Keynsham Voice April column: Climate Emergency

In March this year, B&NES Council declared a Climate Emergency, following in the footsteps of local Councils around England. The cross-party motion means that the Council has committed to making B&NES carbon neutral by 2030. It’s an ambitious target, but it’s looking increasingly necessary.

That so many Councils are declaring a Climate Emergency speaks to the lack of leadership from central government. Just three weeks after the International Panel on Climate Change reported that we’re likely to see warming of 1.5C within eleven years, the Chancellor presented a budget that didn’t even mention climate change.

A planet warmed by 1.5C will mean devastating consequences, from the loss of most coral reefs and increased extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods. But scarily, even if we cut our carbon emissions to zero by 2030, we’re still on track to see 1.5C warming. And if we don’t curb them? Then 2C or even higher is on the table, and that’s truly terrifying.

Can local Climate Emergency motions provide the radical action we need to prevent runaway climate change? It’s difficult to say, especially when other issues like the local economy and jobs come into play. Nearly half of B&NES Councillors voted against the first meaningful action on climate change that was asked of them – to oppose the expansion of Bristol Airport. Expanding the airport will cause higher carbon emissions and make it extremely hard to meet our target. But extra flights bring increased tourism and jobs, boosting the local economy.

As we become more aware of the dangers of climate change, we’ll face more of these difficult trade-offs. There’s no easy answer to tackling global warming, but unpalatable decisions from our politicians are, I think, inevitable, such as a carbon tax on meat and restricting air travel.

Older generations of voters won’t like this threat to their freedom of choice, but as the schoolchildren striking to raise awareness of the urgency of climate change have shown us, it’s their future we’re playing fast and loose with, and they’re not going to sit back and let us get away with it. The B&NES declaration gives them one more tool to hold us all to account.

Published in Keynsham Voice, April 2019, www.keynshamvoice.co.uk

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