World leaders have been sent a pressing message — act now before it’s too late.
The following post is by John Hannen, Outreach Executive at Mediaworks UK.
The news is always showing us just how devastating weather can be thanks to climate change. However, it’s not just global warming that is a severe threat to the planet. There are many other major issues, including how we use plastic and how we are overusing natural resources.
When you take all this into consideration, it’s not a surprise that the world leaders were sent a pressing message via the UN climate talks in Poland – act now and drive down greenhouse emissions before it’s too late. Speaking at the summit, Sir David Attenborough reinforced this message, warning that climate change is now the greatest threat to humanity and could lead to the collapse of civilizations, and the extinction of much of the natural world.
Thankfully, the public are becoming more aware of this and not only because of legislation. The likes of environmental charities, popular broadcast programmes (e.g. Blue Planet), influential celebrities and a whole host of media are all making a major impact too – educating the masses and inspiring action on a global scale. While it’s clear there’s still a long way to go to combat climate change, we are making progress. Leaders from across the globe are stepping up efforts to ensure marked changes are being made to dramatically reduce emissions and change behaviours – and fast.
Here, Flogas, who operate within the gas installation industry, focus on some of the most influential environmental laws and regulations that are in place and how they’re helping to save the planet.
The Paris Agreement
This first-of-its-kind landmark deal unites the world’s nations in a sole agreement to tackle climate change from 2020. Nearly 200 countries within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came to a consensus in 2015 to cut greenhouse emissions and have committed to limit temperature rises worldwide by no more than 2C above pre-industrial times. In fact, the aim is to limit this further, to 1.5C if possible. Progress will be reviewed every five years and financial funding from donor nations will go to less developed countries.
Scientists, however, have pointed out that the Paris Agreement must be stepped up if the targets will be successfully matched and climate change will be effectively halted. A recent UN report suggests that the world actually needs to triple its current efforts to meet the 2C target.
The war on plastic
While plastic has many positive uses, it is also a major pollutant. An estimated 12.7 million tons of it ends up in our oceans each year (the equivalent of a truck load every minute). This has led many countries to introduce bans or taxes to try and limit the exponential rise in plastic usage. Denmark started levying a charge on plastics bags as early as 1993, and the 2002 ‘bag tax’ in Ireland resulted in a huge 90% drop in demand for single-use plastic bags. More recently, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a ban on plastic straws, cotton buds, and stirrers could be in place in the UK by late 2019. Looking ahead, the European Union has voiced its intention to ban a range of plastic items (including straws, plates, and single-use cutlery) completely by 2021, justifying that these can be replaced with more sustainable materials. The city of Seattle banned plastic straws and utensils last summer.
The media has greatly covered plastic pollution in recent years and this has helped it rise to the forefront of public consciousness. This has led a number of major companies to make significant changes to their operations by ditching plastic (or pledging to do so rapidly). This includes food outlets such as McDonalds and Pizza Express, all Four Seasons and Hilton hotels, as well as Starbucks Coffee Company’s efforts to go to ban plastic straws globally – to name but a few.
Clean Air Strategy
May 2018 saw the UK government publish its Clean Air Strategy in a bid to cut air pollution and human exposure to particulate matter pollution – the fourth biggest health risk behind cancer, obesity and heart disease. The new strategy is part of a 25-year plan to leave the environment in a better state and is an addition to the £3.5 billion scheme already in place to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles, set out in July last year.
The goal is to halve the number of people living in areas where concentrations of particulate matter are above guideline limits by 2025. What’s more, it pledges to ensure only the cleanest domestic fuels are available, to tackle ammonia from farming, to address non-exhaust emissions of micro plastics from vehicles, to empower local government with new primary legislation, to invest in scientific research and innovation in clean technology, and much more.
Ban on coal
Currently, the UK has eight active coal-fired power stations. However, a ban on coal introduced in 2018 (which will come into force in October 2025) has presented energy companies with an ultimatum: adapt your existing assets to generate greener energy or close your power station. This rule has already set in motion the change, with some stations adapting or building infrastructure for cleaner energy generation, whilst others have decided to remain active right up until the ban.
The decision was made during climate talks in Bonn (COP23) to phase out coal power plants and replace them with cleaner technologies. It was Canada, the UK and the Marshall Islands who led the way, forming a global alliance called ‘Powering Past Coal.’ One year on since its launch, the alliance now has 75 members who are committed to replacing unabated coal-fired electricity with cleaner alternatives.
Road to Zero Strategy
The largest share of greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation. Therefore, changes are vital if the UK is to hit its carbon reduction targets. The Department for Transport’s 2018 ‘Road to Zero Strategy,’ sets out that at least 50% (and as many as 70%) of new car sales will be ultra-low emission by 2030, and up to 40% for new vans. This policy also addresses reducing emissions from vehicles already on the roads and plans to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.
Moving towards zero emission cars will mean that there’ll be a major expansion of green infrastructure across the country. This will mean that there will be a major focus on increasing the availability of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The Road to Zero strategy sets the stage for what the government has hailed ‘the biggest technology advancement to hit UK roads since the invention of the combustion engine.’
Sources: Guardian, BBC, The Sun, Greenpeace, Reusethisbag, DEFRA, Climate Action, Poweringpastcoalalliance, Gov.uk