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Britain’s rulers are in a state of climate denial

A new government-commissioned report says climate change is already hitting Britain hard—and it’s going to get far worse. Sophie Squire details how the government is dangerously unprepared to deal with rising temperatures—and talks to those fighting back
Issue 2849
Climate protesters march in Edinburgh

Climate protesters march in Edinburgh as COP27 took place in Egypt, 2022 (Picture: Colin Hattersley)

Devastating food and water shortages, homes that become so hot they can kill, and frequent flooding will be the new norm unless we adapt to a changing climate. But, as a new establishment report finds, Britain is woefully unprepared for the climate crisis.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which is sponsored by the ­government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, released a new report last week detailing how Britain is a decade behind when it comes to climate adaptation.

The report found that the National Adaptation Programme (NAP), which sets out how the government and others will adapt to climate change, isn’t good enough. Running from 2018 until this year, the report described the second NAP as suffering from a “lack of ambition” and not addressing all the risks posed by ­climate change.

The authors warn that “for no ­outcome have we been able to conclude that there is sufficient evidence that reductions in climate exposure and vulnerability are happening at rates needed to appropriately manage risk.”

They also admit there is a worrying lack of data that would have helped them further assess the extent of the crisis. Across almost every sector, the report found a potentially catastrophic lack of preparedness for the effects of global heating.

The report describes a “lack of ­planning” in local councils to deal with climate change. It says that any ­existing emergency planning only ­currently focuses on flooding, not other climate related disasters.

And a lack of preparedness for ­climate change is a theme that runs throughout the report. Developers are still ­building homes without any adaptation that can shield their ­occupants from rising temperatures, flooding or extreme weather.

Flood risks are rising across Britain, yet housing is still being built in places in danger. And as it stands, if a developer wants to build houses by the coast, they have no statuary obligation to ensure that these homes are protected from coastal erosion.

The report also finds a lack of ­understanding of what it will take to stop existing homes from overheating. And our health is already suffering from a lack of preparedness. The authors say there is a “lack of policy and ­funding to address climate risks in existing health and social care buildings.”

It warns that “adaptation planning across NHS Trusts, Integrated Care Systems and social care providers is needed.” Even sectors considered to have been adapting well to the crisis aren’t anymore.

The report highlights the need for water firms to do more to protect supplies, reduce overall demand for water and stop leakages. Perhaps most shocking is the way the report notes that climate change rarely ­features in discussions about the resilience of food chains. It describes how the government’s ­department for ­international trade highlighted five areas for building resilience in supply chains—climate change was never explicitly considered.

Overall the CCC paints a ­shocking ­picture of a society completely ­unprepared for an accelerating crisis. But it shies away from what this will actually mean. What the report avoids saying is that this unpreparedness will lead to more death, displacement and disease—­especially for poor and vulnerable people. 

Instead the report presents a vision of what needs to be done that is limited by the confines of the current system. A vision that won’t be enough to stop the collapse of society.

It cites more investment, new bodies to be set up to monitor and develop adaptation plans and policy reform as the answer. The report calls for the next NAP, which is set to be released in the summer of this year, to be much more ambitious.

But yet another report won’t be enough to ensure the government takes the vital steps needed. Our rulers are locked into a system of international competition. And that’s why they will not break from the fossil fuel industry that is accelerating the crisis.

The Tories wholly back the bosses, and are more interested in keeping profits healthy, not saving the planet. This was shown when they revealed their net-zero plan in Aberdeen last Thursday.

This plan for reducing emissions mainly focused on investment in unproven and unreliable technologies like carbon ­capture and storage. These technologies keep the fossil fuel industry intact.

So it will take more than reports to get the Tories to act with the urgency that is needed—it will be a mass ­movement on the streets that puts those in power under pressure they can’t ignore.

Jailed climate activist attacks ‘corrupt’ system

“I saw the corruption of it all, and knew I had to tell the truth,” says climate activist Giovanna Lewis. She was imprisoned for simply mentioning the climate crisis during the court case following her arrest for blocking a road.

