The colossal challenge facing human civilisation, of ending our reliance on fossil fuels in short order, has almost certainly been made harder by the pandemic. Ever since scientists discovered that the Earth was warming as a result of human activity, it has been a struggle to get people, governments and businesses to do anything about it. Even in those countries least resistant to the evidence of rapidly approaching danger, something else was usually seen as more important. In the past few months, once again, the climate emergency has been knocked off the top of world leaders’ to-do list by the more immediate threat of the virus. Recognising this, the environmental movement came up with the excellent idea of a green recovery. The annual report published on Thursday by the Committee on Climate Change, which provides official advice to the UK government, is a crucial, national component of that global effort. It sets out to tell Boris Johnson, his ministers and the British public how we can embed the lessons of Covid-19 in the next phase of carbon cuts. There is some hopeful news, amid the destruction: because of the economic contraction caused by the pandemic, global emissions are expected to fall by 5-10% in 2020. In the UK, the switch to home-working has been far swifter and more dramatic than anything envisioned by climate policymakers. If this can be sustained post-pandemic, the reduction in transport emissions could be huge. Boris Johnson has only chaired one meeting of the cabinet committee on climate change set up last October. This fact on its own is dismal. But the opportunity remains. Next week he is expected to set out how the UK government will approach the recovery. Preparations for the postponed Cop26 climate talks are the ideal way to make this a global discussion. Can Mr Johnson show more effective leadership in the climate crisis than he has during the pandemic? For the UK in 2020 there are few more important questions.
Guardian 25th June 2020 read more »
Kevin Anderson, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, had a familiar reaction to the latest report from the government’s climate advisers, which was published this week. The 196-page document by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) delivered a stinging rebuke of the government’s record and said ministers must urgently up their game if the UK is to avoid a significant rebound in carbon emissions after the coronavirus crisis and meet its 2050 net zero carbon target. Anderson is a professor of energy and climate change, working across the universities of Manchester, Uppsala in Sweden and Bergen in Norway. He said: “The constructive, meticulous criticism of the government, which is failing abysmally by any measure, is fine. The problem is the framing the CCC has for net zero is already far removed from what is needed to meet our Paris commitments.” Anderson’s latest research argues the UK’s planned reductions in emissions, even if it hits net zero by 2050, would be two or three times greater than its fair share of emissions under the landmark 2015 Paris agreement, where countries agreed to hold global increases in temperature to “well below 2C and to pursue 1.5C”. We have collectively denied the necessary scale of mitigation, running scared of calling for fundamental changes to both our energy system and the lifestyles of high-energy users. Our paper brings this failure into sharp focus.” Shortly after the study was published, Anderson posted a warning on Twitter about what he described as a cosy consensus between senior academics, journalists and government scientists, who were unwilling to publicly acknowledge the urgent system-level transformation required to tackle the climate crisis.
Guardian 26th June 2020 read more »