The tragic impacts of hurricane Sandy in the US and the Carribean are a reminder of the kind of extreme weather events that climate change will make more frequent and intense. Have a look at this blog from the US NGO the Natural Resource Defence Council for a useful explanation of this.
With this in mind, it was welcome news to hear that In 2011 greenhouse emissions from the 27 EU countries fell by 2.5%. In fact, they’ve fallen by 17.5% since 1990. And right in front of the pack is....the UK - with a reduction in emissions of 6.1%!
This means that it looks as though the EU will overachieve by a factor of two its Kyoto Protocol target of -8% by 2012 and has almost reached its 2020 target of -20%. In fact, if you count emissions offsets from developing countries, the EU has probably already exceeded its 2020 target.
This is all good news but before having a big party we need to ask if the emission reductions are sustainable. Were they a result of policy or just a one off coincidence? Also, if the EU’s targets are so easy to achieve are they not too low? Should we not be more ambitious?
The answer to the first question is that emissions fell for reasons of both policy and happenstance. In northern and western European countries last winter was milder than in recent years and that led to decreased use of fossil fuels for heating, especially in homes. Also, in the UK, nuclear generation was up by 17.1% and the same was true in France. So, if emissions are to stay on a downward trend we either need more mild winters or more policy interventions, or both. Being a bit more reliable than the weather, policy interventions are probably the better bet.
The answer the second question of why the EU is not more ambitious is far simpler: Poland. Three times the EU Council of Ministers has tried to raise the EU 2020 target to 30% - which reflects the level of cuts needed to keep the world within safe limits of global warming - and three times the vote has been 26 countries to 1, with Poland imposing its veto.
But the challenge isn’t just getting Poland on side. In the UK, as with many other countries, the recession and cuts have dominated politics, whilst the climate crisis has been put to one side. Sadly, nature can’t wait and we’re running out of time, because with our current targets global emissions will massively overshoot where we need to be to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.
Posted by John Lanchbery, Principal Climate Change Adviser at the RSPB
Jim Densham, RSPB Scotland
Would you call £1.7m a trickle of money? Probably not. Think what you might do with all that dosh. The Scottish Government has just announced this amount of new funding for peatland restoration from its Green Stimulus Package. Good news, and we said so.
But £1.7m over 2 years is a trickle compared to £12m a year needed over 10 years to restore 600,000 hectares of peat bog habitat. That’s 2,316 square miles, and it’s the area of blanket bog that Government is obliged to restore for the benefit of biodiversity. We also want degraded peatlands restored to halt the loss of carbon to the atmosphere from the damaged peat soils and to contribute to achieving our climate change targets. Scotland actually has 1.5million hectares (5,791 square miles) of blanket bog habitat, plus lots more with peaty soil, so there is great potential for Scotland’s land to be a positive influence on the climate.
Not all the £12m per year has to come from a central pot of money from Government. Earlier this month RSPB Scotland and our partners in the Peatlands Partnership passed the first round towards receiving over £4million from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the ‘Flows to the Future’ project. We aim to restore part of Europe’s largest intact expanse of blanket bog in the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland and to make the area a centre of learning for this type of activity.
The Flow Country, at Forsinard Andy Hay RSPB
All this new money will boost the existing funds, such as from the Scottish Rural Development Programme, that we and others already invest in ditch blocking and removal of inappropriately planted trees on blanket bog. We also use our own money to restore damaged peatlands back to a healthy state, for example at our Forsinard Flows nature reserve in the far north of Scotland.
Investment in peatland restoration can come from a number of sources, yet the important thing is that the commitment from Government is there to find the £12m per year - and that action happens on the ground in the right places. If commitment is there, a trickle can become a flood.
(Guest blog from Louisa Casson, UK Youth Climate Coalition)
It’s high time for young people to take ownership over their future, and the organisation I’ve been involved in for the past year or so is doing just that. Nimble, self-organising, with a flat structure, positive and cutting edge, the UK Youth Climate Coalition isn’t your traditional monolithic NGO. We might not have lots of resources or money, but we have the passion and commitment and we’re able to respond to news and opportunities quickly. We’re also entirely led by volunteers under the age of 30. It’s been about a year since I applied online to start volunteering for the UK Youth Climate Coalition, and in that time I’ve delivered an intervention to the UN, sat on a panel at a festival debate and given an undergraduate lecture about the international youth climate movement, while I’m still an undergraduate. Perhaps more significantly, I’ve met some of the most inspiring, intelligent and energetic young people I know. We’re entirely run by volunteers, and we use technology as the means of organising ourselves - Dropbox, Googledocs and Google hangouts, Skype, Twitter and Facebook are the essential tools we use on a day to day basis. Our organising team lives all over the UK, so it would be impossible to function without them. What lies at the heart of the organisation is intergenerational justice and building a clean fair future. We want a fair deal from those in power to guarantee a clean, safe world for young people across this world to live in. We work to inspire, empower, unite and mobilise young people around climate change. But what does this mission loaded with verbs actually mean? 1. Growing the grassroots We want a coherent and effective social movement for a better future, so we’re focussing on local engagement by building a network of local catalysts. These community organisers will build relationships with existing movements in their local areas, equipping community campaigners with the necessary skills and know-how to make positive change. 2. Fostering a coalition We’re very grateful for the support of other NGOs, large and small (including the RSPB), who form our coalition. This wide range of organisations, drawn together by common concerns on young people and the environment, are often able to provide us with resources we can’t afford. By bringing these organisations together, we can share what we’re all doing, to build a stronger UK-based movement. 3. More green jobs We’re calling for changes to our society and economy for a better future. Our Youth for Green Jobs campaign is drawing the attention of political leaders to the opportunity to tackle youth unemployment and benefit the environment at the same time by providing young people with work in green jobs. You can support it by taking part here. 4. Building an international movement We play an active role in the International Youth Climate Movement. That’s everything from asking Poland to Unblock our Future and stop vetoing ambitious climate targets in Europe, to working with other young people from across the globe at the UN climate talks to demand ambitious and equitable progress. Often, those at the highest levels of international office show a remarkable lack of responsibility for the effect their decisions will have on generations to come. We’re there to hold them to account.
(Our youth delegation to the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa, 2011) We’re ready for the clean, safe future young people need - we’re not afraid to go and make or demand the changes that need to happen. Follow us on Facebook and @ukycc on Twitter to keep up to date with our next steps. Why not also sign up to our newsletter on our website and support the campaigns listed above? And if you’re under 30, maybe you’d like to get involved..? Louisa Casson, UKYCC volunteer