Climate Change: The Consequences of (in)action

19 Dec 18 | Leona Hannify

The United Nations has issued the stark warning that we have just over a decade to limit the climate change catastrophe. But it was Greta Thunberg, a courageous 15-year-old activist, that truly put the world’s focus firmly back on the issue at the UN COP24 climate talks when she criticised world leaders for their inaction, demanding they pull the emergency break.

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The United Nations has issued the stark warning that we have just over a decade to limit the climate change catastrophe. But it was Greta Thunberg, a courageous 15-year-old activist, that truly put the world’s focus firmly back on the issue at the UN COP24 climate talks when she criticised world leaders for their inaction, demanding they pull the emergency break.

The fractious talks in Poland managed to agree the rulebook for putting the 2015 Paris Agreement into practice. In 2020 world leaders will meet again to demonstrate the progress made and attempt to agree much more stringent targets. With the UK seeking to host these talks, it is right that we look at what the UK is actually doing about climate change and what the effects will be for the development industry.

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has promised new domestic policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using resources more efficiently and tackling waste. However, these promises remain aspirational and lack the requisite detail from the Government – who are compelled to develop a clear plan to delivering a zero-carbon future.

In the absence of Government direction, UK cities are themselves leading the charge on climate change and setting their own ambitious emissions targets. The Leeds City Region is seeking to become one of the world’s first zero carbon energy economies, with London and Bristol also aiming to become carbon neutral by 2030 – with Manchester hoping to follow suit by 2038.

These targets will have significant implications for future developments and this aspect will receive much greater scrutiny by decision takers. On this note, the Sustainable Development Scorecard (https://thescorecard.org.uk/) is a helpful tool in quantifying the sustainability credentials of a development which includes determining the impacts in respect of energy and climate.
Climate change is also a critical issue in terms of future investment in the development industry. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has previously warned of the catastrophic impact climate change could have for the financial system, as they explore whether to include the impact of climate change in its UK bank stress tests from 2019 – both in terms of risks and opportunities.

From a UK perspective, the complexity of addressing climate change is heightened in the short-term by a confluence of factors, including potential impacts of Brexit, wider geopolitical relations and ensuring energy security for the domestic market.
If the UK are serious about hosting the climate talks in 2020, its time for the Government to recalibrate the UK’s Energy Strategy – by adopting a comprehensive approach to delivering our objectives for climate change, whilst ensuring energy security. This requires dialogue, vision and leadership to ensure a successful outcome.

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