Time for governments to take responsibility

A flurry of environmental reports from global and regional organisations in the last week can signal only one thing – a new round of climate change talks.

The World Bank‘s report 4 degrees: Turn Down The Heat – Why a 4 degrees Warmer World Must Be Avoided predicts what the world could look like by the end of the century without serious policy changes. It names losing coastal cities, risk to food production, the impact of water availability, wetter winters and unprecedented heat waves, depending where in the world you live. It sees the need to strengthen climate change policies to protect the health and wealth of the world.

It champions green growth through improving efficiency and smarter use of resources and understands there are many opportunities to reduce the impact without slowing down economic growth. Like many working in sustainability, it sees it as part of the solution to reverse the current downturn.

The UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) Emissions Gap Report continues in similar vein citing climate change as a great challenge but one that provides a great opportunity to transform to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy. This report reviews the last year’s progress to see how well on track the world is on limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees.

The European Environment Agency‘s (EEA) report, Climate Change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2012, looks closer to home, assessing climate change impacts on environmental systems and society. It believes the current global actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to constrain temperatures to the 2 degrees rise, as laid down by the United Nations. Even with this 2 degrees limit there will be substantial impacts on society, human health and eco-systems.

Commitments needed to stop this recurring

Photo: think4photop

Data reviewed by the EEA show mean temperatures and the length of heatwaves are increasing across Europe and the last decade was the warmest on record. While the impacts  vary within Europe for the UK this means coastal flooding in low-lying coastal areas, increased frequency and intensity of winter and spring flooding and increased river flow. Hearing all the stories this week from residents around the country caught up yet again in clearing out their houses, we know this is already happening.

While all agree that more needs to be done, all is not lost. But we do need to raise the game, across all levels of society, from the top down. The World Bank calls for the heat to be turned down. “Only early, co-operative, international actions can make that happen.” The EEA underlines the need for mitigation and adaptation, while the UN report concludes that steep emission reductions are still required to reach this limit.

With the continuing economic pressures and lack of real progress at the last climate change talks, enthusiasm and commitment towards tackling these issues is not high on peoples’ agenda. But the impacts where ever in the world will affect all of us, be it from risk to food production, quality and quantity of water supply, flooding or drought to name a few. It’s time for those in charge to realise the potential and opportunities in moving to a low-carbon economy, that it’s not a hindrance to growth but is helping to boost economies.

Isn’t it time for the climate talks in Doha to get down to serious business, for governments to take their responsibilities seriously and to send the right message across the globe?

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