Why we need an emergency response to the climate crisis

Today, once again, people are taking to our streets to send a clear message: we need action now to avert the worst effects of spiralling climate change.

Just last September it was estimated that seven million people across the world took part in a strike for climate action.

In Brighton and Hove, whether it is young school pupils or adults, it’s clear that a growing number want strong action to stop the climate catastrophe – and they are right to demand change.

Climate Scientists warned only this week in the respected Nature magazine that there’s a risk that we have already entered a period of irreversible climate change.

Like Greens, they argue that this shouldn’t signal dismay but must strike confidence in politicians willing to take the necessary robust action on emissions.

From fires in the Amazon and Australia, to substantial reductions in the Arctic Sea ice, the climate emergency is upon us – and will be a greater feature of our future, too, if we fail to act.

Scientists have long argued that an increase of 5C would be the “tipping point” for the climate, pushing us to irreversible climate change.

Now, they have calculated that these “tipping points” could occur if warming increases by between only 1C and 2C.

We can get lost in the numbers – but the stark science is clear: “Warming must be limited to 1.5C. This requires an emergency response.”

And we need an emergency response. We have just 11 years to limit the catastrophic effects of global warming and stop temperatures exceeding 1.5C.

This is why local leadership is so important. We hit back when Conservative and Labour councillors voted to slash the sustainability budget six years ago when the Greens ran the council.

The fact is, we would now be in a much stronger position as a council to increase what we are doing rather than starting from scratch.

In the face of the challenges before us, Greens here have won some of the strongest action in the country. Last December – almost one year ago – we pushed the council to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency and bring forward 2050 carbon reduction targets to 2030.

In February we tackled the council budget, ploughing £690,000 into climate change mitigation and sustainability – without making any further cuts.

Our work is now directly funding projects that focus on the climate crisis and biodiversity protection. It’s creating a fund to reduce the city’s carbon footprint with initiatives such as community renewable energy projects, solar panels, species and habitat protection and sustainable transport improvements.

We have also provided the funding to staff these sustainability projects, reversing cuts to the team.

Climate Strike by Ben Stephens

Kick-starting the essential work on cleaner air, we have called for a toughened Ultra Low Emission Zone and projects that encourage walking and cycling.

We continue to fight for an environmental focus in all of our council policies: from encouraging events in the city to go plastic free to making our housing more energy efficient.

In May this year the Green group of councillors pledged to work with the Labour administration on the climate crisis and I co-chair Brighton and Hove City Council’s 2030 Carbon Neutral Board.

We have met climate campaigners and are publishing our plans to use funding identified by the Greens to create a new “climate assembly” for the city.

This puts our communities centre stage: everyone must be able to have their say.

We are challenging the Labour council to implement a “Green New Deal” – an ambitious programme for boosting new, “green” jobs that we need to manage the climate crisis.

The climate change march in Brighton in March – Picture by JL Turner

Whatever happens at this election, Greens will always argue for decisive action at a national level that responds with urgency to the climate crisis. Without this, so much will be constrained.

The climate strikers today carry a strong message to those in power. Greens too say that government must challenge the corporations who are a source of non-recyclable waste, promote renewables and create a Clean Air Act that enforces low emissions.

We can no longer afford slow progress. Whether locally or nationally, Greens will do everything in our power to help the city go “carbon neutral” by 2030.

I am reminded once again of the words of climate scientists writing in Nature magazine: “The stability and resilience of our planet is in peril. International action – not just words – must reflect this.”

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

  1. Jason Reply

    Eliminate Carbon Dioxide and you eliminate plant life, making our world uninhabitable. No plant life = no animal life = no more Humans = no more problems!

    Nothing to eat and nothing to breathe. A dead world.

    The lunatics behind this scam aren’t interested in saving the world, but destroying it, proving them to be completely insane.

    Every few years “they” come up with a new “end of the world” scare story. Have they ever been right?

    • Zero-carbon is impossible Reply

      The half-life of atmospheric carbon dioxide is roughly one hundred years and some of it remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years. So even if humankind immediately stopped burning all fossil fuel, the existing carbon dioxide would remain in the atmosphere for several generations. Pretend the United States (and perhaps Europe) miraculously converted overnight and became zero-carbon societies. Then pretend they persuade China (and perhaps India) to demolish every coal-burning power plant and diesel truck. As far as atmospheric carbon dioxide is concerned it might not matter that much. So that zero-carbon society everybody keeps dreamily thinking about is way too optimistic.

      • Robin Hislop Reply

        No one is proposing to remove all carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, that would indeed be lunacy. A zero-carbon economy would have a net contribution to the atmosphere of zero i.e. the amount of CO2 produced by human activity less the amount of CO2 used / offset by human activity, would be zero.

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