Today, and during the next couple of days, Europe should be voting on cuts to carbon emissions. Europe’s pledge, thus far, is to cut 20% of 1990 emissions levels by 2020. In attempt to stick to his guns and be the ‘greenest government ever’, Mr Cameron has been insisting on voting for an increase to 30% by 2020, yet Tory MEPs have been speaking out against this, concerned that business will suffer. It might be an interesting few days.
A lot of campaigning has been going on in support of this move. It’s rather vital that it happens, firstly, only cutting 20% by 2020 is absolutely insufficient. Various reports have shown, (Stern included), that the danger level we have to stay below, in terms of global warming, is 2 degrees. To do this, the world has to cut its carbon emissions by a minimum of 80% by 2050. Only succeeding at 20% by 2020 then, is not a good start to the race.
In fact, I think using the analogy of a race will make this point fairly convincingly. Imagine you are running a race, yet, until just short of half way, you are planning to put in only 25% of the energy, speed and commitment, required. You would have to be extremely confident in your ability to excel yourself for the final stretch, and certain nothing could go wrong. Yet, this is a race which also relies on many other participants going full throttle to meet that final target, so perhaps we should imaging it more as a relay. If the European runner is complacent and doesn’t do all he can to make sure he reaches his target, what happens when he gets to the American runner? What happens if someone drops the baton? Moreover, 80% carbon cuts by 2050 are the minimum cuts required. Many climate scientists suggest 85% is necessary, where others say that we can only be safe at 90%. It’s also expected that we will still suffer effects of climate change at 1.5 degrees. This seems evident as, at the end of last week, The Independent announced that climate scientists could now, with no shadow of doubt, link climate change to severe weather patterns happening now, something they had been reluctant to do before. Hopefully, this analogy has shown then, that 20% by 2020 is a poor, poor starting base.
(Europes’ goals are labelled as insufficient, as well, on this rather interesting website I found: Climate Action Tracker, which shows you the climate commitments of the various countries signed up to the UNFCCC*.)
The other problem our insufficient goals irritate, is lack of example. We’ve all read the reports that have come back from Copenhagen etc. The US refuses to act, blaming China (even though the Chinese cause less pollution and have a more productive climate change agreement). As the more fiscally lush countries, Europe should be setting an example, and directing money into carbon neutral schemes, yet it is the Maldives, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Japan, Papua New Guinea and South Korea heading the Climate Action Tracker leader board for most progressive attitudes to climate change. Scotland can be proud of having the most progressive approach to climate change in the world, with climate cuts set at 42% by 2020, but what about the rest of Europe? As European citizens I think we should be asking ourselves why aren’t we in the top 10? Why aren’t we reacting to this problem sufficiently? And, as it’s too late to do any more campaigning now for the current Europe vote, we have to cross our fingers and wait for a positive vote from Europe (backed, I really hope, by a positive vote from our own government) in the next couple of days. Let’s all hope that business development and near-sighted ‘economic interests’ don’t get in the way of this increase. I say ‘near-sighted’ because climate change is happening and the world does have to change with it. Business cannot be ‘business as usual.’ Europe has to change with the times.
*United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change