I was lucky enough to be able to attend the global climate conference COP26 in Glasgow in November, which with over 40,000 delegates, was the biggest COP ever. Whilst the pledges made in the final Glasgow Climate Pact are expected to put the world on a path to global warming of less than two degrees, this will only happen if all of the promised emissions targets are actually delivered. Unfortunately, current climate policies around the world don’t come close to achieving these aims and global temperatures are currently set to rise by about 2.7 degrees, meaning the 2020s is the critical decade for taking more action to deliver on pledges.
Climate change is affecting all of us – a recent study found that at least 85 per cent of the world’s population has been affected by climate change and I was particularly moved to hear the experiences of those in developing countries, many of whom have contributed the least to climate change but are suffering disproportionately from the impacts which are devastating their homes and farmlands. I met an impressive lady Emi Mahmoud, a Sudanese poet and UN Goodwill Ambassador who has written powerfully about her experiences as a refugee fleeing from the impacts of climate change.
Whilst it was inspiring to witness heads of state and business leaders from around the world committing to greater action on climate change at an international level – plans to move away from coal, commitments to end fossil fuel subsidies and deforestation are particularly welcome – climate change is a global problem which we all have a responsibility to play our part in solving and which must be done in a fair and just way.
Everyone, from heads of state down to each individual will need to take action. Here in Rugby we’re seeing the impacts of climate change with increasingly heavy rainfall, more frequent flooding and extremely hot weather in summer. Solving climate change can seem overwhelming but there are lots of steps all of us can take together and local authorities have a really crucial role in terms of supporting and educating communities on how to reduce our carbon emissions.
Getting emissions down is about a lot more than reducing waste and increasing recycling rates which, whilst important, will not be enough to get us to net zero. There are going to have to be more changes, such as making our buildings more energy efficient and heating them with renewable energy, and changing the way we travel by moving to electric vehicles and choosing public transport or walking and cycling over car journeys.
Undoubtedly national and local governments need to do more to raise awareness of the changes that need to be made on the journey to net zero. Rugby Borough Council has started this process by engaging with residents through our climate change survey (it’s still running so do please share your views) and our climate summit. We’ll shortly be consulting on a Net Zero Strategy for Rugby which will set out how we will reduce emissions both in the council itself and in partnership with others and we’d really love to hear from as many local people as possible. We’ll be announcing plans for how you can get involved shortly. Reducing emissions will be a borough wide endeavour and we’ll all need to support each other in the transition to a net zero Rugby.
If we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy a world free from catastrophic warming and to feel the benefits of easy access to nature, clean air and homes which are warm in winter and cool in summer then we need to start to make the changes now. But we need to act fast before it is too late.
Councillor Emma Crane is Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for Homes and Communities, Digital and Communications, and Climate Change Champion.