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THE coming year will be our “last chance” to come together and fight the climate emergency, environmental leaders are warning today.
The warnings come at the end of a year punctuated by devastating fires, hurricanes and floods driven by climate change — marking the end of the hottest decade on record.
Natural England chairman Tony Juniper and Environment Agency chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd say that recent flooding in Britain and devastating wildlife loss prove that the “dire consequences” of rising temperatures are already being felt.
Writing on the Green Alliance website, the pair stress that “2020 is our last chance to bring the world together to take decisive action on climate change.”
Global warming is intrinsically linked to wildlife and habitat loss, they explain, saying that restoration of the natural environment must be “at the heart of the response.”
Mr Juniper and Ms Boyd say that there will be “every opportunity to raise the tempo of action here in the UK” in 2020, with a new Environment Bill expected to be presented to Parliament.
But climate activist group Extinction Rebellion (XR) says the Bill “only scratches the surface” of changes needed to mitigate the effects of global warming.
The movement, which held mass protests across the globe in 2019, has repeatedly slammed government inaction on tackling the climate emergency.
XR spokeswoman Zion Lights said that the current government’s target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 “commits us to immense suffering and death.”
The group stresses the importance for change in 2020, saying it could be “the year of clear-sightedness — the year humanity woke up to a better way of living.”
But tackling the climate emergency will require “unprecedented action,” Ms Lights explained.
Ms Lights said: “We need a ‘space race’ style response to save our planet. But so far the political will to achieve it is missing and cowardice instead sits in its place as world leaders look away from the biggest crisis humankind has ever faced.
“We need to build sustainability into every area of the way we live. We need to address the issue of infinite growth on a finite planet, which is incompatible with a warming world … We need to change the way we live.”
The movement’s warning comes shortly after UN climate talks in Madrid, where little progress was made by world leaders to tackle rising emissions.
Despite almost 200 countries signing the Paris Agreement in 2016 to eventually limit global warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels, emissions continue to increase.
The UN warned this year that we have until 2030 to limit warming below the 1.5˚C threshold — after which ecosystems face disastrous and irreversible damage.
This would require emissions to fall by 7.6 per cent every year over the next decade. Yet this year, worldwide fossil fuel emissions rose 0.6 per cent.
Extreme weather events linked to climate change battered every continent in 2019, from raging fires in the Amazon rainforest and Australia to hurricanes and typhoons in the US and China.
These extreme events — along with politicians’ refusal to take the climate emergency seriously — have mobilised millions across the globe for the first time. As a result, hundreds of governments this year have declared climate emergencies.
A poll of eight Western countries this year — including Britain — showed that the public considers climate change to be the most important issue facing the world.
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