Public meeting on climate change, 16 November 2019

Here is the press release sent to the local paper afterwards:

180 people at meeting on climate change

On Saturday 16th November 180 people at All Saints Church attended a public meeting on climate change, with speakers Chris Brierley, Associate Professor in Climate Science at University College, London; Paul Brown, former environment correspondent of The Guardian (both residents of Leighton Buzzard), and Councillor Steve Dixon, the Executive Member for Transformation and Climate Change, Central Bedfordshire Council. They all discussed the opportunities and threats of climate change, as well as what actions are needed from individuals, councils or governments.

Afterwards, the speakers took questions from the audience, and many people stayed behind afterwards to discuss specific issues in small groups – subjects like tree planting, public transport, Extinction Rebellion, a repair café, renewable energy, and technology solutions.

The meeting was organised by Leighton-Linslade Low Carbon Town, which is a partnership between Christian Ecology Leighton Linslade , and South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth.

 

Nick Clarke, Churchwarden, All Saints , said: “We were delighted to welcome so many people, full of so much enthusiasm, to All Saints for the Climate Change meeting. The church teaches that we are stewards of creation, and so have a responsibility to look after the world we live in. This meeting helped show us what we need to do, right here in Leighton Buzzard and South Beds. Well done to all involved in it.”

Dr.Brierley described how the climate has become warmer over the last three hundred years or so, and how it is now getting warmer more and more rapidly. Scientists around the world often use the Preindustrial period of 1850-1900 as the baseline when measuring climate change –for example, the 2015 Paris climate agreement aimed to limit warming to 1.5°C, and at most 2°C, above that preindustrial baseline.

The earth’s ice sheets and its sea ice are changing the most; so in 30 years it is very likely that there will be no sea ice at all in the Arctic in summer.

Two responses to climate change are needed: mitigation and adaptation

Mitigation means addressing the cause of climate change, by significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Adaptation means we will have to adapt to the kind of extreme weather events it causes, like floods, droughts and wildfires.

Paul Brown in his talk described the effects of this warming in more detail, effects such as the recent disastrous bush fires in Australia and California, the floods in Venice caused by exceptional high tides and sea level rise, and the so-called ‘once in a hundred years’ floods in the UK, that have happened twice in twelve years so far.

These extreme climate events will become both more violent over the next two decades, and commonplace. The governments of Australia, the United States and the UK are not taking action on climate change anywhere fast enough.

The UK government fails to include emissons from air travel or shipping when it claims it is making progress on climate change.

Most nations will fail to meet the climate targets they signed up to in 2015 at the Paris climate talks, and the world is going to miss its target of keeping temperature increases down to two degrees, let alone the much more desirable one and a half degrees. The rise is likely to reach 3° C by the end of the century. This will already have caused irreversible damage, including sea levels rising by a metre, drowning many of the vital food growing areas of the world, including much of East Anglia.

We have the solutions, and the technologies; but we lack the political will.

There is still hope: people like Greta Thunberg and the UK-inspired Extinction Rebellion have brought the crisis right into the mainstream.

As individuals, we can all save energy, shop locally, eat less meat, reuse or recycle, cycle or walk or take public transport rather than drive, try to avoid flying, get a smaller car, preferably a hybrid or electric.

We can invest in renewable energies, solar or heat pumps.

But more than that, we need to take political action and put pressure on the politicians, companies, banks and shops. Ask MPs, local councillors, company directors, the people who manage your pension fund, difficult questions about what they’re doing about the climate. Keep asking, and don’t take no for an answer.

Politically, a very important milestone is coming up next year when the UK plays host at the 2020 climate talks in Glasgow. We need to make sure the UK government takes a lead..

The situation is still not hopeless; but we need to act, and act now.

The last speaker, Councillor Steve Dixon, explained that the Council has already endorsed theLocal Government Association motion declaring a climate emergency.

There is now a real appetite amongst the officers for change; and a three part plan will be launched formally in April 2020, with targets to be achieved by 2030.

Firstly, they need, i.e. credibility, leading by example. So the CBC building is now covered in solar panels, and they have already made good progress in terms of transportation, reduction in paper use, and other areas.

Secondly, they need to influence the 273,000 residents in Central Beds to change their behaviour. There are many challenges, such as finding sites for the electric charging points and increasing recycling rates .

Thirdly, investment , not just in terms of money, but in support for things like local power production and possibly investing in two thousand or so electric vehicles for their officers.

In summary, CBC’s climate change plan will be very pragmatic and down-to-earth, starting with small steps, and building up into larger changes. 2030 is not very far away.

More detailed summaries of Chris Brierley and Paul Brown’s talks are available on the South Bedfordshire Friends of the Earth website (http://southbedsfoe.co.uk/), under ‘Climate Change’