ON Wednesday 24 April, Harlow Co-operative Party devoted most of its regular meeting to discussing Climate Change, Energy and Environment, in order to make a contribution on this topic to the national Co-op Party’s ongoing policy development process. Starting from the warning by leading scientists that we have only 12 years to prevent global warming from exceeding a 1.5C rise, with disastrous effects on the environment, a wide-ranging debate explored many of the issues. While individuals can – and should – make contributions in many ways, this can never be sufficient.
The vested interests of the fossil fuel industry, among others, can only be overcome by government action at national and international level. Yet few countries are doing enough to achieve even the 2C target agreed at the Paris conference. Indeed, the US under Donald Trump’s presidency denies the reality of global warming and continues to promote the use of fossil fuels. Other major countries such as Brazil and Russia also do not sign up to even this goal.
Further, although reducing CO2 emissions from energy generation to net zero, by changing to renewable sources such as wind and solar, is a priority, there are other aspects that also need attention. Many of the special materials used in the manufacture of both the generators and the users of the renewable energy such as electric cars are scarce, and their production often damages the local environment. Even electric cars produce significant amounts of particulate pollution by road, tyre and brake wear. Reducing the need for transport of all kinds is essential. Aviation in particular cannot continue to grow as planned. In fact, on a finite planet, with finite resources, growth cannot continue as it has in the past.
One aspect that is hardly ever considered even by environmental campaigners is the effect of armed conflict, and the military contribution to climate change. Conflict itself inhibits action on climate change. The military are not included in most calculations of fossil fuel use, and post-conflict reconstruction uses large quantities of materials such as concrete, which are a significant contribution to CO2 emissions.
Many other points were made, yet it was recognised that only the tip of the problems had been touched on. The human race really is facing an existential crisis, and the drastic action needed is not being implemented. The Co-operative movement has an essential role to play in changing that situation.
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