Although some skeptical groups and individuals remain, 2019 has been a pretty decisive year in terms of the climate and green issues being a major focus across Europe. Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has been one of the most recognisable names and faces on TV news broadcasts and her impactful public appearances have been widely covered in the pages of newspapers such as www.independent.co.uk. In June, the European parliamentary elections saw environmentalist parties top the polls in major cities such as Dublin and Berlin, while the UK’s own Greens performed better than ever before, out-polling the Conservatives. So is this “mission accomplished” for ecologists?
To read the headlines, it would be easy to imagine so. Stories tell of a quiet green revolution, and climate-driven protests are increasingly visible in cities worldwide. However, awareness of an issue is one thing – and there is a growing unease among campaigners as to whether the warm words of world leaders are likely to be matched with action that makes a meaningful difference. As we prepare to enter the third decade of this century, is the climate revolution ready to step off the pages of academic papers, and on to the legislative agenda in a meaningful way?
Will Brexit affect how the UK addresses the climate crisis?
May 2019 saw the UK Parliament declare a climate emergency, although this came among some degree of dispute. Then-Environment Secretary Michael Gove indicated that although he agreed there was an emergency, he did not feel that it was right for parliament to declare one. Additionally, it became clear that although the opposition bill to declare an emergency would pass, this was not linked to any further specific action.
Next month, the UK goes to the polls to elect a new government and, at the present time, information on environmental policies is thin on the ground. The Conservatives, expected to return to government after the election, recently announced a moratorium on fracking for shale gas, but have since rowed back on that promise. The opposition Labour party have, in line with popular US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, announced their commitment to a Green New Deal. The Greens themselves, perhaps best-positioned to make the environment a central focus, are polling between 1% and 3% with most pollsters, well back on their June performance.
Amid some concern that a focus on Brexit will affect how much effort goes into addressing the climate crisis, it may fall to individuals and businesses to make most of the effort: ensuring that recycled materials are used in processes, contacting the likes of https://www.mypoweruk.com/commercial/ to secure renewable power sources, and turning to teleconferencing rather than relying on air travel to negotiate with overseas partners.
Are politicians saying one thing and doing another?
The political spectrum across the world has changed utterly in the last decade, due not only to a left-right polarisation in several countries, but the arrival on the scene of anti-establishment parties of various shades and, as noted, Green parties. In Germany, the environmentalist cohort in parliament was among the largest in the 2017 elections, and polling since has seen them running neck-and-neck with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU. It is not out of the question that die Grune could find themselves leading a government if Merkel’s coalition falls before then – which is entirely possible.
So, is Germany delivering the kind of changes you would hope to see from a country with a significant green influence? In short, yes: as covered here previously, the government has recently announced the phasing-out of glyphosate weedkillers, which will be fully banned by the end of 2023. These weedkillers have a serious detrimental impact on insect populations and have been linked to cancer in humans. The ban is a decision which will be welcomed beyond the borders of Germany – but will need to be matched elsewhere to have a major effect.
There is also bad news…
Norway, along with most of Scandinavia, has been repeatedly praised for its commitment to conservation, but a little-commented story in recent weeks has caused some concerns. The country, which delivers power to all its citizens from a grid that is almost emission-free and has the highest percentage of zero-emission cars sold anywhere in the world, has disappointed environmentalists by continuing to offer licences to drill for oil along its continental shelf. This is despite an announcement that a vast majority of the remaining fossil fuel reserves will need to remain in the ground if the targets for temperature increases set out in the Paris Agreement are to be met.
While Norway has promised to redouble its efforts in carbon offsetting and mitigation of the effects of oil drilling, it would naturally be more beneficial were its companies to stop drilling for oil. As of the present time, however, the exploration continues.