Light-touch climate measures - New sense of urgency needed

Light-touch climate measures - New sense of urgency needed

German prosecutors yesterday charged six Volkswagen executives with fraud, accusing them of “deliberately misleading” behaviour over diesel emissions in 2015.

Though profit targets drove that carmaker’s criminal cheating, and other carmakers’ manipulations too, the impact on hiding car emissions moved it onto a far more important plane.

Despite that, and just as is the case in the Netherlands where recovered farmland — Holland’s famous polders — is being surrendered to the sea to cut carbon emissions, it is hard to imagine such decisive, disruptive pro-climate action in this country.

It is even more difficult to imagine that another Dutch measure to reduce emissions — forcibly reducing the national herd — would be even considered here. We are unfortunately still at the light-touch stage of confronting climate change.

The publication yesterday of an assessment of how local authorities are delivering climate protection programmes confirms that.

The Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) finding that less than half — 12 of 31 — of local authorities have developed a tree-management policy and only 14, again less than half, measure water consumption in local authority buildings suggest a dangerous detachment from the issue of our time.

Though councils have invested north of €120m in energy-saving projects, averting the release of more than 60,000 tonnes of CO2, less than half have incorporated electric or hybrid vehicles in their day-to-day fleet.

This behaviour suggests that we, or at least our local authorities, imagine we have time on our side and that the schedule for change can be open-ended.

A response to the report from the LGMA, suggesting that “the research shows that local authorities have been taking a proactive approach to climate and environmental sustainability for some time, prioritising the needs of their areas and basing their response on prevailing risks in their jurisdictions”, seems startlingly off the pace.

It would hardly pass muster in the Netherlands.

Just as the LGMA report was published, another study found that the world’s oceans were warmer in 2019 than at any point in recorded human history.

The report reaffirmed that the oceans’ warmest 10 years on record were all measured in the past decade.

“The amount of heat we have put in the world’s oceans in the past 25 years equals to 3.6bn Hiroshima atom-bomb explosions,” said lead author Lijing Cheng.

As Australia’s fires are still raging it is not yet possible to estimate how that catastrophe will exacerbate climate change.

However, it seems fair to say, and frightening too, it will be far beyond anything imagined or planned for by our all-too-relaxed local authorities.

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