We will pay a heavy price for the damage that we have done to our planet

Share

We have, sadly, become used to the threat of extinction faced by such exotic creatures as the pygmy hippo, the golden lion tamarin and the Siberian tiger. But even the most environmentally pessimistic cannot have imagined that we would have to run a campaign to save the sparrow. Whatever the precise reasons for the precipitous decline in the numbers of this charming and once common bird, one suspects that it is not down to natural selection. Man and environmental degradation are implicated. All the more reason, then, to welcome the publication yesterday of the independent report commissioned by the Government on the long-term effects of climate change.

We have, sadly, become used to the threat of extinction faced by such exotic creatures as the pygmy hippo, the golden lion tamarin and the Siberian tiger. But even the most environmentally pessimistic cannot have imagined that we would have to run a campaign to save the sparrow. Whatever the precise reasons for the precipitous decline in the numbers of this charming and once common bird, one suspects that it is not down to natural selection. Man and environmental degradation are implicated. All the more reason, then, to welcome the publication yesterday of the independent report commissioned by the Government on the long-term effects of climate change.

When it came to power three years ago, New Labour promised that it would be "the first truly green government ever" and that it would "put the environment at the heart of government". The record of Mr Blair's administration in living up to those ambitious words has been mixed.

Ministers have also shown themselves timid in the face of opposition from the roads lobby. The Government failed to react quickly enough to the public's concerns about GM food. And, most egregiously, the Government has failed to tackle the continuing problems at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant. Despite the efforts of Michael Meacher, the quietly persistent environment minister, it is Number 10 and the Treasury that drive policy, and it is all too clear that they think that there are no votes in the environment.

But on what could be called the "macro-environmental" issues, the Government has achieved rather more. It is right to be proud, for example, that Britain is at the forefront of nations meeting the Kyoto emissions reduction targets, and continues to take a lead in international efforts to reduce environmental damage. Yesterday's report - a world first - marks an important step towards practical policies to cope with climate change.

The challenges, as the report makes clear, are immense. Whole counties will become vulnerable to flooding. The countryside and wildlife will change forever. Climate change is inevitable and we will have to pay a heavy price for it, and not simply in landscapes despoiled, and wildlife - even such familiar creatures as the sparrow - being lost or greatly denuded.

Where the report was most valuable was in sensitising us to the reality that, either as taxpayers or as consumers, we must now pay for the excesses of the past. We must become used to the idea, for example, of increased taxation to pay for improved flood defences or higher construction costs so that new buildings and existing infrastructure, such as the electricity supply network, can withstand climate change.

Perhaps the one thing that is missing from this report, though, is context. For while this country could and should make its own contribution to the fight against global warming, the truth is that most of the battle needs to be fought - and is currently being lost - on fronts far away from these shores. The continuing stubborn resistance in America to energy saving looks set to remain a significant obstacle. And the rapid population and economic growth of India and China poses a still greater threat. Despite its daunting scale, the battle for the planet and the fight for the sparrow - for they are part of the same campaign - cannot start too soon.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
UK Border Control  

Do you think I'm feckless? I worked for two years in the Netherlands

David Ryan
Bob Geldof  

Ebola is a political AND a medical disease

Paul Vallely
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin