COLUMN: This is how we are tackling climate change locally
PUBLISHED: 11:24 14 July 2019
"It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies." So said Sir David Attenborough in his recent documentary on climate change.
Last month, Theresa May announced that the UK would commit to net zero emissions by 2050. Britain is the first major nation to propose such a target.
The announcement has been welcomed widely and Laurence Tubiana, an architect of the Paris climate agreement commented, "this is an historic commitment that will reverberate right around the world."
The need to tackle climate change is clear, but we can't do it unilaterally. A far reaching, multi-faceted, and global response is necessary.
One that involves new technology, international action, and a rethink of the way we live and work. We also need to re-engage with nature.
Across Cambridgeshire we are taking steps to reduce climate change. This year marked 120 years since the National Trust purchased its first piece of land at Wicken Fen and 20 years since the launch of the 'Wicken Fen Vision'.
The vision is an ambitious and pioneering plan to re-create the ancient wetlands and restore habitat for endangered species. It is also a great illustration of what can be achieved when strategy and desire come together and effect positive change to our environment.
Twenty years into the 100-year project, this expanse of land has been officially registered as the most species-rich area in the UK with more than 9,300 animals recorded.
The project has other environmental benefits too such as soil regeneration and carbon sequestration, which is key in helping to prevent climate change.
Climate change is also one of the key issues raised with me by school pupils.
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Last year, the children of Oak Class at Rackham Primary mounted a plastic waste campaign, challenging chocolate manufacturers to find alternative ways to package Easter eggs using less plastic, and instead use recyclable cardboard.
A new research lab, 'The Centre for Climate Repair' has been set up at the University of Cambridge. It will address concerns that existing and conventional efforts to curb global warming are not sufficient and will look to develop more radical ways of solving the climate change crisis.
Cambridgeshire County Council is also significantly reducing its carbon footprint.
Cambridgeshire is proof that there need be no contradiction between green innovation and prosperity. Despite leading the way in fighting the effects of climate change, it remains the country's fastest-growing economic region.
On a national scale, in addition to last month's announcement, we can be positive about many other steps the Government are taking.
A recent analysis from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showed that UK greenhouse gas emissions fell by 42 per cent between 1990 and 2017 with carbon dioxide emissions reducing by 38 per cent.
We have reduced CO2 emissions faster than any G20 Nation and our renewable capacity has quadrupled since 2010.
Effective legislation is also playing a major role. Since the introduction of a 5p charge the sale of single use plastic carrier bags has plummeted. Reusable shopping bags are the new norm. Reusable coffee cups and paper straws are also moving in that direction. The Government is looking at further reforms.
A consultation to explore how a tax on plastic packaging, standardised waste collections across the country and a deposit return scheme for single use cans and bottles could improve our waste management system was launched in February.
Investment in innovation and technology which can lead to viable alternatives to plastics is also a critical part of the Government's progressive agenda.
While acknowledging climate change is a global issue which needs tackling at a global level and a matter for all governments, we can, and must, all take some responsibility, because we can all make a difference.
We have a long way to go, but real progress is being made. Conservationists and volunteers at Wicken Fen, school aged children like those at Rackham Primary, forward looking researchers at Cambridge University, a government committed to tackling the climate change emergency and each one of us doing our bit all add up. We should not underestimate the power of our collective impact.