Building a greener society – climate action

5 December 2018

As leaders gather in Poland for the United Nations Climate Conference (COP24) Ecology non-executive director, Alison Vipond, discusses the challenge ahead and the urgent need for more action on climate change.

Climate change is real and it is happening now. Indeed, we are facing climate breakdown.

We are also experiencing the sixth great extinction. The recently published Living Planet Report 2018 from WWF conveys the cascading collapse of biodiversity – in the last 40 years, we have lost some 60% of all animal and plant species on Earth.

The climate and natural world are our life support systems. We know we must protect them.

Scientists do a fantastic job to help us understand the challenges we face and the short time window in which we must change, and move away from fossil fuels and meat-based diets.

But why is progress so lacking? Greenhouse gas emissions are actually rising not falling. One hundred companies are the source of over 70% of carbon dioxide emissions. While some talk the talk, none walk the walk. Similarly governments have signed up to the Paris agreement, and they spend many hours in negotiation, but fail to divest urgently from fossil fuels. Decisions are mostly based on short-termism with the focus being on the impact on the quarterly financial reporting cycle or the party political priorities of the moment rather than considering how policies will affect future generations.

But this short-term view cannot persist.

The younger generations are embracing climate activism. Greta Thunberg is an inspiring 15-year-old school girl from Sweden who has decided to walk out of school on Fridays and sit outside the Swedish parliament until Sweden takes climate change seriously. Greta explains,

If I live to be 100, I will be alive in 2103. Adults often don’t think beyond the year 2050. But by then I will, in the best case, not have lived half of my life. What we do or don’t do right now will affect my entire life and the lives of my friends, our children and their grandchildren.

Greta is attending the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (known as COP24) in Katowice, Poland this week and next. Addressing the conference delegates, she asked the people of the world “to realise that our political leaders have failed us, because we are facing an existential threat and there’s not time to continue down this road of madness.” She went on to say, “So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.” 

Collective activism is growing, such as Extinction Rebellion in the UK and the Ende Gelande Alliance in Germany.

In Poland, Sir David Attenborough has announced the United Nations’ launch of a new campaign enabling individuals the world over to unite in actions to battle climate change. He has urged everyone to use the UN’s new ActNow.bot, designed to give people the power and knowledge to take personal action against climate change via the Facebook Messenger platform. He has spoken for “The People’s Seat” initiative, and called it the result of new activism by people from around the world and mobilised through social media, saying, “The people are behind you, supporting you in making tough decisions, but they are also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives.”

The actions collected on the ActNow.bot will be presented during the Climate Summit in New York in September 2019. We can all be part of a growing global movement for climate action.

Alison Vipond is a non-executive director at Ecology and Research Manager at Northumbria University

Click here to read Alison’s previous blog: Building a greener society – 12 years to save the world.

Greta Thunberg (centre) at the COP24 on 3 December 2018 in Katowice, Poland
Sir David Attenborough at the COP24 on 3 December 2018 in Katowice, Poland