The bells toll louder now, but will we listen and act? The UK is hosting the climate summit, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, COP26, at the end of October. No doubt it will set new targets or reiterate old ones, but more is needed. Politicians need to face reality.
We need to set new goals for our economy and the way we live. It will require the most massive investment, probably bigger than the bail-out of the banking system. If we can bail out the banks, we can save the environment from a cataclysmic global crisis. But governments need to be honest with their citizens. Trading emissions is no longer an option. It simply allows the wealthy and rich countries to park their responsibility onto the shoulders of others.
No doubt, the UK will boast about approaching its targets in reducing carbon emissions. Sadly this is all a sleight of hand. The UK has, in large part, achieved that by exporting its carbon emissions. If the UK is serious about its carbon footprint, it will legislate to reduce this invisible trade-related impact. That is the hardest of the political tasks. It requires a significant restructuring of our economy and no doubt increased prices for our food and so many raw materials. But unless the UK does act on this, it cannot claim any high ground on tackling climate change.
COP26 is perhaps the last opportunity for us to avoid disasters and to impact climate change. It requires bold action. Let us hope our politicians do more than pay lip service to it. If you hear them boasting about what they are already doing, you will know they are missing the mark. If they say we have not done nearly enough and take drastic action, then there is hope.
What we know is that free trade deals that encourage destructive global trade will destroy our planet. Anything short of a significant restructuring of our production and trade will fail to halt the tragedy of adverse man-made climate change.
About the writer: Ray Noble is a Chartered Biologist.