Let’s avoid the climate change car crash – Tearfund's Policy Blog

October 1, 2013 by sarahwiggins1

Last week I reversed into someone’s car and, sincerely sorry for the damage to their passenger door that I had caused, of course I immediately provided my details and paid to put it right – it diminished my household budget, but was the human thing to do.

The leading climate IPCC report, out its full fifth version yesterday (the initial summary came out on Friday), tells us that scientists are 95% certain that humans caused global warming. We must remember, however, that it’s the richest few that are, by far, the main contributors, with our gas guzzling, leaky homes, consumption-reliant, lifestyles. ‘The 1.2 billion poorest people account for only 1 per cent of world consumption while the billion richest consume 72 per cent.’ (Report of the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda)

Photo: Taken at the end of a long day, a partner in southern Nepal shows me how one local community is strengthening the river bank to protect their fields from floods from the river, resulting from glacier melt.

So, even though they have done next to nothing to cause the problem, our partners in Nepal tell us that farmers have noticed changes in the weather that threaten the livelihoods of almost half the population, and the IPCC report today provides science that supports this. It says, for instance, that in Nepal, temperatures are getting warmer, rainfall is getting heavier, cloudiness is reducing, soil moisture is decreasing in some regions, and melting glaciers mean that water stress will get more severe and risk of floods will be higher. Unlike me, most people in developing countries do not have the luxury of insurance policies to help bail them out – men and women lose their livelihoods and they and their children go hungry and thirsty, get ill and even die.

Current action falls far short of matching the urgency of the issues: the UK and other developed countries must act on their responsibility to reduce our carbon emissions and to transfer money to developing countries for the damages caused by climate change and to help them to lower their emissions. In the UK we have a climate budget and carbon emissions targets that on paper, from some angles at least, can be argued as ‘our fair share’ and ‘better than what other countries are doing’. But the money is only shifted from normal government aid pots and there is no clear plan for how to find more money once the commitments increase substantially from 2020. The climate change act which sets out a commitment to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 must be upheld and strengthened at all costs, and politicians are not giving us confidence that this will happen.

That’s what makes it so appalling when Osborne says he doesn’t want the UK to continue to lead on climate change, and that we need to wait for other countries to catch up: this is not the fighting talk we need! Governments need to be crystal clear in setting out ambitious steps for how they are going to respond to the challenges that the climate report sets out. This year the Conservatives and Lib Dems need to make key decisions about fracking, renewables and flood protection – will they drive away and abandon their responsibilities, or will they press on, overcoming the challenges and obstacles, to get us to a destination that is safe and just for current and future generations?