'If not now, when?' - Government urged to step up action against climate and environmental

16th July 2019

EAUC CEO Iain Patton has signed a letter urging the next Prime Minister to push for a bigger and faster political response on the climate and environmental crises.
The letter
was sent to Conservative Party leader contenders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, as well as the two Liberal Democrat party leader contenders Jo Swinson and Ed Davey, and was supported by 43 organisations. The cross section of civil society, with a combined membership of millions of people, are uniting in an attempt to push the Government to do more on this agenda.
This is particularly timely as Michael Gove, in what could be his last speech as Environment Secretary, delivered a speech at Kew Gardens today warning ‘time is running out’ to repair the damage we have done to the planet.
The letter states: “The world is hitting record-breaking temperatures, and the poorest communities are being affected the most. The devastating decline in biodiversity is set to wipe out a million species. Our oceans are choking in plastic and our children are breathing toxic air. The next prime minister will assume office at a pivotal moment.”
There was praise for the UK government’s decision to legislate for net zero emissions –a historic step, making the UK the first major economy to put net zero into law. As well as applause for an aspirational Environment Bill due to be introduced this year.
However, the collective group of organisations outlines there are necessary steps that must be taken, that have received support from 350 MPs:
  • Create a flagship Environment Act with ambitious legally binding targets for healthy air, clean water, thriving wildlife, waste and plastic pollution, and our global footprint. We need a powerful, independent watchdog to make sure these are achieved;
  • Rapidly phase out fossil fuels and slash emissions, to get us on track to net zero by 2045 at the latest;
  • Scale up investment to tackle the climate and environmental emergency, fairly and democratically. This should include government spending of at least 2% of GDP per year for climate action and restoring nature, both at home and abroad, starting now; and
  • Put environment and climate action at the heart of the UK’s international agenda. Accelerate progress towards achieving global goals on climate change, nature protection and restoration, and sustainable development at the three major UN summits in 2020 and the G7 in 2021. And rule out signing trade deals with countries that are not implementing the Paris Agreement or upholding human rights and environmental standards.
Recent polling shows public concern for the environment is the highest on record and more than two thirds of the British public want the government to move further and faster on these issues.
The letter ends: “As a contender to be prime minister, we urge you to make tackling the climate and wider environmental emergency a priority, and commit to ramping up the policies and investment needed to get us on track. Please will you confirm your support for the four points above and set out how you would take this vital work forward?”
The speech Michael Gove delivered today chimes particularly well with this messaging. He said:
 “Time is running out to make the difference we need; to repair the damage we as a species have done to the planet we have plundered. Nature is in retreat - we have seen a catastrophic loss of biodiversity across the globe as a result of man’s actions.

 “There is a political need to act - because we cannot leave this planet to the next generation more polluted, more dangerous, denuded of its natural riches and increasingly inhospitable to all life.
“There is an economic need to act - because unless we restore our natural capital then we will have depleted soils incapable of yielding harvests or sustaining livestock, we will have oceans with more plastic than fish, we will have dried up or contaminated water sources and we will have severe weather events endangering lives and livelihoods.
“And there is a moral need to act - because, as Margaret Thatcher reminded us, we do not have a freehold on this planet, it is not ours to dispose of as we wish, we are partners in the great chain of evolution with the rest of nature and endowed as we are with reason we therefore have the responsibility to steward and protect.”
This recognition of the seriousness and urgency of the situation is very much welcomed by the Higher and Further Education sector, many of whom have been declaring Climate Emergencies and committing to divestment and net zero carbon targets. You can read more about the Global Climate Emergency movement here, led by the UN, EAUC and Second Nature.

'If not now, when?' - Government urged to step up action against climate and environmental image #1