Like many organisations, the UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) reads the new report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change with a sense of alarm, but also new motivation to highlight the urgency to reduce carbon emissions across the board.
The IPCC report published yesterday says there are no scenarios where a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in temperature in the world will now not be avoided, meaning some of the negative challenges of climate change will take place. This is now largely and almost entirely due to the actions of humanity in neglecting to reduce carbon emissions over previous decades, and not moving away from fossil fuels sooner.
In its analysis of the IPCC report, BBC Environment Correspondent Matt McGrath notes (1):
- Climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying due to human actions (and inaction in preventing it).
- Extreme heat events, like that taking place presently across southern Europe, North America and northern Russia, will become more frequent.
- The 1.5C global temperature increase limit is now on ‘life support’. Keeping temperatures under this level was a key 2050 target, but the IPCC suggests the world will hit it possibly as early as 2030. The IPCC has previously said there are great advantages of staying under the 1.5C limit compared to a 2C temperature increase. To do that, it argued carbon emissions would need to be cut in half by 2030 and net zero emissions reached by 2050. Otherwise, the limit would be reached between 2030 and 2052.
- Under all likely scenarios, global sea levels will rise. The IPCC report shows that under current scenarios, the seas could rise above the likely range, going up to 2m by the end of this century and up to 5m by 2150. While these are unlikely figures, they cannot be ruled out under a very high greenhouse gas emissions scenario.
- There will be an increase in extreme rainfall, creating the types of serious flooding recently seen in the likes of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The core message of the IPCC report is the huge urgency in getting carbon emissions down as quickly as possible. For example, it notes the need to reduce methane emissions from oil, gas, agriculture and rice cultivation should be a core priority for all governments.
NFLA sees this IPCC report as an inevitable wake-up call to politicians to not just talk about getting to net zero but to actively bring about the policies to deliver it. We are still waiting for much of that detail from the UK and Irish Governments, and there are similar significant challenges for the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved governments as well. NFLA call on the publication of detailed strategies in this policy area before the Glasgow COP conference in November. We need to get on with it.
NFLA also see the urgency within the IPCC report as emphasising the need for a ramp-up of renewables – onshore and offshore wind, solar, marine – and a huge decentralised energy programme of energy efficiency works, smart energy and moves to promote renewable energy and transport solutions at the local level. The independent Committee on Climate Change has already commented on the critical role of local low carbon delivery, and it is now incumbent for all the governments in the UK and Ireland to give Councils new powers and additional resource to allow it to play the critical role that is required of it in carbon reduction. It will be expensive, but it will also create new, high quality jobs and regenerate many of our communities. If we do not, the cost that climate change will bring are likely to be much higher.
For NFLA as well, the urgency of this report should now preclude the obsession from the UK Government to deliver new nuclear. It is in this decade when large carbon reduction is required, whilst any new nuclear development will be unlikely to be making any great impression until the 2030s at the very earliest. The billions being suggested to either bail out Hinkley Point C or back Sizewell C, or fund Rolls Royce’s ‘small’ modular nuclear reactor programme, would now be far better directed towards the cheaper, cleaner and more easily realisable renewable and energy efficiency programmes.
The IPCC report tells all of us to get real. NFLA agree. Our reports on best practice in delivering local decentralised energy solutions in carbon reduction show a positive way forward. (2) Our reports showing the heavy costs and technical challenges of new nuclear, as well as of the huge decommissioning and radioactive waste management costs of our existing nuclear legacy, emphasise as well that nuclear is not part of the solution to deliver a net zero response by 2050. (3) It is high time for radical change, and most Councils are ready for it – now it needs central government to respond to this highly alarming IPCC report.
NFLA UK & Ireland Steering Committee Chair Councillor David Blackburn added:
“This sobering IPCC report shows that all industrialised economies have created climate change and have not adjusted quickly enough to prevent some of its worst effects from happening. We are now in the phase of climate adaptation and resilience, as well as still looking to reduce carbon emissions from energy, heating and transport as quickly as possible. Local government has more quickly responded to this emergency than central government, and exciting carbon reduction and renewable energy generation plans are in place across the UK and Ireland. We call on central government to finally give our Councils the tools and resources to let it get on with fulfilling its carbon reduction role. It is also clear to me and the NFLA that new nuclear is not the answer to this urgent emergency – it takes too long, costs too much and the existing nuclear legacy needs to be dealt with, not creating more radioactive waste that we still do not know what to do with. The IPCC have set the world a challenge – it is for local and central government to embrace it for the safety of our citizens.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 07771 930196.
Notes to Editors:
(1) BBC, 9th August https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58138714
(2) See our suite of climate change reports in the NFLA Policy Briefing section of our website – https://www.nuclearpolicy.info
(3) See our suite of NFLA New Nuclear Monitors and NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefings on our website.