UK Climate Change Challenge - and Mid Derbyshire

As some of you will know I am standing in Mid-Derbyshire for the Liberal Democrats. I have a story I want to share with you.

In 2010 I sat in the rooms at the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit while heads of state attempted unsuccessfully to secure a climate agreement. It was a very depressing flight back from Copenhagen after two years of careful work ending with no deal.
Addressing climate change is a very difficult issue to address.

We have become addicted to fossil fuels whether in their use for heating our houses, producing electricity for powering our economy or transporting us to work or on holiday or for that matter in wrapping our food and goods in one of their use’s plastics.
The scientists are nearly unanimous that we are contribution through the use of fossil fuels to the heating of the planet.

It is true to say that consecutive governments have wasted over twenty years when we could have made real progress.

Governments like the UK and USA have been reluctant to accept the historical contribution to the warming we are seeing.

This has been both in terms of taking up more of the reduction in fossil fuels while allowing developing countries to continue to develop but as well in not providing the adequate funds for the Green Climate Fund that had been promised in Paris in 2015.  In 2020 we had committed for $100 billion and it will be not even $10 billion

For me it comes down to the very easily understood rule that the polluter should pay for the damage they have done.

As someone who has spent many days, weeks and months in the climate change negotiations – on the issue of water and climate and that of the interlinkage between water-energy-food and climate. I want to share some of my worries with you.
In the coming ten years we are in danger of a real triple whammy if we do not act in an integrated way.

The Stockholm Environment Institute has looked at four drivers that will impact on the world. These are increased urbanization, population growth, economic growth (particularly in China and India) and climate change. Based on this they have estimated that by 2030 – only just over ten years away we will need there will be an estimated 40% increase in demand for energy and a 30-50% increase in the demand for food BUT for me the critical issue is the gap of water resources between availability and demand estimated at upto 40%.

These figures were prior to the agreement on the UN Sustainable Development Goals – 17 goals which include goals on water, food, energy and climate.
But it’s fair to say although there is enormous enthusiasm and activities to implement the SDGs we are already falling short.

In last year’s global scan survey of over 500 experienced sustainability professionals only 8% through that there had been good progress on the water goal, 7% of the food goal, 9% on climate change goal and 11% on the energy goal.
While the UK has been focusing on Brexit the world is in need of strong leadership and urgent leadership to address these critical challenges in front of us. At time sit reminds me of the story of Nero, who was said to have “fiddled while Rome burned.” Well our politicians are in danger of literally “brexitering while the planet burns’

Having been in Copenhagen I can really appreciate the achievement that was the Paris Climate Agreement. But the Paris Agreement though vital is not enough for us to keep under the 1.5-degree centigrade rise by the end of the century that we need to.
Climate change is and will continue to impact on all countries and communities. We have seen that here in Derbyshire with the Whaley Bridge in Derbyshire, where the amount of rain in some places an entire month’s rain fell in four hours. Small streams that are usually a few inches deep were transformed into raging torrents.
Or the flood defence in Derby where we have seen only this last week a busy route in
and out of Derby city centre being closed from the 28th of October for at least two weeks causing diversions for cars and bus routes.

This is after weeks of preparation, for four floodgates to be installed in Derwent Street, at either end of Exeter Bridge, as part of £95 million flood defence works being carried out along the river through the city.

Work has been ongoing since June to pave and realign the road, as well as the creation of new flood defences behind the Riverside Chambers and Full Street.

So impacts of climate change isn’t something happening in some far off country its happening here in Derbyshire.

It is great that the UK will host the 2020 critical UN climate summit where we will see how close we are to delivering the target of no more than 1.5 degree rise by the end of the century. But are we ready here in the UK to do our part and what would that look like?

The UK pledged in July to have net-zero emissions by 2050 and it is clear that the European Union is likely to adopt a similar target.

Liberal Democrat passed at our conference this year a resolution that commits the UK to:
“reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases to new zero as fast as possible, and endorses the aim of new zero greenhouse gas emissions from the UK by 2045 at the latest.”

There are challenges ahead if we are as a party going to achieve this.

It isn’t just about the Liberal Democrats pursing in isolation this policy we must build on the cooperative work that we have done with other parties in parliament over the remain campaign to build a cross party support for these policies. Only by doing so will they become a real possibility of achieving.

We should remember that over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this is likely to increase to over two thirds by 2030. It’s the cities that use a large proportion of the world’s energy supply and are responsible for around 70 per cent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

The former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that ‘Our Struggle for Global Sustainability Will Be Won or Lost in Cities,’

What I want to do today is highlight three critical areas that could have a significant impact on helping the UK to deliver on its part of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Buildings
There are a number of key areas that we need to work on urgently. This includes energy efficiency – the low hanging fruits – no house or office block or factory should be built that isn’t at least a zero-carbon standard for all new buildings by 2021. There is huge work needed to retrofit the present house stock and by the way the saving that will do on the health side should be a reason to do this as well.

My second point is on Energy Provision
There is no question that we have seen rapid development of renewables in the area of wind and solar. We can and should expand the contribution of offshore wind to the energy mix but id like the UK to be at the forefront of wave energy provision. As an island we have huge opportunities and should be investing in RandD to become a world leader if not the world leader in wave energy technology. Shouldn’t we make Derby, Leicester and Nottingham the center for some of this new technology development. A triangle of innovation.

My third point is on Transport
We need to move our transport system quicker than it is towards a decarbonized system. Recharging stations should be put in not by the private sector but by the state. All new shopping centers, schools, hospitals, offices, housing developments should require charging stations to be included.

These changes will require a great transition by this I mean that we must invest in retaining a large proportion of the workforce and preparing the way for that is also important. This again is something that should be a cross party initiative.

As Liberal Democrats we believe in creating a statutory duty for each principal local authority to set a Zero-Carbon Strategy. This would include that local and communities produce power generation that we support urgently  home energy retrofits and that we integrate the local transport and land use plans. But again these are policies that we should be perusing with other parities perhaps the difference would be that we would see that done with an accompanying major decentralization of powers and resources.

These changes that we need to do cant be undertaken in a way that we did over closing the coal mines we need to ensure that we do it through a Just Transition. Liberal Democrats advocate the setting up of a Commission to advise on how to deliver a net-zero economy that works for everyone. This should then include Just Transition Funds to support development in those regions and communities most affected by the transition.

There are places that are still suffering from the aftermath of the closing of coal mines in the 1980s. We can’t let people down again like this…like the conservatives did and would do again.

Can we build a low carbon economy in time? The answer is yes but not if we pursue this by ourselves it must be in partnership with others who support in other political parties. The earth is not a party-political football and it never should be.

So how do we make this a reality? One way to ensure that we have someone arguing for these robustly is to to have a cabinet-level Chief Secretary for Sustainability in the Treasury. All finance decisions need to ensure they help us deliver on our climate as well as our sustainability targets.

Climate change is about, working together whether it is in our communities, in our cities, in our country, in our country and internationally to address the challenges. We are better together.

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