The bad news is that since last year's Climate Clinic the UK has pumped the equivalent of around 600m tonnes of CO2 into our life-supporting atmosphere. The good news is that we have also seen the passing of the world's first Climate Change Act; the formation of the Committee on Climate Change; the production of Government strategies to deliver on the first carbon budgets; and exacting new EU targets.
The Committee on Climate Change will soon publish its assessment of the Government's strategies and make suggestions that will influence whoever forms a government in 2010. But these green shoots of action are still fragile.
Over the past year, vast sums of public money have been spent on economic-stimulus packages. Even so, economic pain is being felt across the UK, with the most vulnerable being the hardest hit. Increasingly, all parties are recognising that action on climate change provides hope for these people, as progressive policies will create jobs, stimulate economies and eradicate fuel poverty. It has been notable, though, that while the public purse was thrown open to bail out the banks, effective climate-change policies are still suffering for lack of finance.
All political parties have hopes of Copenhagen this December. A global agreement is essential to tackle climate change, but the proposals being put forward by politicians in the rich world will not deliver the changes needed. Rich countries have a historic responsibility for causing climate change and a legal and moral responsibility to act first and fastest in cutting emissions.
The UK can show true leadership through pledging to cut domestic emissions by at least 42 per cent by 2020 without buying in carbon credits from abroad ("offsetting"), and by providing the billions of pounds needed to enable poorer countries to develop cleanly, protect forests and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
We need all the parties to enter the General Election with bold climate policies. And we need the next government to use its mandate to refuse airport expansions, impose tough emissions standards on new power stations, and invest in a comprehensive street-by-street home-energy efficiency programme.
The low-carbon path is the route out of recession and to a more stable and fairer economy. The Climate Clinic is here to facilitate expert debate on how to make this shift – the debate on whether or not we should do so is long over.
The Climate Clinic is a forum to debate the issues and seek solutions to climate changeReuse content