Opinion – Time to rethink how we protect our environment

Twenty seven years ago I marched with my father against a toxic waste incinerator being built by manufacturing firm Dupont.

Among the many speeches, I can remember my epiphany: without taking action to change behaviour in giant corporations, our planet will not be rescued from climate change.

Years on and I find myself asking how so little has changed.

A report from the Committee on Climate Change this week said: “Without urgent action, the UK is set to miss its legally binding climate change targets.”

How did it get to this point? Decades of negligence from successive Labour and Conservative governments has left our environment in crisis.

Locally, a crippling “private finance initiative” agreed by the then Labour council under a Labour government locked us into a 25-year waste management contract that doesn’t cover most plastic recycling.

From the pursuit of nuclear and fossil fuels to the failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions, successive governments have fiddled while Rome has literally burned, abandoning future generations to runaway climate change.

Theresa May’s Environment Strategy, concocted last week for the electoral prospects of the Tory party, is merely words, with no enforcement and “targets” set in a generation’s time.

Despite pledges on plastic, the government voted this week against an international target of recycling up to 65 per cent of urban waste by 2035.

Far from a party of the environment, this is a Conservative government that until last June wanted to revive fox hunting, talked of hugging huskies while baiting badgers, wants to ban onshore wind and hand huge tax breaks to oil and gas.

They oversee motorway building while rail companies rip us off – and are committed to fracking, a practice wholly incompatible with the UK’s legally binding climate commitments.

Instead of piecemeal concessions, Greens want to see decisive action that responds with urgency to the climate crisis: challenge the corporations who are a source of non-recyclable waste, promote renewables and create a Clean Air Act that commits the government to enforcing low emissions.

We cannot afford slow progress. In the many years I’ve campaigned for the environment I have never been more convinced it’s time for a whole-system rethink.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is the convenor of the Green group on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. rolivan Reply

    The problem is until we can somehow find a way of ridding the need for oil we we will continue to pollute.There are thousands of by-products that are made from oil refining and that is an even bigger problem how do we find a way of replacing them?

  2. Dreadful Substance Reply

    Your party’s policies of ‘no borders’ and no limit to the amount of immigration into the U.K. isn’t very good for the environment, is it Phelim?

  3. Charlie Bones Reply

    Stop building on green fields destroying wildlife habitat would be a great start.

  4. Charlie Bones Reply

    Stop building on green fields destroying wildlife habitat would be a great start.

    • The Dirty Pants Cowboy Reply

      If the population wasn’t increasing by 500,000 every year (ONS figures), then we wouldn’t have to destroy natural habitats by building more housing

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