UK Parliament declares climate emergency – now what?

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After increasing pressure from world-wide protests held by environmental activists, the UK has became the first nation to call for a climate emergency.

In response to the surge in climate change protests across the country, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stated: “The inspiring climate ­activism we have seen in recent weeks must serve as a massive and necessary wake-up call for rapid dramatic action.”

This wake up call followed a visit from teenage campaigner, Greta Thunberg, who addressed over 200 MPs for their inaction on the climate crisis.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove stated that he felt “responsibility and guilt” suggesting the speech may have shaken politicians to act.

Jeremy Corbyn addressing climate protesters in London. Credit: Evening Standard 

MPs have backed Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition motion to cut global emissions to ‘45%’ by 2030, the same year in which the UN warns global temperatures will pass 1.5C. At this level, the catastrophic effects to our habitat will become irreversible and unmanageable. The motion hopes to reduce emissions to a ‘net zero’ by 2050.

During the debate, Michael Gove stated: “We recognise the situation we face is an emergency, it is a crisis, it is a threat that all of us have to meet.”

Corbyn advocated for strong government involvement with a “green industrial revolution” but the details on this are unclear. 

So what action should we actually take in order to meet these targets?

Recommendations submitted by the Committee on Climate Change, which Theresa May’s government is expected to adopt, include a nationwide investment in renewable energy and the electrification of transport, heating and everyday appliances.

The report also encourages the general public to cut down on their red meat and diary consumption. No doubt, these changes will have a significant impact on the reduction of the UK’s carbon emissions.

However, if we are to truly treat climate change as the existential threat that it is, we must recognise that these adjustments alone will fail to meet UN targets. If we are to prevent ecological collapse, we must recognise that its causes are more concentrated and identifiable than the committee would have us believe.

Image result for exxonmobil climate change
ExxonMobil have vast financial influence. Credit: NYT

According to the Carbon Major’s Report, 71% of all carbon emissions in the past twenty years are caused by just 100 companies. They have collectively produced 923 gigatonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent since 1988. This is half of total greenhouse gas emissions since the dawn of the industrial revolution.

It is not enough to just use recycling bins, go vegan or add a 10p coffee cup charge at Starbucks. Climate change has a face. It’s companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Marathon Oil or any complicit government that chooses profit over survival.

During her first year as Prime Minister, Theresa May accepted over £390,000 in party donations from the executives of oil companies such as Vitrol and Petrofac. In their following 2017 manifesto, the party stated that they would ‘build on the unprecedented support already provided to the oil and gas sector.’ 

Time will tell how dedicated to the climate emergency the government really is – but with a history of strengthening the positions of polluter companies, how serious can a ‘guilty’ Michael Gove really be?

If the UK really is to lead the war on climate change, it needs to combat the influence of corporate interests in politics – or their efforts will be for nothing.

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