Socialist Worker

Tories ignore warnings to take action to stop climate chaos

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2711

Extinction Rebellion condemned the governments lack of action

Extinction Rebellion, seen here on a protest last year, condemned the government's lack of action (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The government is being urged to use a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to stop catastrophic climate change, says a new report.

Government body the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warned in its annual parliamentary report, released on Thursday, that the Tories aren’t taking the action needed to halt climate and ecological chaos.

It said the key cabinet committee on climate change had only met once since Boris Johnson took personal charge of the issue in October last year.

The CCC is calling for an outlook from the government that considers both the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and puts in place a “green stimulus”.

Lord Debden, the committee’s chairman said that Britain “is facing its biggest economic shock for a generation. Meanwhile, the global crisis of climate change is accelerating.

“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to address these urgent challenges together—it’s there for the taking.”

Recovery

Yet Debden, who last year said the government's climate change efforts were being run “like Dad’s Army,” said the “window of opportunity is closing already” for a green recovery.

A central demand is that the government accelerate moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. At the current rate of progress, the Tories are set to greatly exceed such a target.

Greenhouse gas emissions fell by 3.2 percent last year but must fall much faster to meet the 2050 deadline.

And the report also calls for wide-ranging measures including energy efficient homes, schemes for cycling and walking, tree planting and restoring peatland.

Other key priorities include increasing recycling rates and banning landfill sites, retraining and redeploying workers in the oil and gas companies into services that capture and store carbon emissions.

And the CCC recommended that any bailouts of polluting industries must have “green strings” attached, to encourage firms to become more environmentally friendly.

Extinction Rebellion activists marched from the Treasury to Downing Street in central London on Thursday to demand urgent action from the government.

Tories’ assembly of inaction on climate change
Tories’ assembly of inaction on climate change
  Read More

Incompetence

Alanna Byrne from the direct action group said, “The government’s lack of action on this should terrify everyone. Their absolute incompetence and unwillingness to do what’s in the best interest of people’s safety is astounding.

“We have an opportunity now to build on a green recovery from the coronavirus—which the prime minister insisted was a priority—and it's becoming clearer each day that’s not going to happen.

“I don’t know what else we can do now other than come out on the street and take our own action,” she said.

It shows how disastrous the Tories’ climate change policy is, that its own body casts such a critical eye over its progress.

Yet the framework of the CCC report still relies on inadequate measures.

Billions of pounds have been gifted to the aviation, manufacturing and car industries as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

It is not enough simply to attach environmental conditions to companies belching out carbon on an industrial scale.

They should be stripped of this money and instead funds should be poured into creating, well paid, unionised jobs in a publicly owned and green sector.

And the report’s emphasis on carbon capture and storage technology relies on the myths pushed by the fossil fuel industry and the governments that support them.

At present, technology only exists to capture carbon from the atmosphere and neutralise on it on a very small scale.

There are no initiatives that can neutralise the carbon already in the atmosphere on anything like the scale needed to make Britain carbon neutral.

Real progress on deadly levels of greenhouse gases can only come about through a transformative change across all industries, not on vague hopes and technology that doesn’t exist yet.

Action by climate rebels and school strikers over the last two years show that pressure can be put on the climate change delayers and deniers at the top of society.

More resistance by wider layers of people will be needed to push through the revolutionary change that is more desperately needed than ever before.


Bailouts soar to billions for airline and auto bosses

A central demand from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is that the government speed up moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

It’s been one year since then-prime minister Theresa May signed into law a target of hitting net zero emissions by 2050.

That means a level where much lower emissions are offset by technology that captures carbon or by “carbon sinks” such as forests, which can absorb carbon.

Yet the government is on track to miss a deadline that is already decades too late to avoid climate catastrophe.

John Sauven, Greenpeace UK executive director, said, “The practical measures taken by the government over the past 12 months add up to a tiny fraction of what is needed to keep us on course to meet that commitment.”

Transformational changes would be needed to decarbonise Britain in anything near the time the Tories are claiming.

Coronavirus round up: Profiteering rich look for handouts as they slash jobs
Coronavirus round up: Profiteering rich look for handouts as they slash jobs
  Read More

Yet instead of radically changing the energy, manufacturing and transport sectors, the Tory government is pumping money into keeping them afloat.

It has spent billions of pounds bailing out airlines, car manufacturers and oil firms that are suffering under the effects of the coronavirus.

Honda, Nissan and Toyota have received over £1 billion between them from the Bank of England coronavirus fund. And British Airways, EasyJet, Wizz Air and Ryanair also grabbed handouts.

Oilfield service company Baker Hughes took £600 million while competitor Schlumberger received £150 million.

The CCC recommended that any bailouts of polluting industries must have “green strings” attached. The hope is to encourage firms to become more environmentally friendly.

It is not enough simply to attach environmental conditions to companies belching out carbon on an industrial scale.

They should be stripped of this money.

The funds should be poured into creating well paid, unionised jobs in a publicly owned and democratically run green sector.

Real progress on greenhouse gas levels won’t come from private firms that fight for the interests of profit, not planet.


Reccomendations fail to capture the potential

 The report’s emphasis on carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology relies on the myths pushed by fossil fuel interests and the hopes of governments that support them.

At present, technology only exists to capture carbon from the atmosphere and neutralise it on a very small scale.

There aren’t initiatives that can neutralise the carbon already in the atmosphere on anything like the scale needed to make Britain carbon neutral.

It’s much safer to stop industrial burning of fossil fuels rather than hope the technology can be developed to capture and store them at a later date.


Four degree rise too high

The CCC is recommending that the government “demonstrate adaptation planning for a minimum 2 degree and consideration of a 4 degree global temperature rise”.

But a 4 degree rise would mean unprecedented heatwaves, severe drought and major floods.

The heat rise will make much of Earth’s land mass uninhabitable and sea levels could rise by two metres or more, engulfing low lying island communities.

This isn’t a prospect far off in the future. The World Bank estimated in 2012 that 4 degree warming could occur as early as the 2060s.


Connect the struggles

Climate strike figurehead Greta Thunberg has stepped up her calls for radical change. She argues movements such as Me Too, Black Lives Matter and the school strikes are “interconnected”.

“We can no longer look away from what our society has bee n ignoring for so long, whether it is equality, justice or sustainability,” she said.


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