Spotlight Activity:Parliament Debates Threats Presented by Climate Change
On Thursday 24th February, the House of Lords held a debate on the “threats presented by climate change.” The 5-hour discussion was proposed by Lord Teverson, a Liberal Democrat and former member of the European Parliament. Lord Teverson has an environmental background, as a trustee for the North Devon Biosphere Foundation. Also present was Lord Henley, representing the conservative government’s department for Business, Energy, and Industry.
The session began by discussing various international agreements and the cooperation that has been achieved so far, and swiftly moved on to issues raised by climate change that are particularly pressing for the UK. Six key threats were identified;
- flooding and coastal defense
- health, wellbeing and productivity disruption
- water supply shortages
- natural ecosystems, soils and biodiversity loss
- decreased food production and trade
- new and emerging pests and diseases
In addition, it was stressed that our current level of greenhouse gas emissions are not set to meet the 4th and 5th carbon budgets that are required if we are to keep the temperature from rising above 1.5 °C. The debate took place in the face of stalling emissions mitigation.
Further, the debate briefly discussed potential adaption methods, upon recognizing the carbon budgets would not be met, and set a sense of urgency for these measures. For example, it was noted that power points should be relocated to higher locations to avoid flooding through dykes and pumping schemes, and an effort needs to be made to enhance coastal defenses to mitigate the effects of sea-level rise. A suggestion was made that we should focus on tidal energy in addition to wind and solar, by exploring tidal barrages and lagoons, as it would be a geographical niche as an island nation.
In comparison to current policy, it was refreshing to hear a discussion on biodiversity loss that went further than maintaining green spaces, as the House of Lords also talked about the effect it has on carbon storage, biofuels and access to clean water. There was also an interesting take on the effect Brexit will have on the UK’s climate change defenses, such as limited access to water cleaning chemicals. Further, it was noted that the UK is the heaviest subsidizer of fossil fuels in the EU, a fact that will have to change if we are to remain competitive. The lords also reemphasized the fact that it remains uncertain whether the UK will remain within the EU carbon trading system (ETS), a problem which will need to be resolved sooner rather than later.
Finally, it is important to note that the role of the House of Lords is to advise and scrutinize government policy, not to propose new policies themselves. However, they have a large influence on future policies and by reshaping the key threats of climate change they open the door for new policy directions. There still needs to be a push from the public for the government to take action of the ideas discussed if we are to overcome these threats. In particular, remaining within the EU ETS and restructuring urban areas to become more adaptable.
Status: Right Direction
Although it was good to see parliament participating in an in-depth discussion on the key issues, there was little discussion on how to implement these new strategies and form policy objectives to enable the 4th and 5th carbon budgets are met. One of the concluding remarks regarded the UK as ‘’one small island that [could] only do so much’’. However, this kind of thinking and reliance on other countries will only hinder progress and any competitive advantages in sustainability for UK industries.
Dear Lord Teverson,
I would like to express my gratitude for the debate you proposed on the threats presented by climate change on the 24th of January. I believe moving forward the UK will need to utilize the expertise of both environmental concerns and industry constraints.
In addition, it would be good to outline specific policy avenues that could make this transaction into renewables easier, especially post-Brexit, and address the stalling figures in household emissions abatement. There needs to be further discussion on how Brexit will affect our shared energy grid with the Republic of Ireland in order to address our carbon budgets in the future.
Send Action Alert Message to:
Lord Robin Teverson
Telephone: 0207 219 5353
House of Lords, London,