OPINION: Calling a “climate emergency” is an empty promise

On May 1, UK parliament declared a climate emergency in the UK. Our reporter Ethan Howe believes that this declaration means nothing, and more actions need to be taken to combat climate change.

What is a climate emergency?

A climate emergency has no singular definition. It is a declaration from our government to say that they are aware of the issues regarding climate change, and they will take action to combat such issues.

MPs are asking the government to make changes such as reaching net zero emissions before 2050.

Many local areas have also called for a climate emergency on a more local level.

Once again, there is no promise linked with this, however many local authorities take this to mean that they will strive to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Why it’s not enough

I believe calling a climate emergency is too much of an empty promise to be meaningful in any way.

When a climate emergency is declared, I personally think that the authority that declared it should also state what they are going to do in the coming years to deal with the climate change issue.

In a dream world we would get promises from the UK government, and local councils, where they say exactly what steps they will be taking over the coming ten years.

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However, I know this is a pipe dream. I personally think setting an objective would be enough. Whether it’s setting a date where they aim to be carbon neutral, or reducing emissions by a certain amount.

The biggest issue with the climate emergency is that it means nothing and governments can use it to make people believe they are taking steps forwards, when really they are doing nothing different than before they called the emergency.

Julie Mecoli, a Canterbury based member of Extinction Rebellion, agrees that a climate emergency should also come with some sort of obligation.

She said: “The proposal demonstrates the will of the Commons on the issue but does not legally compel the government to act.

“There needs to be binding legal obligations to act now to deal with the crisis we are facing.”

Credit: David Holt on Flickr

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad our government is acknowledging the issue. I just think calling a climate emergency should mean more.

Elizabeth Childs, founder of The Veg Box cafe, Canterbury, says that changes need to be made soon, or we could be too late in saving our planet.

She said: “Awareness isn’t enough, everyone needs to take immediate action and more needs to be done.

“Councils and businesses need to listen to the advice of climate scientists, think outside the box and make some drastic changes, soon.”

The positives

Dr Miguel Alexiades, an Environmental Anthropology and Ethnobotany lecturer from University of Kent, agrees that the climate emergency is not sufficient.

However, he says there are a number of possible positives that come from the declaration.

He said: “Hopefully it will make a difference, for example encouraging local councils, universities, and other institutions to join in the declaration of a climate emergency and to begin to take action to drastically reduce their emissions.

“It has also generated more media attention, which hopefully will translate into greater public awareness, all of these things are necessary but not sufficient”