Climate change is damaging the lives of people in the UK and abroad. We see the impact through the two recent cyclones that have struck Mozambique. A country that usually expects only one major storm every 10 years has had two in two months, with the latest, Cyclone Kenneth, the strongest cyclone ever to hit Africa.
In the UK, climate change is seen as directly responsible for the projected rise in heat-related deaths and flooding, with the poorest and most vulnerable people most likely to bear the brunt. It is a tragedy that those least responsible for climate change suffer the most. We need to act to prevent a global climate disaster, yet the Government are not doing enough.
On emissions, the Government like to talk smugly about what a good job they have done, but the Committee on Climate Change warned last year that the UK will not meet the emission reduction targets laid out in the UK’s clean growth strategy for the fourth and fifth five-year carbon budgets. On biodiversity, too, the Government are falling short, with only five of the 19 targets in the strategic plan for biodiversity set to be achieved.
The Government’s commitment to fighting climate change is enshrined in the sustainable development goals, yet according to UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development we are underperforming on 72% of the targets that are relevant to the UK, and many of those are also relevant to climate change. Take target 11.6, on reducing the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including air pollution: UK100 found that 17.9 million NHS patients in England are registered at a GP practice in an area that exceeds the World Health Organisation annual limit for PM2.5 air pollution.
The national Government clearly do not care enough about climate change, but thankfully some of our local elected officials do: Bristol and Liverpool have pledged support for the sustainable development goals; Birmingham approved a motion on the sustainable development goals in November last year; and 59 councils, more than a third of them Labour-run, have declared a climate emergency. Although those are great initiatives, local government needs more support from central Government. Local authorities need resources to invest in better, greener infrastructure, to encourage and support more people to cycle and walk safely and to promote renewables.