Anna McMorrin: Climate change is reaching a crisis point – let’s start acting like it

Posted On: 
14th January 2019

The world is running out of time to deal with climate change. It's time for the government to face up to the imminent risks and take this crisis seriously, writes Anna McMorrin

The UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in December
Credit: 
PA

One of the most unforgettable speeches at the COP24 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Poland at the end of last year was by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden.

The teenager stole the show by eloquently levelling at the global gathering of ministers, diplomats and negotiators: “You only speak of green eternal economic growth because you are too scared to be unpopular. You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess.” In doing so, she summed up the sense of disappointment felt by communities, campaigners, and politicians around the world at yet another missed opportunity to prevent runaway climate change.

Many of us will have seen the deeply troubling conclusions of the IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change, concluding that rises in temperature due to global warming need to be limited to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. COP24 was an opportune moment for the 196 governments in attendance to take action on this report. Instead, they all collectively decided to kick the can down the road, pushing any decisions on countries cutting emissions to 2020. This is despite the IPCC’s grave warning that the world has just over a decade to halve emissions, which would greatly help climate stability.

Alarmingly, the UK is now on course to miss its carbon reduction targets and a legally binding 15 per cent renewable target by 2020. Yet, there was not one mention of climate change in the 2018 Autumn Budget. No response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report to limit Global Warming to 1.5 °C. No plan for the future.

That is why it is vital that we debate the ‘Response of UK Government to 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference’ this week, because even though Brexit is dominating political debate, people in the UK deserve an oral report and explanation by UK ministers on their contribution and commitment at the UNFCCC on our behalf.

And this debate can’t come soon enough.

While I acknowledge that ministers talked up their new Capacity Building for International Negotiations Programme at COP24, providing £15.6m worth of technical assistance funding to low income and climate vulnerable countries to become louder voices in international climate negotiations, you can’t just throw money at a problem and hope it goes away. The UK Government needs to deliver far, far more to help to reduce worldwide emissions.

If we are to meet our Paris Climate Change Agreement, we need a clear strategy which includes targets. Climate action must be an integral part of our economic growth strategy from top down and bottom up.

We should not only be ensuring fair subsidies for renewable energy technologies, including onshore wind and solar, but we should also be empowering our communities to take action. Hardwiring the ability for our communities to be responsible and sustainable and rooting climate action in everything we do.

As Greta Thunberg told COP24: “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope… We have run out of excuses and we are running out of time.” I strongly agree.

It is time for the UK Government to stop going around in circles and face up to the imminent risks and take climate change seriously. We are rapidly reaching a crisis point, we need to start acting like it.   

Anna McMorrin is Labour MP for Cardiff North and a former specialist advisor for Environment and Climate Change in the Welsh Government. The Westminster Hall debate on the government's response to the UN climate change conference is on Wednesday at 4.30pm.