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The government must do more to tackle climate change


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Forget Brexit, forget Trump, forget Farage...climate emergency is the biggest challenge we face moving into the future.

In recent months, the government has announced new environmental policies and formulated new pledges, the first of which being the colloquially known ‘plastic straw ban’ and the second being the pledge to be ’net zero’ in carbon emissions by 2050.

On the surface, it would appear that our government is developing into an increasingly progressive and environmentally conscious entity. This is, however, not the case. 

Image Credit: Mohri UN-CECAR via Flickr

The announcement by Theresa May last week ensures the UK is the first major economy to commit to reaching ‘net zero’ emissions. But is it really enough?

The cynic in me sees it as an act by Theresa May to salvage some sort of legacy for her shambolic prime ministerial term so far, and it will not be followed through by her successors.

A phrase I have heard from various politicians in recent months that Britain is a leading country in the fight against climate change, stated as if it is a badge of honour. I find the way it is utilised as being something to be proud of quite laughable. Climate change is not something which should be used as a bragging point over other nations. It does not matter who the world leader is as no nation is doing enough to combat the environmental issues we face. Any one nation who says otherwise is lying.

2050 is showing no sense of urgency and by all means, could be too late to have any significant impact. 2030 should be the target, despite the fact that people may say it is too soon or would be too expensive to implement. We should invest all we can in technology or renewable energy to ensure we cut to zero emissions. It seems to me that by setting a target of 2050 there is no sense of urgency within the British government, and if we were truly a ‘leader’ in the fight against climate change we would be more proactive.

Professor Mark Maslin of University College London, states “Britain is one of the leading countries in the fight against climate change and we must adopt a 2030 zero carbon target. This will give us 10 years to put in place win-win solutions that reduce carbon emissions, save money and make Britain a better, cleaner place to live.”

Maslin further argues that if there is any chance of keeping the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, the whole world must hit zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The pledge to become ‘net-zero’ is just one move the government have made in recent months, the other being the ‘plastic straw ban'. From April 2020, controls will be introduced on a variety of single-use plastic items, including plastic straws, plastic drink stirrers and plastic cotton buds.

Image Credit: mauriceangres via Pixabay

The controls ensure that shops will not be allowed to sell the straws, but they will be on sale by registered pharmacies in stores and online, as certain individuals with disabilities require plastic straws in their everyday lives.

There will be a total ban on plastic stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds will be restricted from general sale to the public, but will still be available.

Each year 8 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans. This ‘ban’ is a step in the right direction it will have an impact limiting the amount of plastic pollution, and ultimately lower the negative environmental impacts the UK causes.

There is no disputing the fact that this is good; however, it does not take away from the fact we are not as effective at recycling as we should be. Only one-third of the UK’s plastic food packaging is recycled, the majority is placed into landfill or burned and that is only one form of recyclable plastic. According to The Economist, only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled, which is alarmingly low. 

The current system of refuse collection and recycling needs serious reform in this country, which could be aided through a greater amount of investment by the government. If we recycled more, less plastic would need to be produced, less energy used.

It would not only benefit wildlife and limit waste, but also lower emissions.

If the government was truly environmentally conscious, rather than wanting to appear progressive, this issue would be addressed immediately. However those in power are more focused on good PR, rather than doing something truly impactful.

Our future should not be a PR stunt, our future needs to be ensured for future generations. Yes, everyone can do little things to fight against climate change and plastic pollution, but no meaningful change is going to occur without full government commitment.

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