Monday, April 19, 2010

Climate change

I'm getting a lot of emails about climate change, asking what the Liberal Democrats will do about it. This is great - it's good that people take the issue as important and are campaigning on it. So let me set out our general position in this blog.

First: atmospheric CO2 is rising due to our activities. It's obvious that we're pushing stuff into the atmosphere and it's accumulating.

Second: temperatures are rising. Year on year there are large fluctuations but the overall trend is definite.

Thirdly: the rise in temperature is caused by the rise in CO2. That is logical and obvious and accepted by all sensible commentators, with only a few, like ostriches sticking their heads in the sand, refusing to accept the obvious link. (Nick Winterton is one of these, but that's by the way.)

To sit back and do nothing and just enjoy the rise in temperature is not an option. It will bring rising sea levels and drought, and hit the poorest nations (like Bangladesh) hardest. Oh, and it will probably switch off the Gulf Stream so the UK climate will actually get worse rather than better.

So we would - after the failure of the Copenhagen talks - work to get a legally binding global agreement to reduce emissions so that the temperature rise is limited to 1.7C. We would enhance and tighten the emissions trading scheme so that low carbon alternatives flourished. In the UK we would set a target of reducing emissions by 40% by 2020 and elminating net emissions by 2050. To achieve this we would
  • Reduce demand, through better insulation, a smart Grid, upgrading buses and encouraging travel by train (while discouraging flights within the UK which could be done by train. Mind you the volcanic ash is doing that anyway right now.)
  • Increase green power from microgenerators and from wind, refurbishing shipyards to build turbines.
  • Committing the government to the goals of the 10:10 campaign, as a way of leading by example
  • Plant more woodlands in the UK, and protect forests elsewhere

We would also support 3rd world countries affected by drought and rising sea levels (which is only fair as this problem is basically our fault, not theirs) on top of our aid commitment of 0.7% of GDP.

Climate change is the greatest challenge facing us. Even bigger than the recession. It will take radical action to get something done - and the sooner we take that action, the less painful it will be in the long run.