Callous or calamitous? … the UK climate minister pulls the rug from under 1.5°C

Behind the polished smiles & fraudulent oratory the Minister of Energy and Clean Growth, and her Welsh and Scottish counterparts, dispense with the Committee on Climate Change and embrace a Trumpian view of science.

The Government’s climate Minister, Claire Perry, today (15.10.18) wrote to the Chair of the Committee on Climate Change requesting their advice on the implications for the UK of the IPCC’s recent 1.5°C report. Albeit three years overdue, a cursory reading of the letter suggests that the Government’s reluctance to take climate change seriously may be thawing. Sadly, a few moments reflection dispels any such romantic notion.

The Minister opened her letter[1] with a disingenuous statement that did not bode well. The UK has apparently decoupled its emissions (down by over “40%”) from economic growth (up by around 66%). Nonsense. Selective accounting and offshored emissions are the leading lights in this fairy tale performance. Include emissions from aviation and shipping and those associated with our import and exports, and the carbon footprint for UK plc. has barely changed since 1990. This certainly puts a very different complexion on the climate challenge – but not one this government is keen to face.

In penning the letter, Claire Perry & the devolved signatories surgically scythed away the real substance of any review. The CCC is permitted only to comment on the implications of Paris for post 2032 – by when most front benchers will be writing memoirs or fertilising daisies. The offending sentence notes how “Carbon budgets already set in legislation (covering 2018-2032) are out of scope of this request.”

The Minister then proceeds to toughen her preference for near-term Party politics over robust analysis and honest debate when, in bold, she orders the ‘independent’ CCC to inform on “long term” targets, and later in the letter, what needs to be done “by 2050”. Nowhere does she acknowledge the IPCC’s recent call for drastic reductions in emissions by 2030 if we are to have any chance of meeting our 1.5°C commitment.[2]

But is any of this really unexpected? And perhaps more importantly, why have this government been allowed the space and time to embellish their climate rhetoric whilst forcing through high-carbon fracking, airport expansion and stifling solar pv and onshore wind.

Again I turn to my academic community – where are our voices! This is an existential threat for so many people and species, yet we typically remain silent in the face of political and commercial interests.

In 1967 and as part of academia’s efforts to curtail the worse excesses of the Vietnam war, Bertrand Russell established the International War Crimes Tribunal. A half a century later and facing the threats posed by anthropogenic climate change, is it time again for academics to use their research as a platform for speaking out rather than appeasing the status quo?

If so, could this Government’s hamstringing of the Committee on Climate Change finally be a call to arms?

[1]https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/748489/CCC_commission_for_Paris_Advice_-_Scot__UK.pdf

[2]http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf