Every climate promise must be kept

In 2015, the Paris Agreement was seen as one of the biggest breakthrough moments which saw countries across the globe finally agree to work together to lower global warming by around 1.5 degrees, adapt to climate change impacts and put aside money to deliver these. Whilst there has been a lot of talk from each country about what they are going to do, not a lot are talking about what they are doing now. So far, global warming has not been limited to 1.5 degrees and time is running out to achieve this. The past decade was the warmest on record, and governments agree urgent collective action is needed.

COP26 is a movement to fight against climate change. The idea of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is for countries to set out a decisive plan to actively lower global warming as opposed to agreeing that this should be done. The experts are saying this is the moment that humanity will be judged by, if there isn’t a practical move to deliver on what has been promised by all the countries then it will be too late and generations to come will be living with the consequences. 

The main aims of COP26 include:

  • Securing global net zero by 2050 keeping 1.5 degrees within reach by reducing deforestation, accelerating the switch to electronic vehicles and renewable energy and phase-out the use of coal
  • Adaptations initiated to protect communities and natural habitats through the restoration of ecosystems and building resilient infrastructure for agriculture
  • Mobilising a minimum of $100bn to be spent on combating climate change per year by 2020
  • Collaboration between the countries to accelerate actions to tackle climate change

It is not all doom and gloom and there have been some successes, such as the shift towards clean energy with countries blacklisting coal. These targets are now being embedded in political deals and policies meaning countries are now accountable to hit these targets.

Honor Fletcher, your Students' Union President has said, “Climate Change is an increasing problem that urgently needs addressing. There is only a small window for the world to slow down climate change and avoid the worst of the consequences. We completely support the WWF initiative calling on our leaders to keep their promises and fight climate change. Please use the WWF ‘Tell Our Leaders Now’ to write to your MP, it’s a very simple process and only takes 2 minutes.”

Below is what the UK has done regarding securing global net zero.

The UK has committed to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Net zero is the point at which the country is taking as much of these climate-changing gases out of the atmosphere as it is putting in. As part of this promise, the government has a target to cut emissions by 68% by 2030, the government have since released a new target of 78% by 2035, compared with 1990 levels. Between 1990 and 2019 levels fell by 40%, with a big chunk of this coming from closing coal-fired power stations and spending money on solar, wind and nuclear energy. Use of coal has fallen sharply since 1990 with the UK as a world leader in offshore wind. But a group of experts that advises the government says Boris Johnson's government has credible policies in place to deliver only about a fifth of this cut.  

Cars and taxis accounted for 16% of UK emissions in 2019 and, in a bid to cut this, the government says no new petrol and diesel cars will be sold from 2030. The move to electric will also require huge growth in publicly accessible charging points. Their number has been rising but not fast enough last year to keep up with the growing number of electric vehicles. Trees have an important role in removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere - and the government has an ambitious target to plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year by 2025 (a hectare is a bit bigger than a football pitch). Annual tree planting was close to this figure back in the late 1980s (most of it in Scotland) but it has not risen above 15,000 hectares UK-wide since 2001.

If you want to make the government keep their climate promises, WWF are encouraging all members of the public to get involved with the ‘Tell our Leaders Campaign’. It is a quick and easy way for you to remind the UK Government about their promises, and the bst way to do this is through your local MP – so take a minute to let them know that we won’t forget.

For every person that does write a letter to their MP, if you could please send the receipt of this to volunteering@bucks.ac.uk so we can know how many of our members care about this issue and have suppored this campaign.