I am aware that some people do not believe in Climate Change, or that it is man-made, or that we can do anything about it. I am also very aware of the fears of some residents that attempts to deal with the issue will endanger jobs or lifestyle. I will never disdain those concerns – my job as DCC Climate Change Champion is to reassure as well as to encourage.
IT’S ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT
I start, however, from the fact that – WHATEVER is causing it – global temperature (particularly sea temperature) is rising, and that this is an environmental issue of the gravest importance. Last year’s United Nations Global Assessment report found that around one million of the 9 million animal and plant species we know about are threatened with extinction. I have met ‘Climate Change deniers’, but I have never met anyone who is not concerned with what is happening to our environment.
One aspect of this crisis is that in the last two centuries we have burned millions of years’ worth of carbon (stored as ‘fossil fuels’) and poured the resultant greenhouse gases out into the atmosphere. The biggest worry is what are called ‘feedback loops’. A correspondent last week was correct to direct our attention to Australia, where a long hot dry summer has resulted in fires … which have pumped even more CO2 into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, in the Artic, melting ice and permafrost are releasing more greenhouse gases the faster they melt.
A NECESSARY RESPONSE
Nevertheless, greenhouse gases are just one element of a wider environmental, social and political crisis. Although Britain is one of the least affected countries, and one of the countries doing most to address climate change, we too need to respond to the existential ecological crisis facing humanity. The World Bank has suggested that a global temperature rise of 2°C will cause environmental changes which will create 140 million refugees by 2050. Climatic events are already placing stresses upon our social and welfare infrastructure; it doesn’t matter WHY these events are happening, what we need to consider is just how we are going to cope with the fallout from the increasing number of storms, floods, heatwaves etc.
THAT is why, last July, Durham County Councillors agreed nem con to engage in a consultation to ascertain what the people of County Durham want us to do as a Council to address these issues.
I have read EVERY reply, so it cannot be said that ‘DCC never listens’. Only ONE person said ‘do nothing’, and in fact barely half-a-dozen have said they do not believe in climate change. By far the majority of respondents favoured decisive action, and many wanted the Council to achieve carbon neutrality well before our stated date of 2050.
INTO THE FUTURE
The proposed Climate Action Report – which will go to Cabinet in February – is already in draft form and, when you read it, I am hoping that you will agree that it is a suite of realistic projects which will enhance our environment as well as addressing the climate change issue. The measures it is proposing to cut emissions are also measures which will improve the environment, public health, housing, poverty, pollution, waste etc. … as well as providing economic opportunities for local companies. They are ALL costed, and most will pay themselves back in their lifetime; we are not just throwing money at vanities. We will involve the public and partners in the Report’s application, and will be flexible to changing technology, opinions and ideas.
So where I stand on this is as follows:
– Britain has signed up to the Paris Agreement to meet certain Climate targets;
– therefore, the British government promised to be carbon neutral by 2050;
– consequently, Durham County Councillors have accepted an obligation to ‘play their part’.
WORKING IN PARTNERSHIP
We cannot change what’s happening in China or Australia, but we can make County Durham as safe as possible, so I would appeal to all residents to see this as a joint task we all have to address, to seek common ground, and to support the County Council as it tries to “spend our taxes wisely on long term, proper, green energy projects and making our country climate change proof” … to protect and enhance the living environment on which we all depend.
The earth’s atmosphere is only 12 miles thick (the distance from Durham to Aycliffe). The deepest ocean is less than seven miles in depth (roughly the distance from Aycliffe to Darlington). All the world’s life exists in that small sliver of habitable space. We need to realise just how tiny and fragile our climate is, and start to take action, because for the past 200 years we have been befouling it into a noxious junkyard.
Cllr John D Clare
(DCC Climate Change Champion).