Climate Crisis and the Environment

Can Climate Change be Averted?

Alice reports on the recent Climate Crisis Panel hosted by Nottingham Labour Students and the Environmental and Social Justice Network.

No ‘issue’ grew as much in importance last year as much as the climate crisis; driven by Greta Thunberg, climate strikes, Extinction Rebellion and David Attenborough’s broadcasting. Despite this, there is still a marked lack of clarity about what needs to be done, as well as a general sense that what is being done is not enough. As part of Sustainability Week, on 5th March, Impact joined Nottingham Labour Students (NLS) and the Environmental and Social Justice Network (ESJ) for a panel on the climate crisis and how it can be averted. Chaired by NLS’s Polly Swain, the panel included Lee Taylor, ESJ Officer for the SU, Lisa Trickett, Birmingham City Councillor and environmental activist, as well as Luke Pollard MP, the Shadow Environment Minister.

The panel, held at Nottingham Council House so as not to cross UCU picket lines, were first asked what their greatest achievements for climate action were. Lisa drew attention to her giving out of 7,000 free bicycles in Birmingham, pointing out that ‘you have to start with something real and relevant’. For Lee it was the leap forward in the Student’s Union and University’s concern for climate justice, as well as the social justice agenda.

Luke described his passion for stimulating change both on a national and local level, pointing to the plans for Plymouth Harbour, his representative constituency, to host the UK’s first National Marine Park. However, he expressed his concern that many people are ‘locked out of making these really big decarbonising decisions’ and noted how reaching net-zero emissions requires both ‘decarbonising and taking people with us’. Polly noted that all three answers had described community projects that emphasised the importance of local action.

“Whilst not everyone’s idea of climate activism, each leaky loo wastes about 400 litres of water a day”

The panel then moved onto a discussion upon whether the climate crisis could be mitigated, and if this should be a matter of individual or collective action. Whilst Luke seemed in firm favour, he emphasised the importance of making it easy for people to take ‘that first step’, which could be as simple as fixing a leaking toilet. Whilst not everyone’s idea of climate activism, each leaky loo wastes about 400 litres of water a day, all of which has been through an energy intensive process of cleansing, pumping and re-sanitising. By simply putting a brick or water-saving device into a toilet, it is possible to save up to a litre of water with every flush. Many water companies now also provide free water-efficiency kits to customers, making it easier than ever for people to take individual action and benefit from a lower water bill.

Lisa agreed thoroughly with this notion of a manageable first step, pointing out how many are already dealing with ‘heat or eat as a daily dilemma’ and such steps as saving water could lead to vast improvements in the UK’s carbon efficiency. It is important to recognise that in the poorest, most marginalised communities, you first need to stabilise living conditions. Moving beyond the individual footprint, Lee pointed out that 71% of emissions are caused by just 100 companies. Though almost everyone will eventually end up working for some form of company, individual action and pressure within them, he believes, whether large or small, has the potential to spark collective action.

If there is to be a recession, he notes, then it is essential that ‘when [we] rebuild the economy afterwards… [we] build it with green in mind.”

From the audience, Beth Plunkett, Social and Event Secretary for the ESJ, noted her concern that the climate crisis would remain unsolved because the people in power are not likely to be those most affected by a climate breakdown. Lisa agreed that ‘we’re not having those honest conversations’ and suggested that in the course of the next five years we must ‘snap out of it, face up and be brave’. If this happens she believes that there is a strong possibility a total climate catastrophe can be averted. Luke called for more direct political action, suggesting a need for the Labour Party to be ‘red on the outside and green on the inside’. If every action and policy has climate at its heart, we can solve the climate crisis. However, he expressed fears that ‘in the next six months the focus of climate policies will slip and other things will take priority’. If there is to be a recession, he notes, then it is essential that ‘when [we] rebuild the economy afterwards… [we] build it with green in mind.’

Conclusively, the panel stimulated some very interesting and intense discussions upon not only the climate but social justice, internationalism and the contrasting opinions of different generations. It offered a vital insight into the ways that we as a nation, institution and individual can act to mitigate climate change, and provided hope that the aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 can become a reality. If there is one thing to take away, it is perhaps a comment made by Lee that ‘we have the opportunity as a nation and as a globe to act’. Whether that be switching to an environmentally friendly detergent as Ellie Stainforth-Mallison, Welfare and Equal Opportunities Officer for NLS, has recently done, or embracing Luke’s suggestion of putting a brick in your toilet cistern, protecting the future of our planet requires the efforts of not just a few individuals, but all of us. To finish on the words of the climate strikers: ‘We are Unstoppable! Another Future’s Possible!’.

Alice Nott

Featured image courtesy of Alice Nott.

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