Fifteen of the Sixteen warmest years on record, occurred in the 21st century. And as a consequence sea levels are rising, polar ice caps and glaciers are melting, oceans are warming, and more extreme weather events are happening. These are caused by deforestation and burning fossil fuels. But we can change all of this, it’s not too late, we need to act now – not in 25 years time.

Anyone looking at last years general election would forget that climate change existed, the coverage was appalling, as everything was focused around Brexit. Whilst I recognise Brexit is a substantial task, climate change is a colossal task. This very problem is because as humans, we are constantly occupied by the next task, the next meal, the next day, the short-term problems. But, we pay into our pensions, we prepare for obstacles in the future, we put aside inheritance for our children, prepare for the long-term. So why aren’t we preparing for climate change?

The Conservatives have said they are “committed to protecting the environment and leading the world in environmental protection.” The Tories haven’t been turning a blind eye to climate change, but at the same time haven't taken immediate bold steps to prevent it. They have committed to “reduce emissions in the most cost-effective way”, and pledged to phase out dirty fuels like coal by 2025. But, one of Theresa May’s first acts in number 10 was to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change. The Tories are also in favour of fracking, a third Heathrow runway and oppose on shore windfarms.

The opposition is offering more to tackle climate change, but then Corbyn’s magic money tree offers more for everything. Labour said it would ban fracking and transition into a low carbon economy. But is this enough? Are these just empty promises? Only the Green Party is genuinely standing up for climate change, but they only achieved 1.6% of the vote share, and have one MP out of 650.

The government needs to wake up and smell the coffee. One of the reasons it’s a minority government is because of the lack of climate change attention in June 2017. According to the think tank Bright Blue, who produced a survey based on young voters’ priorities, climate change is the issue 18-24 year olds most want politicians to talk about. This is one of the reasons why only 18% of 18-24 year olds voted Conservative, because they didn’t say a word about it.

The UK has an incredible opportunity to be world leaders in this new revolution, just as it was in the industrial revolution. I urge the government to seriously consider the prospect that the UK can be the first 100% renewable energy nation. Not only will we save the planet, but we will create thousands of long term jobs.

A brilliant example of clever, green, beautiful renewable energy is the proposed Swansea Bay Tidal lagoon, the first of its kind in the world. This project will create thousands of long term jobs in management, construction and many other sectors. Furthermore, it’ll power 155,000 homes for the next 120 years. This type of energy isn’t inconsistent like wind turbines for example, everyday without fail the tides come in and out, powering the motors, creating clean green energy. The project in Swansea will also boost tourism and be a unique attraction of South West Wales, hosting sporting events every year. We must lobby the government for a final decision on the lagoon.

To reduce climate change, we must reduce net emissions to zero, within a generation. The UBS calculates that within five years homes fully powered by a solar roof, a battery bank, and an electric vehicle will offer consumers a 7% annual rate of return on an investment paying back fully in six to eight years without a subsidy in sight.

Meanwhile, both the nuclear and shale industries, that the Tories support, openly admit they cannot add to UK electricity supply for at least 10 years, and will require multiple billions in giveaways to have a chance of finally reaching that point.

The Conservatives have a fantastic opportunity to regain the youth vote, ditch the nasty party image and make a real and positive difference to the world. The ‘25 year environment plan’ is positive and progress, but we need action now, not in a quarter of a decades time when it’s too late. We need clean green energy. I urge Theresa May to act, and act now.

Max Parry is a writer for Student Voices

The government must act now to reduce climate change | Max Parry The government must act now to reduce climate change | Max Parry Reviewed by Student Voices on 12:39 Rating: 5

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