A manifesto for mitigation

Posted on by melanie

The countdown to the next general election is about to begin. With 13 months to go, the parties are busily finalising their manifestos. Meanwhile the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that we must mitigate or face the worst consequences of climate change. Melanie Thompson of Get Sust! reflects on the construction industry’s frustrations, vented at Ecobuild in March, and concludes that if we don’t lobby hard now, we won’t get the manifestos we – and the planet – need.

If a week is a long time in politics, five years is a lifetime. In environmental terms, whole species can be lost in far less than five years; untold damage can be wrought (through natural or anthropogenic means); and once-promising policies can be quickly shelved or side-lined in favour of headline-grabbing ‘solutions’. But when it comes to beneficial changes, five years seems barely enough to get a policy written, never mind begin to implement it. Even after 30 years of painstaking scientific analysis, international awareness-raising and multiple policy initiatives, the global community is struggling to achieve the necessary dramatic reduction in carbon emissions.

The recent publication of part three of the ‘state of the planet’ report by the IPCC (Climate change 2014: Mitigation of climate change) does not admit defeat and condemn the world to uncontrollable warming, but it does give the strongest warning yet that, as well as not letting up on the overarching goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we urgently need to begin to take steps to mitigate the wide-ranging effects of climate change.

With a UK general election just over a year away, it is increasingly important that climate change rises back up the political agenda. But there remain prominent political voices in the UK (and elsewhere) who at best do not take the issue sufficiently seriously and at worse campaign vociferously that it is all stuff and nonsense or some sort of anti-capitalist conspiracy.

Small wonder that Lord Deben – chairman of the UK’s Committee for Climate Change, and (as John Gummer MP) environment secretary in John Major’s government – sounded thoroughly exasperated when, at Ecobuild 2014 on 4 March, he attacked the BBC’s ongoing insistence on inviting ‘dissenting voices’ on radio and TV shows every time climate change is discussed ‘to ensure balance’. To loud applause from the Ecobuild audience, Lord Deben said he could not think of any practising scientists in the field who disagree with the basic premise of anthropogenic climate change, but he acknowledged that there is still a good deal of propaganda and lobbying that is hampering positive action.

But even among the ‘believers’ at Ecobuild there was an undercurrent of frustration among seasoned industry experts who vented their concerns at the construction sector’s slow pace of change, and the lack of a clear route for reducing carbon emissions and increasing sustainability. Read more …

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