On 19 September Divest Hackney is challenging Hackney Council’s pension’s committee to sell its shareholdings in fossil fuel companies. If we’re heading for a heated debate in the council chamber, think of this: 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. A new risk assessment from the independent Committee on Climate Change says the threat level is rising, and more action is required from local and national government. So what risks are we looking at? And is there a plan?
The committee’s job is to provide independent, expert advice to government. It says the top five risks we face are:
- Flooding and coastal damage
- Risks to health from higher temperatures – growing risk for outdoor workers – from farming and railways to construction and leisure sector jobs
- Water shortages
- Risks to ecosystems and farming
- New pests and diseases
The government has to respond by the end of the year with a plan to tackle each risk. In every risk mentioned the committee says: “New, stronger or different government policies – over and above those already planned – are needed to reduce our vulnerability to climate change.”
Example: Hot days – the average number of hot days per year has been increasing since the 1960s, and currently 2,000 people die prematurely each year in the UK from heat-related conditions.
Government action required: “Delayed introduction of policies to ensure homes, hospitals, care facilities, schools and prisons, and business premises, are safe and operable in high temperatures will increase risks and lead to longer-term wellbeing impacts.”
Tough targets to cut UK carbon emissions by 2030
Just a few days after the government ‘promised’ to meet a tough new target to cut our greenhouse gas emissions Theresa May scrapped the Department for Energy & Climate Change! The UK is committed to cutting its carbon emissions by 80% or more by 2050. Currently we emit over 500 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere (see diagram below), from coal and gas power stations, motor vehicles, our heavy industries and domestic heating. By 2050 that number will have to fall to below 100 million tonnes, a huge drop.
The government gets advice on how to reach this 2050 target from the independent Committee on Climate Change. It has published a series of five-year carbon budgets (‘CB’ in the diagram below), to show what needs to be done. The latest fifth carbon budget (‘5CB’) says we should aim to cut our carbon emissions by 57% by 2030. To get there requires stronger, positive government leadership.
A new kind of investment is needed across society – in everything from greener energy and loft insulation to electric cars and steelmaking:
- Energy supply is the key. A low carbon energy strategy for the 2030s means swapping most fossil fuels for wind, wave, solar and tidal renewable energy.
- New investment is needed for manufacturing to achieve much greater energy efficiency in manufacturing processes.
- A massive home insulation programme led by local authorities.
- Transforming the UK’s motor industry to make a popular range of low cost, battery powered, rechargeable Electric Cars.
But with Cameron cutting all the so-called ‘green crap’ and May dumping the climate change department, it’s legitimate to ask if we can trust our future to this government. The government has chosen austerity and public service cuts, when massive new public investment is needed in everything from housing and schools to renewable energy and our manufacturing industries.
Hackney Council can show the way by shifting its money to green, sustainable investments. As Trade Unions for Energy Democracy argues, it’s ‘increasingly clear that the transition to an equitable, sustainable energy system can only occur if there is decisive shift in power towards workers, communities and the public.’