Alongside Giovanna fellow activist Amy Pritchard was released on Monday after three and a half weeks in prison. The two Insulate Britain supporters blocked a London road in 2021 and were charged with causing a public nuisance. They refused to stay silent after judge Silas Reid ordered them not to talk about climate change in court.

Giovanna told Socialist Worker that her experience has made it clear which side the law is on.

“Three of us were in the trial, and we represented ourselves,” she said. “I was surprised about how much discussion goes on when the jury isn’t in the room.

“So much of the evidence and questioning goes on without them there. Judge Silas Reid was great at making your questions seem irrelevant. He’s very skilful at his craft.

“He kept asking us if we wanted help with writing our defence statement, saying we’d get something wrong. But I didn’t want him to help. It wasn’t my plan to do what I did in court. But in the moment, I saw the corruption of it all. That’s when I knew I had to tell the truth.

“The judge tried to tell us there were only two reasons why we defied him—either to influence the jury or to carry on our protest. I stood up and said we had a third reason, and that it was because it was the right thing to do.”

Giovanna and Amy are set to find out on Friday if there will be a retrial after the jury failed to reach a majority verdict on the public nuisance charge. The two activists were taken to HMP Bronzefield. “We were separated and I was taken to the detox wing, as there wasn’t space for me in the rest of the prison,” said Giovanna.

“There I met other women prisoners who, when they heard about what I had done, supported me and said what I had done was right. I was then moved to another part of the prison, into a room that used to be for just one person. Another bed and chest of drawers had been crammed in there to accommodate two people. From my time inside, what’s clear to me is that prisons are overcrowded and under-resourced.”

Giovanna added, “It really hit me on the second night in prison that if a retrial happens and I’m found guilty, I’ll have to go back again. But I don’t have any regrets. It’s never pleasant to go to prison.

“But our case has highlighted just how unjust the system is. Someone needs to stand up and say, ‘sometimes you need to break laws because the law is wrong’.”

Every trade unionist, campaigner and activist should be outraged that climate protesters are being imprisoned for telling the truth and stand with them.

Join Extinction Rebellion as it makes a return to streets

Extinction Rebellion (XR) will kick off its next rebellion in just over two weeks. The group plans to get thousands of people to gather and protest outside parliament from 21-24 April for an event it has dubbed “The Big One”.

The Big One is a chance for the climate movement to head back to the streets and rage against the climate-killing actions of the Tories and the bosses.

Jim is an XR activist in Norwich. He explained to Socialist Worker how he and other members of the group are preparing for The Big One. “Locally we’ve been having meetings to mobilise people. We’ll also have a job to do of re-engaging those that might have dropped out of action.

“When I go out leafleting, it’s quite encouraging. People are already saying they are planning to go. We’ve booked two coaches to go from Norwich, and about 180 people have already signed up that I don’t know currently.”

Jim added that The Big One was a change in strategy for XR. “We’re a lot more focussed on building alliances this time. Nationally there are about 70 different groups signed up in support. We’re doing the same thing locally with groups in the area.

“Friday will be the big day, but they’ll be training for four days before and other rebellious things for three days after. On Monday we will deliver our demands to parliament. The Big One will also be an important place for us to discuss what comes next”, he added.

Jim said The Big One could not come at a more critical time. “The world is burning, and our government isn’t even remotely interested in doing anything about it. They met in Aberdeen to discuss how to break down any net zero plans.

“Then there was the latest IPCC report. There was no fanfare, no panic. The Big One can be a chance to build up the climate movement again. We need to keep on creating moments. We also need to show people we’re still fighting.

“Every person I’ve met in XR has a different story about why they joined. Some people saw us on TV or read about us in the newspapers. These moments make people join our movement” he added.

“We have to get 100,000 people out on the streets. We must make The Big One the biggest climate mobilisation in history.”

The Big One will be a massive test of XR’s new strategy and ability to form alliances. Socialists, campaigners and trade unionists must be all out to make it as big, militant and angry as possible.

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