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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Making a Difference in the Fight Against Climate Change

Friday, 13 August 2021


The scale and intensity of human-driven climate change across the planet has reached a critical point. Unless we make deep cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades, the global temperature will increase far beyond the 2015 Paris Agreement target of 1.5 degrees.

Even if we are successful in doing this, many of the changes that have already occurred due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible. The repercussions of this will be extremes of temperatures, floods, wildfires, droughts, famines, deforestation, hurricanes, cyclones and melting of sea ice, snow cover and permafrost that have been unheard of for most of recorded history. At the worse end of the scale, it is even likely that certain parts of the Earth will become totally uninhabitable to human life.

That might sound like a prediction of doom, but in fact it is just some of the conclusions of the latest report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the world’s leading authority on the science of global warming. Over eight years in the making, the report has brought together the work of hundreds of experts and scientific studies, and every line of its 42 page summary has been agreed upon by every government on the planet.

The headline figure is a stark call to action; the Earth’s global surface temperature has already increased by around 1.1 degrees compared with the level in 1850-1900 – a level that hasn’t been seen for over 125,000 years. While there is no “safe” level of global warming, limiting this increase to avoid the most disastrous consequences is still physically and economically possible with technology and resources we currently possess – but we have to start now.

 

Action must also be taken at every possible level as well. It’s all too easy to throw up our hands and ask what can us as individuals, a local authority, or even a country can really do to impact things on a global level, but doing whatever is in our power to do on the ground will help to set an example for our neighbours, communities, and even national governments.

In Tameside, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, we launched our Green Summit to bring together individuals, public and private organisations and charities to help do exactly that. I’m also very proud to be part of Greater Manchester’s efforts to protect our shared environment and make our city region the easiest place in the country to leave the car at home, whether that’s through our investment in the Bee Network walking and cycling infrastructure, our decision to bring the buses back under public control, or taking action to reduce the amount of dangerous nitrogen dioxide emissions on our roads.

This work has also extended into the world of pensions. As Chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, the largest local government pension scheme in the country, we have led the way in investing £2.5 billion into turning a “Just Transition” – carrying out a move away from fossil fuels and other polluting activities in a way that doesn’t repeat the mistakes made during the slash-and-burn de-industrialisation of the 1980s – into reality. As a member of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) we also have a platform to put the pressure on organisations we have an interest in to meet their own obligations to our planet. In many cases this has led to changes at the highest levels of these companies. To give just two examples; activism from the LAPFF led to Ford agreeing a deal with the state of California on tighter fuel efficiency standards, and encouraged Shell to link the pay of their executives directly to better performance on environmental sustainability.

I know that, as we emerge from the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, sounding the alarm on another global crisis is not an easy discussion to have, But if we fail in slowing the pace of runaway climate change there will be no vaccine for the consequences, and no amount of social distancing that will get us a safe distance away. The challenge has been laid down, and the generations that come after will judge us harshly if we do not rise to it.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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