Avoiding a breakdown – James Higgins, Partner, Ecuity

Article written by James Higgins, originally published in the April edition of  H&V News Magazine.

By the time you read this, we will have already made our way into spring, with days getting longer and the weather improving. Perhaps after some long-awaited sunshine during the record February temperatures, you have already noted the generally heightened mood as people eagerly welcome a much warmer time of year. Brits will be anticipating another hot few months this as year as they reminisce about the heatwave that hit us last time around. Less understood, on the other hand, is the extent of damage that heatwaves, along with other adverse weather conditions, are having on social and economic systems worldwide. In fact, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), we are experiencing an environmental crisis that must be urgently addressed.

Environmental breakdown
IPPR published a report in February this year that suggests that we are facing an environmental breakdown far greater than we have so far been led to believe. As it highlights the negative realities that coincide with climate change, the warmer weather somewhat loses its appeal – especially when we consider the impact extreme weather and sea level rises have on human health.  Climate change related deaths are estimated at 400,000 a year. The IPPR report addresses the successive waves of social and economic development that have subsequently accelerated our consumption levels to a dramatically unsustainable level.

The report also urges us to recognise the rate of destabilisation so that we can duly address the need for change. Above all, the report calls for politicians and the public to acknowledge the scale and pace of environmental breakdown, the implications for societies and the need for transformative change. For many, it is a frightening thought that without this recognition, these important challenges will still not be addressed.
The mainstream media and the public at large have already been convinced of the need for radical action in distinct areas relating to climate change, bringing about compelling campaigns for endangered wildlife and plastic pollution. As important as these areas of attention are, the IPPR suggests that these narrow efforts belie the severity of the broader issues of climate change, ignoring aspects that are far more challenging.

As I reflected last month, in relation to the gilet jaunes protest movement in France, action in areas that hit consumers in the pocket can also prove to be unpopular. In October last year,  energy minister Claire Perry wrote to the Committee on Climate Change asking for advice on setting a date for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions from across the economy. Setting a more ambitious target may have longer-term benefits but it does not automatically lead to the urgent action the IPPR and others call for.

It is worrying that there are so many political distractions
It is telling that at the end of February, only a handful of Conservative MPs attended the first climate change debate in the House of Commons – in the week that saw the UK experience its two hottest ever winter days. In the heating sector alone, I have seen many brilliant examples of technological innovation which could contribute to decarbonisation and the case is clearly being made by campaigners for more urgent action. However, it is worrying that are so many political distractions and that few of our politicians are seemingly listening.

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See the original article from H&V here