The climate crisis is the most pressing challenge of our time. We are seeing its disastrous effects already around the globe.
The UK has a moral responsibility to take the lead in tackling this crisis. Firstly, as the pioneer of the industrial revolution we have been among the greatest producers of historical emissions. Secondly, we are a rich country who have the means to decarbonise more quickly than poorer countries. And thirdly, as Lord Deben the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change said this morning: “When you know, you have a responsibility to act.” We now know how to get to net-zero. We have a responsibility to do it.
Although the prime minister has committed this country to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, it is clear that this is only a desperate effort to build a legacy for herself. The hypocrisy of it is striking given that her government has relentlessly undermined the climate progress achieved by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition government.
Distant targets like 2050 are meaningless unless backed up by concrete short-term action. The Committee on Climate Change has reported that of its twenty five headline policy actions for the last year this government has only fully delivered one.
The Liberal Democrats are committed to achieving a net-zero target by 2045 but we recognise that this will only be achieved if vital steps are taken immediately.
For example we need to ban fracking now. It is unacceptable that this government supports the development of new fossil fuels when all of our efforts should be going into developing renewable sources of power. For example the Swansea Barrage, which this government blocked even though it would have allowed us to become world leaders in tidal power. This government has privatised the Green Investment Bank. It has stopped the growing solar power industry in its track and has all but banned onshore wind although it is now the cheapest form of renewable energy. And it is failing to lay out a clear roadmap that would allow industries to make long-term green investments.
But the most immediate thing we can do if we are serious about the climate emergency is to stop Brexit.
Climate change is a global problem and the fight against it requires coordinated international action. The EU as our closest geographical neighbour is a good place to start.
Through its institutions we have learnt how to negotiate and bring together separate national interest under a commonly shared vision. This process is not easy and it is not perfect but it is far preferable to going it alone. The EU has taken the lead when it comes to international climate change action and has, for example, introduced projects like emissions trading schemes and interconnectors between national grids.
EU directives have required member states to take decisive action even when national governments would have done otherwise - like our current government, which has preferred to delay action in order to serve vested interests.
The EU has built environmental protections into its dealings with the rest of the world, putting key protections at the heart of its trade deals.
Outside of the EU we will be weaker. We will have less clout against, for example the United States, which might impose environmentally-harmful terms upon us as a condition for any trade deal.
History will not look kindly on us for leaving the European Union just at the moment when our moral responsibility is to protect our planet and work together. We should be placing ourselves at the heart of the European project because the climate emergency demands it.
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