Now will you act to tackle climate crisis?

Campaigners hope heatwave will lead to more action

Friday, 22nd July — By Charlotte Chambers

clientearth lawyers at high court

Green activists outside the High Court this week

GREEN campaigners say they hope this week’s “furnace” conditions will finally lead to more climate change urgency.

As London faced 40°C temperatures on Tuesday, there were warnings against complacency or thinking that the heat was simply a summer norm.

Anna Hyde, of Islington’s Climate Centre based in Angel Central, said MPs needed to get behind the Climate and Ecology bill that has been brought forward by the UK’s only Green MP, Caroline Lucas.

It aims to set out a swift timetable and framework for tackling climate change. The bill has been supported by Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn but only has the backing of 120 MPs so far.

Ms Hyde accused the government of having their “head in the sand” over climate policies and said they needed to “get a lot more realistic about what they’re facing”.

She said: “We’ve got to get real: they’re doing lip service even though they say we’re the country leading the world, there are serious gaps between the rhetoric and the delivery, and this leadership contest has shown their true colours.”

Activists hope the Conservative leadership race – and with it a contest for a new prime minister – will lead to more debate.

Only two candidates remain this week: former chancellor Rishi Sunak and foreign secretary Liz Truss. A poll earlier this week, commissioned by the Times, showed tackling the environment emergency was bottom of the list of priorities for Tory members, who instead want the party to cut taxes, increase defence spending and work on strengthening the UK’s global standing.

The government has already faced embarrassment this week after a High Court verdict found it needed to explain how it would meet its environmental target to be net zero on carbon emissions by 2050 and that its current policies had failed to meet its obligations under the Climate Change Act (CCA) 2008.

Being carbon neutral means reducing our emissions and offsetting them by planting trees or switching to renewable energy. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, the UK, along with 196 other countries, agreed to try to keep temperature rises “well below” 1.5°C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

But the government was taken to court as environmental groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth accused ministers of not doing enough.

Leader of the Islington Greens, Councillor Caroline Russell, said that by “burying their head in the sand” the country was not “resilient” to the shocks of extreme weather experienced this week.

She and her daughter had “shut themselves in” their home with the curtains firmly closed to keep out the heat this week.

Cllr Russell added that she was worried about older people and those who were ill.

“The government should be taking this stuff seriously but also they should be more prepared – it’s like it’s come to them out of the blue,” she said. “They’ve had reports for years explaining how to be more resilient to the likelihood of extreme heat events.”

She warned that expensive retrofits would become essential for making homes liveable as summers get hotter – and the kinds of temperatures experienced this week become commonplace.

She also warned that installing air conditioning and using fans were not the answer as both actually push up the need for energy, a contributing factor to climate change.

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