Part II. THE CLIMATE CHANGE CRISIS
It seems now inevitable that climate change will have a steadily increasing impact upon life in the Strettons: there will be more frequent extreme weather, like warmer, dryer summers, milder and wetter winters, storms and high winds, with an increased risk of local flooding. At present there is not a significant international plan to mitigate the impending crisis so we will drift into a dystopian future, where iconic trees, like oak and ash may no longer survive, gardens will have to be re-designed to feature plants that can cope with drought, food will become more expensive and our oil and gas central heating will be replaced by heat pumps. Deeper into the future the melting of polar ice will raise sea levels so that many coastal communities will either have to move or spend vast sums of money on building new sea and river defences: there will be mass movements of people across the globe as some areas become unable to support their present populations. The experts cannot predict exactly what will happen or when and optimists look for some mitigation from technical innovations, but overall the outlook is bleak.
17. National and International Management of Climate Change
The international framework for Climate Change was established by the Paris Convention of 2016 which urged all nations to introduce measures to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C: this was sadly little more than a hand-ringing exercise and already the United States Federal Government, but not all individual States, have reneged on the agreement. Britain was to host another international summit this year in Glasgow but it has been postponed because of the Covid 19 emergency: the main purpose of the conference was to get governments to commit to specific measures to combat the predicted rise in temperature. The UK parliament has declared a Climate Change Emergency; this lead has been followed, amongst others, by Shropshire Council. So a consensus is emerging about the need for urgent actions to address the issue. These will include changes to our diet, the type of holidays we take and the products we can buy; there are also likely to be significant price increases for some foods and other products. The implication, in general terms, is that taxes will have to be raised to pay for mitigation measures but it is already clear that the Covid 19 pandemic, which is likely to be with us for some time to come, is going to lead to higher unemployment, a severe recession and higher taxes to fulfil government commitments to maintain the National Health Service, introduce a radically improved Care Service and pay down the extra debt built up during lockdown. The probability is that it could be several years before the government is willing to increase expenditure significantly on Climate Change mitigation measures.
18. UK Government Climate Change Targets
The UK Government has set a target of Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050, usually referred to as Net Zero Emissions. Some cities and regions have declared the intention of hitting this target earlier, for example, Shropshire County and Bristol City by 2030. (Net Zero defines an engine, machine, process, or other energy source that emits no waste products that pollute the environment or disrupt the climate). This is an ambitious target; for example, there is a concerted effort to persuade motorists to switch from petrol or diesel to electric cars: at present only about 1% of the cars in the UK are electric so there is a long way to go. In order to fulfil the target aim the Government has appointed a Climate Change Committee (CCC) as its statutory adviser. The CCC published a report in 2019 (see its web-site) and set out a series of 5-year tranches of work to achieve the statutory commitment of the Climate Change Act. At present the UK is below its statutory targets.
19. Setting Climate Change Targets in Church Stretton
Clearly the main initiatives to combat the Climate Change Emergency must be taken at National and International level but equally clearly we have to assume that such measures are unlikely to be addressed at the scale required until major natural disasters force governments to take action. We cannot just wring our hands and wait for events to overwhelm us. There are measures we can take which will have an impact at local level. Stretton Climate Care has drawn up an extensive list of mitigating actions which will make a worthwhile contribution and these are set out in Appendix I. Some can be taken by individual households whilst others will require community action and initiatives by Shropshire Council and the Town Council,but they are all worth careful examination to be worked into a phased programme together with initiatives to drive the measures along.
20. RECOMMENDATION: the measures listed in Appendix I should be assessed for action in a phased programme by Shropshire Council, the Town Council, local organisations and individual property owners and householders. A system should be introduced to drive the phased initiatives, to monitor the rate of progress and report regularly to the community.