Phelim Mac Cafferty: Can we talk about climate change now?

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convenor of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty is convenor of the Green Group on Brighton and Hove City Council

World leaders are making grand promises but so far failing to take decisive action.

Over the last week the UK has witnessed all-too-familiar scenes of mass flooding and devastation in Cumbria. My thoughts go out to the people affected; who must now rebuild their lives with no guarantee that floods won’t return.

Once again records have been comprehensively smashed, with the highest rainfall ever observed in the UK over a 24-hour period. What were once 100-year events are now happening every five to 10 years, and our flood defences simply cannot cope.

Unfortunately this is no surprise to climate scientists. Their basic premise is that a warmer world will lead to more intense heavy rain events.

According to the WWF, we have already seen a 1°C increase globally over the last 150 years, increasing rapidly over the last 25 years. No coincidence that the Met Office has recorded steadily increasing levels of rainfall since the 1980s, with the wettest winter ever recorded in 2013/2014.

Flooding will only get worse as greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise. The UK’s Committee on Climate Change reminded us this week that “climate change is expected to increase the frequency and magnitude of severe flooding across the UK”.

While Cumbria sits underwater, world leaders at the Paris climate talks are making grand promises but so far failing to take decisive action on climate change. Current pledges on the table would still result in global warming of at least 2.7°C, leading to catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

At national level, the Conservative government has demonstrated a complete disregard for the environment by eliminating key incentives for green energy and energy efficiency improvements. No surprise then that in November the government announced it would fail to meet its own targets on renewable energy.

Of course, we all have a responsibility to take action on climate change. That’s why I’ve been an environmentalist for my entire life. Greens are offering genuine solutions at the local, national and international level for tackling climate change and moving towards a better society.

Under the Green administration we saw Brighton and Hove City Council commit to exclusive use of renewable energy, and the installation of energy efficiency measures and solar panels on council buildings. It is our collective responsibility to do much more.

In Paris this week the international community has a real chance to take strong steps to tackle climate change. I hope global leaders have the courage to take those necessary steps to secure life itself for future generations.