We’ve had two bits of bad news so far this year.
The first was that global greenhouse gas emissions reached record levels last year in spite of the economic downturn (IEA 2011). As it stands, it is likely that the world will have increased in temperature by an average of 4o C by 2070s (Betts et al. 2011). ‘Likely’ means a probability of more than 66%.
A 4oC increase is widely considered to translate into climatic changes that are beyond what humans and ecosystems can adapt to in many areas around the globe (IPCC 2007). At the general level it will mean ecosystem collapse in the most vulnerable areas such as the Arctic, die-back of tropical forests, and the loss of a large proportion of the world’s coral reefs.
The second is in a report published by the Climate Change Committee today, which shows that the UK is doing little to reverse this trend. Last year, in spite of everything, the UK’s emissions rose by 3%. A long, cold winter is partly to blame, but its results that matter and this isn’t a good one.
As a country, we have prided ourselves in the lead we’ve taken in the fight against dangerous climate change. The Climate Change Act was a world-first, pioneering bit of legislation that commits the UK to reducing emissions by 80% by 2050. But the challenge is no longer just big words, its action too.
The CCC report puts a spotlight on what Government needs to do to make this transition. Most importantly, it spells out the need for ambition in the Green Deal, so that all lofts and cavity walls are insulated by 2015, and reminds Government of the importance of reforming how the energy market works so it better delivers for renewable energy.
Government must of course do its bit, but, ultimately, we’re missing our carbon targets because not enough people are doing the right thing – insulating their homes, driving and flying less, and installing solar panels. If we want to save wildlife, this has to change. So, here’s to making those changes so that next year we can look forward to some good news for a change.
As many of you will know, there have been for many years long and drawn out negotiations over a global deal on climate change to follow on from the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire next year.
The RSPB has engaged with 2 key parts of these negotiations - getting a deal and funding to protect the world's rainforests, and ensuring that the next global deal properly accounts for emissions from forests and land use change, much of which have been ignored until now.
Influencing these negotiations so that they better deliver for wildlife is tough work. Watch this video to find out more -
Blogger – Jim Densham – Senior Land Use Policy Officer – RSPB ScotlandThe issue of peat being dug out of our countryside for use by gardeners featured on The One Show just the other evening. Perhaps the editor had been prompted by Harry Huyton’s previous blog (A nudge is a fudge)?
In Scotland we have our own share of lowland raised bogs being damaged through this practice, leading to the loss of some of our most special places for wildlife and one of our natural defences against climate change. In its recent White Paper, Defra published milestones to phasing out peat for horticulture, but these targets don’t apply to Scotland. So, this week we sought a friendly Member of the Scottish Parliament to ask a few pertinent questions in Parliament about the Scottish Government’s policy on peat extraction for commercial use. We look forward to the answers and to increasing the pressure for a similar phase out in Scotland.
This week I will be attending a conference in Stirling organised by the IUCN Peatland Programme and launching a new report to coincide with it. A large proportion of our peatland areas, like raised bogs, are damaged and contributing to climate change instead of helping to fight it. We know that if we restore peatlands to a healthy and functioning state they can return to being good for wildlife and beneficial for the climate. We want to make sure that the vast amounts of carbon they store in their deep peat soils stays where it is rather then being lost to the atmosphere. Scotland’s peatlands hold a whopping 10 times the amount of carbon stored in the UK’s forests!
Restoring peatlands will need strong political commitment and money. It will also need policy change. Our new report cites numerous examples of policies that influence how peatlands are managed (too many to go into here). It concludes that they don’t pull together for the goal of restoration and reducing greenhouse gas emissions – in fact, too often they can actually conflict and stop this goal being achieved. We are asking Government to update, adapt and align its policies and to remove these remaining barriers. We are also continuing to call for Government to commit to restoring 600,000 hectares of peatland in Scotland – for the benefit of wildlife and the climate.