The UK government has received acclamation on the international stage as pioneers, taking action to prevent climate change; garnering positive media attention for their recent successes in cutting carbon emissions and promises to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This, of course, is in tangent with the recent declaration of a national emergency for climate change on the 1st of May. In the face of such progress, it can easy to slip into complacency. Yet, these so-called landmark achievements disguise the superficiality of government action - or the lack thereof.
In reality, in the words of Lord Debden - Chair of the Committee on Climate Change - the government is taking a “Dad’s Army” approach with a “ramshackle system” that is inadequate in sufficiently tackling the deteriorating global crisis that is climate change. A closer examination of government policy reveals the inefficacy of government action.
The Conservative government has repeatedly promised to deliver action for climate change. Despite this, the party has yet to enact tangible plans to combat climate change. For example, the recent pledge to eliminate car and van emissions by 2040 comes too late. Research shows that, by 2050, climate change will be irreversible and that action needs to be taken urgently. Additionally, the government has only delivered on one out of twenty five proposed plans; this is the clearest indication of their lack of commitment and the superficiality of their claims to commit to dealing with climate change. When considering that the pledges taken, other than the Paris Climate Change Agreement, are not legally binding, the lack of government action becomes alarming.
However, despite the government’s laissez-faire approach to the issue of climate change, authorities, such as the Committee on Climate Change, refuse to let this slide. In response to the findings of their research, the Committee claims that “new policies must be found to help people lead good lives without fuelling global warming.” This leaves the government with an ultimatum. It is true that some of the emphasis must be put on ordinary people to reduce their impact on the natural world, by taking small steps such as reducing their use of single-use plastics, taking shorter showers and increasing their use of walking and cycling as methods of transportation for shorter journeys. However, it is arguable, that without government help, it is impossible for tangible change to occur. This is because, although individuals may have some impact, there is a greater onus upon the major institutions and businesses globally to take a lead, as those responsible for the greatest damage.
The Prime Minister’s lack of strong leadership on this issue is one of the biggest problems. While some may claim that, during such times of political turbulence, the environment should take a backseat, arguably now it is more important than ever to fight against the deterioration of our environment before we reach the point of no return. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s silence may be one of the leading causes of the blatant lack of public support that reform has received. This is unsurprising, however may be catastrophic as this will prevent the government from reaching even 50% fewer emissions, so should not be treated with apathy.
The government’s plan for developments in infrastructure have not helped with this, as economically positive but environmentally disastrous plans for the high-speed rail network HS2 throughout the country, as well as plans for a new runway at Heathrow Airport, will cause greater damage still to the environment, producing greater emissions that will increase the challenge of meeting the emissions targets set. However, the public appeal of these innovations cannot be denied, mainly due to the promises that the public have been fed, claiming that their quality of life will be improved.
How can life be improved if there is no planet upon which for it to flourish?
Undeniably, the UK government’s ignorance to the grave situation we face cannot continue any longer. It is time for our government to listen to the people, and focus on what really matters.