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Time for Action on the Climate Crisis

August 30, 2019 11:37 PM
By Keith Melton

Time for action!!

At last there is a real sense of urgency in tackling the Climate Crisis and, for once, we environmentalists need not get "shot as the messengers of doom", as has often happened in the past. We can now use the longevity of our activism and prior warnings to begin to offer solutions to the problems the world faces. And this is what we have been doing for some time, including the actions of our ministers during the coalition in boosting renewable energy provision way past what it would otherwise have been.

However, we are now facing another issue, now that a sense of panic has set in. There has been a ratcheting up of political urgency in setting an `end-date` by which we must achieve net-zero emissions of carbon. Political parties and recently-aware-activists are now vying for a target-setting process that has begun to seem like a greenhouse gas auction, in the face of Climate deniers and `couldn`t-care-less-techno-optimists` who just think everything will be alright on the night.

The problem here is that the "end-date" is actually the wrong metric for successful action. Yes, of course it matters when we get to net-zero, but it is much more important to get an urgent START NOW!!

We have seen discussions on FaceBook, suggesting we Liberal Democrats need to get an early end-date in the bidding auction to become politically credible against the opposition of the Green party, eXtinction Rebellion and the Labour Party. The corollary of this mild sense of political panic is that the 2045 end-date set in the Climate Change is therefore inadequate against our perceived opposition.

And, to some extent, there is an element of truth in that concern because of the way the motion has been presented - so we Green Liberal Democrats have submitted an amendment which we hope takes care of that problem.

Our actual amendment is detailed below, so you can see for yourself how we have approached this. Let me highlight our thinking process, however. The intent of this amendment is to emphasise the urgency of the strong short-term goals over the final date for net zero emissions. We do also believe it is politically important to bring forward the end-date as much as we can in presentational terms. But we also believe our proposed actions must be credible too. Setting targets that are simply unfeasible is likely to do more damage than good in motivational terms down the line. If people can see dates will not be met, many will simply `give up`.

We also believe the 2040 is justified in light of recent scientific evidence that the "radiative forcing effect" of methane on the climate in the short term has been severely underestimated. Thus, we need to concentrate our early efforts on this aspect of global heating. This then should give us some leeway in shortening the end dates. This is the reason for specifically mentioning fracking in these paragraphs, which has a disproportionate effect on methane release, even though fracking is already covered elsewhere in the motion.

Local Authority targets - 2030 end-dates

None of this argument makes it wrong for Local Authorities to set much earlier net-zero targets locally, because the most difficult tasks are outwith the remit of LAs anyway - so local targets can be realistically shorter. But we do need to stick to reality - if we set targets too high and miss by miles the task will only become harder as people actually "give up".

We also have to keep going and when we get closer to net-zero we need to keep driving into negative net emissions relative to 1990, for added security. The time lags in Climate forcing effects are so significant - and the heat-retention capacity of our oceans is so great - that we may well be missing tipping points already!

Local Authorities are well-placed to move to carbon-sequestrating options which help with net-zero targets - lots of trees and lots of local renewable energy etc! We need to spread the message to "Go for it!"

International Efforts

Clearly it is not just the UK involved with target setting. The whole world needs to get to net-zero by 2050 at the latest. But the same argument applies internationally - we MUST START NOW. It is therefore very concerning that the arch-Climate-Criminal, Donald Trump, has set his administration in the face of this stark reality. The news this week is that the Environmental Protection Agency (clearly now a misnomer in Trump`s America!!) has proposed rolling back to much lower targets for energy industry methane releases than the Obama-era regulations specified.

We will be considering our capacity for International Campaigning at one of the GLD fringe sessions on Sunday afternoon in Bournemouth form 2.45 to 4.30pm - more information to follow on the website soon.

Here is our GLD amendment to the climate change motion…

Amendment to F29 Tackling the Climate Emergency Submitted by Newark and Sherwood Constituency Association on behalf of the Green Liberal Democrats

Delete lines 11 to 22 and replace with:

Conference therefore resolves that the UK must reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases as a matter of extreme urgency.

Conference recognises that early action on setting and achieving drastic but credible interim targets is more important than setting a notional, precise end-date to achieve net-zero emissions, and therefore endorses the interim aim of a 75 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2030 at the latest.

Conference also recognises that the rapid global heating effects of methane have been severely under-estimated until very recently, and therefore calls for urgent action to reduce methane emissions, in particular from intensive beef farming and the industrial energy sector and by immediately banning fracking.

Conference believes that these steps would enable a faster reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and calls for an interim target of a 90 per cent reduction by 2035 leading to net-zero emissions by 2040 (with all targets subject to revision should faster progress prove possible).

Add at end of motion:

In view of the urgency of tackling the climate crisis, conference instructs the Federal Policy Committee to bring further specific proposals on forms of carbon taxation, based on the 'polluter pays' principle, to the 2020 Spring conference in order to help drive down the generation of greenhouse gases, nationally and internationally.

Keith M

VC Campaigns, Green Lib Dems

August 2019