Please push for the strongest possible action on climate change at COP21
Dear Amber Rudd
I’ve known for months I was going to write this message to you. Ever since the election, in fact. In another universe it might have been Ed Davey, or perhaps Caroline Flint or even Lisa Nandy. But it’s you I need to address. You, now, at this critical moment.
I’ll level with you. I despaired at the election of a Tory majority. Real, incredible despondency. I’m not writing to you to explain my political leanings, or even to criticise your party particularly, so I won’t dwell on that.
But I do want to tell you why it bothered me quite so much: why before the election I was pleading with everybody around me to vote for anyone but the Conservatives (and UKIP, but that goes without saying); and why when the result came in I had my head in my hands, groaning in anguish.
It’s all because of a single moment of clarity which hit me about 12 months ago; a moment where suddenly I understood.
Climate change is going to ruin the world.
We’re an arrogant species, it’s fair to say, and instinctively prone not to worry about a problem which isn’t right in front of us, so until then I wasn’t afraid.
But it is right in front of us.
A potential 5C temperature rise by the end of the century would mean the death or displacement of millions, even billions of people. And the likelihood of this terrifying scenario will be determined by how much we do to prevent it between now and 2030.
That puts you, Amber, and the government you’re part of, right in the thick of it at one of the most crucial moments in human history. The success of the Paris climate summit, and adherence to the agreement by every nation of the world, will control the fate of all our families, our children and theirs; the generation growing in our arms.
So the reason I feared a Tory majority so much is this one. Your party has far more climate change skeptics than Labour, and a track record for supporting business before environmental interests. I always feared this government would be weak on climate action, without the Liberal Democrats holding your feet to the fire.
At first I regained a cautious optimism when you were appointed. I read what you had said about Margaret Thatcher’s forward-thinking attitude to environmental issues, and your belief that preserving the environment is – or should be – a core principle of conservativism. I think that makes a huge amount of sense.
But then I hear things, Amber. Cuts of subsidies for renewable energy sources. Increases to North Sea Oil subsidies. Suggesting renewables should stand on their own two feet while apparently not expecting oil to do the same. Sell-off of the green bank. Attempting to greenlight fracking in national parks. Telling parliament we’re on course to achieve our carbon commitments while privately admitting we’re destined to fall short. And most recently, just days before the Paris conference, canceling a £1bn carbon capture competition right before its conclusion.
All this and more has happened under a Conservative government, while you have been manager of the DECC. It all makes me wonder. How much does this matter to you? Really? Do you think it the most important thing in the world? Because it’s so important that you do.
The hour is late and the situation is so desperate than few people dare to admit it. And I have to wonder if you’re one of them or not. I honestly have no idea. Only you can know. Only you can examine and analyse your own beliefs and decide what you think matters most to the future of our species.
This time last year, I thought I understood climate change already. I understood the mechanism for global warming, and I was vaguely aware of the consequences of it.
But now I know that until you really feel it, really appreciate the magnitude of the impending catastrophe; until you fathom the millions if not billions of lives it will cost and the subjugating effect it’ll have on the lives of the survivors; until you fear it, really, openly and to the core of your bones… you do not understand it.
I understand it now. And I and everyone else who understands it really hopes that you do too. Fate has decided that you are our representative in Paris, the head of our negotiating team. This is it. Our last, great chance.
I urge you to push for the strongest possible action at the Paris climate talks next week. And the many millions like me who will be demonstrating on the streets of cities worldwide this weekend need you to know: we want action. We want you to make this happen, and we are behind you all the way. Because nothing matters more than this.