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Just Stop... something!

If July 2023 has taught the global population anything, it’s that the climate crisis is very much real. The terrifying effects of heavy industrialisation and exploitation were seen a lot closer to the UK than usual. Rather than viewing floods in Bangkok or the Megadrought in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya as news spreads through the safety of our phone screens; some of us may have experienced the horrific wildfires in Rhodes or Crete while holidaying, or perhaps knew those caught among Europe’s intense heatwaves that spread throughout the continent. The proximity of such extreme weather has brought panic and fear to many, but the question is - what to do next?

This summer was such a scorcher, The World Meteorological Organisation announced potential new high-temperature records in the USA, Mediterranean, North Africa, Middle East and China. Although any kind of climate disaster is devastating to the land and people around it, developing countries are usually worst hit, often due to poor structures and a lack of resources before and after the tragedy strikes. The Pakistan floods of 2022, which lasted from June through to October, left 2.2 million houses destroyed. According to UNICEF, 6 months after the floods ended in March 2023, 10 million people still had no access to safe drinking water. Forced to drink unhygienic and possibly disease-ridden water, the chance of illness and infection skyrockets. There seem to be so many events alike this one that we forget the actual human distraught behind the numbers. Those suffering have had a minute contribution to this global crisis, yet they are paying the inhumane price.

The advice from scientists could not be clearer. Oxford’s Tim Palmer, professor in Climate Physics stated, ‘If we do not halt our emissions soon, our future climate could well become some kind of hell on Earth’. Hearing such type of talk from experts personally frightens me, yet it seems it is still too soon for some to take the word ‘crises’ seriously.

After a meeting with climate leaders, the UN secretary-general concluded ‘Countries must phase out coal and other fossil fuels to advert climate catastrophe’. This seems like clear policy advice for governments to begin cutting ties with fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy. I’m unsure as to whether the United Nations is not a credible source for Rishi Sunak, or if he thought it meant the opposite. As in almost comedic fashion, the UK government announced on Monday the 31st of July that it would be approving hundreds of new gas and oil licences throughout the UK. Yes, hundreds. The announcement came along with reassurance that this still aligns with the plan to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 and the traditional phase ‘it will boost the economy’. Sunak’s plan has since been called ‘radical’ and ‘dangerous’ by the UN secretary-general. WWF’s Kate White has spoken out against the announcement stating the arrangement ‘will simply line the pockets of the extractive oil industry while the world burns.’ Whatever you’ve got to say on the issue, the government is blatantly ignoring all scientific recommendations.

This announcement follows Labour’s U-turn on their key economic policy Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor announced the party would be stepping back from their £28 billion ‘green deal’. The policy was set to begin a year after a Labour government is voted into power and has now been pushed back to a ‘gradual’ investment in the green economy. Why the backslide? In her announcement, Rachel Reeves stated the drawback was due to unforeseen economic damage caused by the Truss government and that due to this, Labour must stay responsible with public funding.

Although the UK is only responsible for 1% of global emissions, that only accounts for emissions on UK soil, not emissions which are produced all over the world to fulfil UK consumer and industry needs. In 2020, WWF found that the UK is responsible for 9.9% of the EU’s total carbon emissions and 7.3% of China’s. Our small island accounts for so much damage. Rishi Sunak promises these new licences to stay in plan with net zero, but does it align with what the planet needs to stay alive?

Climate policy has recently become an area of even more controversy in the UK due to the climate activist group Just Stop Oil. The group uses tactics such as slow marches, road blocking and disrupting events to raise awareness for the cause. In the fashion of an activist group, they have caused quite some destruction and have been condemned by politicians for their ‘incivility’. The disruption caused by the group leaves them unpopular with many members of the public. Back in June, the PM accused Keir Starmer of having Just Stop Oil ‘write his energy policy’. Grant Shapps, Conservative MP also openly accuses Labour of ‘supporting a criminal- eco mob.’ Perhaps the U-turn from Labour is an attempt to move its position away from the Just Stop Oil narrative to prevent being painted out by the Tory party as being in ‘cahoots with criminals’?

What now? How realistic is it to fully make the transition to renewable energy? The 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concludes that halving global emissions by 2030 is possible. However, it would need ‘radical steps’ to be taken to do so. The report also details that prices in renewable energy have fallen by 90% and are continuing to drop. More investment in renewable energy technology by wealthier states, such as the UK, helps to bring down the price of renewable energy to make it more accessible for developing nations. Such investment into the green economy is exactly what Labour has just delayed, but the planet doesn’t have time to wait.

Rather than U-turning from green proposals and allowing new oil and gas to be burned on our earth, policy should be centring around making a renewable energy transition quickly and efficiently. Wealthy countries such as the UK are mostly responsible for the crisis and possess the resources and influence to change it. The UK needs to recognise its position and work together with the international community as this is a fight, we are all in together. After all, the climate crisis is more than policy to sway voters.


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