As the nation that kicked off the industrial revolution and started burning fossil fuels, we have a particular responsibility to lead the world in action to tackle the climate change brought about by the burning of those fossil fuels.
21st April 2017 was the first day since the industrial revolution that Britain was powered without burning a single lump of coal. That’s a significant achievement, one that was made possible by placing a price on carbon via our carbon tax known as the Carbon Floor Price. But that’s just a start. To completely get off coal by 2025, as the government has promised, and to continue to reduce emissions we’re going to have to step up our ambition.
And, as the Committee on Climate Change recently pointed out, the UK is not on course to meet the emissions reductions targets set in law as part of the 2008 Climate Change Act.
Using our power as citizens
We need to demand climate leadership from our elected representatives, from our political parties, from our businesses and from our media outlets and platforms. As citizens, we have more power than we generally realise. Understanding that we have power and understanding how to use it is empowering. The belief that we are powerless is disempowering. Leadership has to start with us.
What do we mean by being a climate leader?
It’s instructive to look at great leaders from history, but we can also probably think of great leaders from our own personal experiences. It could be a parent, or someone we’re worked with. If you’re going to write to your MP, give them an example of what you mean by great leadership. You might want to mention Gareth Southgate, or Malala Yousafzai, or Winston Churchill, or Nelson Mandela, or Emmeline Pankhurst…
You might also want to point out that the UK parliament has in the past shown great leadership, such as in passing (with cross-party support) the 2008 Climate Change Act, making the us the first country in the world to set legally binding targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
In his forward to the recent proposal from the Policy Exchange calling for a carbon tax with dividends (very similar to our own fee and dividend policy) William Hague mentions as another example of leadership the UK’s carbon tax, the Carbon Floor Price, which has contributed to the decline in coal burning and the consequent decline in our emissions. France’s President Macron has called for a similar policy to be rolled out across Europe.
What specifically are we calling for?
Well, effective action on climate change, which in short means a robust and escalating price on carbon. That’s the bottom line. If you really want to drive down emissions at the rate required to meet the targets set by the Climate Change Act then you’ve got to put a meaningful price on carbon, something high enough to drive significant reductions in emissions.
But we’re not the only ones calling for carbon pricing. In May, Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee published a report on green finance, saying
a higher carbon price could, in the long run, be an effective and technology neutral way to drive investment and innovation in emissions-reducing technologies
and now we have a highly influential think tank, the Policy Exchange, coming out with a proposal that is very similar to the one Citizens’ Climate Lobby has been lobbying for for the past decade, a proposal that has already attracted strong support from climate scientists, economists and many others.
Leaders need allies
In San Francisco this September the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition is hosting a meeting of climate leaders from government and industry. Citizens’ Climate Lobby is calling on the UK government to send high level ministers to that meeting.
The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC) is a unique initiative that brings together leaders across national and sub-national governments, the private sector, academia, and civil society with the goal of putting in place effective carbon pricing policies that maintain competitiveness, create jobs, encourage innovation, and deliver meaningful emissions reductions.
There’s an opportunity here to set up a club of climate leaders, and that’s something the UK ought to be part of and something we’d like to see the UK taking the lead on and actively pushing for, but for that to happen, we have to push for it. We can’t be expecting someone else to do that for us. We have to be the climate leaders we want our political leaders to be, and one way to do that is to join Citizens’ Climate Lobby and get lobbying.