Ellie Chivers laments over inaction by politicians to act on policies to slow down the climate crisis.
Photo by Anders Hellberg, Creative Commons
“Looking back [over two years], a lot has happened,” Greta Thunberg begins. One of – if not the – definitive voices in climate action. From this opener, you’d hope she has come bearing some good news, but when it comes to the climate crisis, optimism is misplaced.
“Many millions have taken to the streets…and on 28th November 2019, the European parliament declared a climate and environmental emergency.” Here, Greta reflects on the two years which have passed since her school strike first shook the world, and notes the domino effect that her actions have had on other’s climate awareness. But still, according to Greta and some of her fellow school strikers in a recent interview with The Guardian, not enough has been done.
“Over these last two years, the world has emitted over 80bn tonnes of CO2. We have seen continuous natural disasters taking place across the globe. Many lives and livelihoods have been lost, and this is only the beginning.” Greta packs a punch with her words, underlining the dangerous effects untreated climate change is having on our world; lest we forget the 90 people who died in nearly 50-degree heat in India last year, or those killed in China, Japan and Africa’s typhoons and cyclones.
We are so aware of climate change and its effects on our planet and livelihoods, thanks to activism from the likes of Greta, and a greater media agenda. So why, even when we know exactly what’s going on, are our world leaders letting it monumental emissions persist?
Two Years Wasted Thanks to “Political Inaction”
Gareth Ackland of the Citizens Climate Lobby has attributed the continuation of devastating climate change to consumerism and corporate greed: “It’s not that leaders are harming the planet, but they are clearly reluctant to make changes that they fear may harm their economies, upset business, entrench poverty or otherwise derail their re-election hopes.”
“When it comes to action, we are still in a state of denial. The gap between what we need to do and what’s actually being done is widening by the minute. Effectively, we have lost another two crucial years to political inaction. However, it’s a fact which most people refuse to accept. Just the thought of being in a crisis that we cannot buy, build or invest our way out of seems to create a kind of collective mental short-circuit. This mix of ignorance, denial and unawareness is the very heart of the problem.” – Greta Thunberg
The coronavirus pandemic has presented countries with a unique opportunity to evaluate spending and put money into climate-saving investments within their Covid-19 responses. A green coronavirus recovery plan from businesses and political leaders could see the creation of 400 million jobs and the return of $10 trillion a year in business value, according to the World Economic Forum. The report claims “decisions on how to deploy post-Covid crisis stimulus packages will likely shape societies and economies for decades” – the importance of sustainable business plans cannot be understated.
But when several G20 Governments are still pumping more money into fossil-fuel-based rescue packages, it’s easy to see why the likes of Greta Thunberg and Gareth Ackland are dismayed and untrusting.
Is the Outlook Still Bleak?
By signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, the 197 participating countries agreed to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, meaning the amount of carbon emissions emitted by each country by the end of the century must be significantly reduced. However, the USA is due to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on 4th November 2020, one day after the US election. This decision is set to leave US greenhouse gas emissions at least 3% higher in 2030 than if they stayed part of the agreement.
However, some countries are beginning to take the action which is so desperately needed. For example, Germany’s coronavirus recovery plan is looking pretty green, as it includes €40 billion for climate measures, such as electric vehicles, public transport and increased energy efficiency.
With activists such as Greta and her school striker alliance, however, we can only hope pressure is put on more world leaders to ensure no more time is wasted. As some of the school strikers said in The Guardian interview, “we understand the world is complicated and what we are asking for may not be easy or seem realistic, but it is much more unrealistic to believe that our societies would be able to survive the global heating we’re heading for.”
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