Last week over 36 local, regional and national organisations in Greater Manchester, including councils, the armed forces and the emergency services, took part in Operation Triton II. The exercise, the biggest one ever held in the region to date, simulated an emergency response to extreme weather causing a breach in the Dovestones Reservoir on Saddleworth Moor. As military helicopters circled the skies overhead, officers from Tameside Council were on the front lines coordinating simulated rest centres and ensuring the safety of our residents.
Now, before anybody panics, it is highly unlikely that we will be faced with such a terrifying scenario in real life. That being said, while we hope that the lessons we have learnt from Operation Triton II will never have be to put into use it is important that we prepare ourselves as best we can for any major event or disaster that may occur in the future.
Around the same time the new Conservative government, in office for less than a day, officially abolished the Department for Energy and Climate Change. It has been absorbed into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and rechristened the “Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy”. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s not a coincidence that the words “Climate” or “Climate Change” appear nowhere in this new department’s name.
You couldn’t make up a more extreme contrast if you tried. While local government and its partners are actively preparing for the potential risks and consequences of climate change, central government has killed off the only department in Whitehall that saw planning for and mitigating the effects of climate change as a serious priority.
I’ve written in the past that the scientists believe that we have passed the point of no return when it comes to climate change. It’s no longer a question about whether there will be any consequences. The question now is about how bad the consequences are going to be.
In Tameside we are doing as much as we can to reduce our own carbon footprint, including planting trees, increasing recycling, rolling out LED lighting and designing our buildings to be more energy efficient. The truth however is that taking real and ambitious action on climate change can’t be done at a local level. We need national leadership to promote environmentally friendly policies not just across the country, but within the international community as well. At a time where it is needed more than ever, that leadership is sorely lacking.
This June has been the hottest June globally since we began measuring the temperature of the planet. It is the ninth consecutive month that the record for the highest global temperature has been broken. This is the new normal. The sooner we recognise that, the sooner we can start doing something about it.