Global action on climate needed as UK has hottest day ever

6 August 2019

In our latest issue of Ecology’s building a greener society blog, we analyse some of the key climate stories hitting the headlines.

Global Strike for Climate

The Ecology team is supporting the Global Strike for Climate on 20 September. Will you be joining us? The aim is for millions of people to join the school strikers in demanding urgent action on climate change. We’ll update with more details of what we’ll be doing to support the strike nearer the time.

Youth Strike for Climate placards at Ecology’s AGM in April

There’s never been a greater need for action. Recent reports suggest the next 18 months are going to be crucial if the planet is to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. Three days after the Global Strike, the UN is hosting a Climate Action Summit in New York. UN Secretary-General António Guterres is calling on leaders to attend the summit with “concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.” This will be followed by COP25 in December and COP26 at the end of 2020. The agreements made at those meetings could mean the difference between a 1.5°C rise in average temperature and a 3°C rise.

In a recent speech to foreign ministers, the Prince of Wales said, “…I am firmly of the view that the next 18 months will decide our ability to keep climate change to survivable levels and to restore nature to the equilibrium we need for our survival.”

UK’s hottest ever day

The consequences of climate change have been felt around the UK this month. The Met Office recorded the hottest ever day in the UK on the 25 July (38.7°C). The heatwave has caused disruption in several areas, including train cancellations and office closures. The Met Office’s Dr Mark McCarthy said, “Historically, UK summer heatwaves would typically tend to peak in the low 30s Celsius with extreme events reaching the mid-30s … Climate change has increased the likelihood and severity of heatwave episodes across Europe, which will have also increased the risks of a 40°C temperature event in the UK.” We’ve also seen flooding in Manchester, with numerous homes and businesses flooded after extremely heavy rainfall.

Brighton beach is packed on 25 July 2019, the hottest day ever in the UK (Credit : Simon Dack / Alamy Live News)

Government action is needed

It’s clear that the new government needs to take action, and quickly. The pressure is on, particularly given the recent news that the UK is nowhere near on track to hit its carbon reduction targets. The House of Commons’ Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee released a damming report last month, which refers to the UK’s building stock as “one of the most inefficient in Europe” and states that there has been a 95 percent drop in the rate of insulation being installed in houses.

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the BEIS Select Committee

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Committee, said, “If the Government lacks the political will to deliver energy efficiency improvements, how can we expect it to get on with the costlier actions needed to tackle climate change? Despite a consensus on what needs to be done, Ministers have continued to sit on their hands and failed to deliver the policies needed to boost energy efficiency.”

The most recent reports from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which outline the progress made over the last year towards reducing UK emissions and preparing for climate change, are also far from positive. The authors state, “UK action to curb greenhouse gas emissions is lagging behind what is needed to meet legally-binding emissions targets.” According to the reports, the UK Government has delivered just 1 of the 25 policies needed to get back on track; almost half of sectors have no plans in place to address the long-term consequences of climate change; and “the priority given to adaptation has been eroded over the past ten years”.

It’s too late to stop climate change having an impact – the effects are already being felt across the globe. But there’s still time to ensure those effects don’t become catastrophic. Will you join us in demanding action?