Arid landscape

Progress since Paris – an assessment

Rev Vanessa Elston considers the current situation in relation to climate emergency and whether in the five years since the Paris agreement was adopted, any real progress has been made.

12th December is the fifth anniversary of the Paris agreement. In 2015, one hundred and ninety five countries signed up to limit global temperature rises to well below 2° C.   In the past five years however global emissions of greenhouse gases have continued to rise and reach record levels, so that on the current path of emissions temperature is expected to increase by 3 – 5° C by the end of the century. This is within the life span of a child born today and would have catastrophic consequences for all life on our planet. Even an increase of 2°C will have very serious consequences for those children.

According to UN climate change science key findings: “Limiting rises to 1.5° C compared to 2°C rises would mean 420 million fewer people being exposed to severe heat waves, the survival of some tropical coral reefs, loss of fewer plants and animal species, and the protection of forests and wetland habitats.”

To limit warming to under 2 ° C will require unprecedented, rapid action and transition across all areas of our economy and society.  The UK Government recently pledged to cut carbon emissions by at least 68 % of the 1990 level by 2030 but we are currently not on track to reach our previous target of 53 %, and we don’t have the policies in place to achieve these targets.  To make the picture even bleaker the UK does not count its figures our emissions from shipping and aviation and the huge amount (equivalent to 46 %) of emissions that come from the goods made in other countries that we import and use or consume

Kevin Anderson, Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester had this to say about the UK Government’s recent ten point plan:

“Five years on from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the UK Government’s ten point plan amounts to little more than a rhetorical flourish for which future generations will pay dearly. In the absence of a coordinated, quantitively robust and timely strategy, its piecemeal proposals are very much part of the problem and not a thought through solution.

“In reality the plan is simply a future technology wish list, with a dominant focus on energy supply.  It fails to recognise the carbon budget imperative, that requires deep reductions year on year from now.  There is no reference to tailoring policies towards the relatively few high emitters responsible for the lion’s share of carbon emissions.  Nor does it include a rapid phase out plan for the UK’s own fossil fuel industry, or even pledge for the Government to stop investing UK tax payers money in fossil fuel projects abroad.”

Five years on from the Paris Agreement the situation is still all words and very little action. The future of our children depends on governments around the world translating words into detailed policy and robust action NOW. With COP 26 being held in Glasgow next year, the UK is in a unique position to lead by example, and it’s not doing nearly enough.

We, in CCA, are still waiting and praying, and we are committed to taking action so that it happens.

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