The conclusions of the last IPCC report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) were clear and stark. We have hit one degree of warming, and have a very narrow window of time left if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change occurring over the span of a single generation. This looks increasingly likely to happen in my lifetime, your lifetime.
The latest report concluded that net carbon emissions have to fall by 45 per cent by 2030, from 2010 baseline levels, and hit net zero by 2050 in order for the aim of the Paris Climate Agreement, that of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, to be met.
Unfortunately, we are nowhere near net zero. Research by the Global Carbon Project indicates that carbon emissions rose by 2.7 per cent in 2018 and reached an all-time high of 37.1 billion tons last year. Furthermore, the planet is warming by between 0.18-0.24 degrees Celsius per decade, and the pace of warming is accelerating.
Falling air pollution is enabling more of the sun’s warmth to reach the earth’s surface, for as aerosol pollutants reflected sunlight, they to an extent mitigated the amount of warming. Couple that with a long-term natural climate cycle in the Pacific that is entering a warm phase and this confluence of events is going to bring us perilously close to 1.5 degrees in just two decades. When one also factors in positive feedback cycles worryingly close to being triggered, then it is clear that the climate change is a climate crisis.
As the IPCC report points out, failure to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees will have devastating effects on people, prosperity and wildlife. For example, even an extra half degree of warming leading to a global temperature increase by two degrees will wipe out coral reefs. The report states: “Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 per cent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 per cent) would be lost with 2°C.” What happens to the sectors that depend on coral reefs? What happens to the millions of people who depend on coral reefs for their livelihood? What happens to all the species that inhabit coral reefs?
Considering that solving the climate crisis will require cooperation on a scale never seen before, and given that the European Union has competence in environmental affairs, it is incredibly concerning that climate change has not featured as a central discussion point in elections for the European Parliament.
The six MEPs that we elect will have an outsized role in determining what happens next. The committee they are in, and the manner in which they vote and how they convince their colleagues within their political group to vote, can be enough to pass or sink a resolution.
Indeed, according to a report published by Climate Action Network, while the European Greens lead the way in defence of climate, the European People’s Party and European Conservatives and Reformists are acting as dinosaurs, hampering, holding back and voting against crucial legislation.
So where do the 41 MEP candidates running locally stand on climate change? What are their policy ideas? Do they have a policy vision that is bold, far-reaching and would enable us to hit net zero by 2050? Does their track record tally with rhetoric? We vote in less than three weeks. Why aren’t we discussing this?