It’s time to declare a climate change emergency, says CEO of Peterborough environment charity
Here we are, in 2019. And it feels like change is in the air, writes Carly Leonard, chief executive of Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT).
As the CEO of PECT, the environmental charity, our organisation has worked hard at encouraging behaviour change and bringing sustainability issues to the forefront of people’s minds for over two decades.
It has always been hard to convey the urgency and seriousness of environmental issues. However, in recent years, I have found that discussions around climate change seem to have passed from a position of lower priority and disbelief, through to higher understanding and the accompanying fear of the consequences. Now we’re seeing a massive uprising in the desire to make a difference.
2019: the year when environmental issues moved to the forefront of public consciousness, when the need for immediate action became so compelling it could no longer be ignored.
2019: the year when vegan and vegetarian products became the UK’s fastest growing food trend. This massive upsurge has been driven by environmental, health and welfare reasons. Just as an example, 250,000 people signed up for the Veganuary campaign in 2018 compared to just 3,300 participants five years ago. This is incredible.
2019: the year when one 16-year-old girl, a student and climate activist stood up for making a difference and showed how the power of rhetoric can carve a route through the previous inaction and inarticulation of those who lead us. She spoke for us all.
She was right when she stood up to MEPs and EU officials and explained that: “The extinction rate is up to 10,000 times faster than what is considered normal, with up to 200 species becoming extinct every single day.” And she was right to class these issues as an ‘emergency’.
In September 2018, the world’s leading climate scientists made a stark warning: our current actions are not enough for us to meet our target of 1.5C of warming. We need to do more. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on MPs to declare an emergency and pledge to tackle these issues.
On 2nd May 2019 the Committee on Climate Change asked the Government to set a new target to reach net zero emissions before 2050, boost renewable energy, invest in low carbon technology and green jobs, and bring in measures to cut waste. In a historic move, MPs have now passed a motion to declare an ‘environment and climate emergency.’
Our impact on the world, as a growing human population, is undeniable, and action must be taken sooner, because there may not be a ‘later’. The ‘Climate Emergency’ is being declared by councils across the UK. Many of them are following it up with their own plans for carbon neutrality by 2030.
Some of these changes might mean limiting the use of fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable sources of energy, ending the use of petrol and diesel cars, eating less meat and planting an estimated 1.5 billion trees across the UK.
It will require tens of billions of pounds of investment every year, but not acting would be far more costly and the changes would deliver a cleaner and healthier society for the future.
As a charity, we’re calling upon all councils to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ – see here for a map of all the councils that have already declared a state of emergency. If you agree, then please write to your local council and MPs and ask them to commit to making a difference. Make 2019 the year when change happened.