Monday, 26 November was a big day for the UK’s climate change world. New climate change projections were launched by the Met Office, giving us much more detail about the new weather world we are already starting to live in. Michael Gove focused on the seriousness of climate change in a wide-ranging speech. And there were celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the Climate Change Act, with powerful words from Lord Deben and Ed Miliband at a Westminster reception introduced by Caroline Lucas, highlighting the strong cross-party support for climate change work.
Yet I had a glass half empty feeling through most of the day’s events. Actually, perhaps only one-third full because for me, two things were largely missing from much of yesterday’s talk, both formal and in conversation.
The first is how we must learn to live with climate change and its evolving weather patterns. It’s trite for a popular newspaper to headline as Riviera Britain, yet the range of angles taken by the media shows the variety of ways climate change will increasingly affect us all. UKCP18, the new climate change projections, are not just for the UK but now at the global scale. They are the gateway to help us explore the ongoing transformation of our climate and weather across all of society’s interests. And we must do this, because our collective efforts on reducing greenhouse gas pollution are still woefully short of what’s needed and our present-day One Degree world is moving, seemingly inexorably, towards a Two Degree one.
Also largely missing from the day was nature and the natural environment. Yes, Mr Gove said some good things about climate change and nature, recognising the mostly adverse impacts and the role the natural environment can play in both adapting and mitigating to climate change. News on peatland action was encouraging. There was brief mention in the evening about the need for more equal footing for the environment in Treasury thinking.
Yet our common interest in the natural environment, loved and enjoyed by so many, with such a large range of potential benefits, was mostly missing through the day’s events. Nature, our basic life support system, is profoundly affected by climate change. So, two things to act upon and take forward.
The UKCP18 climate change projections are a new spur to putting adaptation into practice. We should use them widely, across everything we all do, if we want our work today to last into tomorrow’s future. And greater emphasis on five yearly cycle of impacts and adaptation plans required by the Climate Change Act can help drive this.
The 25 Year Environment Plan, and the Environmental Land Management System, provide the timeframe and opportunity for new thinking that we urgently need to develop adaptation across the natural environment. They must both put climate change at their heart and embedded throughout, to make the natural environment work best for wildlife and for people.
And we can all help talk up the need for nature, its vulnerability to changing climate and the wide-ranging benefits we get from its healthy state - so that at the next milestone climate events, we prize the natural environment at the centre of our discussions and celebrations.
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