With freak weather conditions continue to swirl around the globe, the impacts of climate change are undeniable. But it isn’t the only thing harming our world; sadly, our own actions have a history of damage to the planet. From plastic usage to fossil fuels, we’re using up more than the planet produces. It’s not sustainable, and this is precisely why the topic featured heavily in the UN climate takes in Poland recently. Sir David Attenborough spoke at the summit in order to highlight just how great the threat to our world is.
There are so many ways in which the public are working towards a greener tomorrow. Progress is being made, and it’s partly down to laws and legislation coming into action to reinforce new behaviors. To explore these agreements further, LPG gas tank supplier Flogas take a further look …
By 2020 — The Paris Agreement
This worldwide deal ties all nations into an agreement to help work towards defending against climate change. Nearly 200 countries within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came to a consensus in 2015 to cut greenhouse emissions and have committed to limit temperature rises worldwide by no more than 2C above pre-industrial times. In fact, the aim is to limit this further, to 1.5C if possible. Progress will be reviewed every five years and financial funding from donor nations will go to less developed countries.
However, efforts must be increased if those targets are to be met. A recent UN report suggests that the world actually needs to triple its current efforts to meet the 2C target.
Plastic was certainly an innovation, but it is now causing so much damage. An estimated 12.7 million tonnes of it ends up in our oceans each year (the equivalent of a truckload every minute). This has led many countries to introduce bans or taxes to try and limit the exponential rise in plastic usage. Denmark started levying a charge on plastics bags as early as 1993, and the 2002 ‘bag tax’ in Ireland resulted in a huge 90% drop in demand for single-use plastic bags. More recently, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a ban on plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers could be in place in the UK by late 2019. Looking ahead, the European Union has voiced its intention to ban a range of plastic items (including straws, plates and single-use cutlery) completely by 2021, justifying that these can be replaced with more sustainable materials.
The public is all too aware of the problem of plastic thanks to increased media coverage. This has led a number of major companies to make significant changes to their operations by ditching plastic (or pledging to do so rapidly). This includes food outlets such as McDonalds and Pizza Express, all Four Seasons and Hilton hotels, as well as pub chain Wetherspoons and sandwich shop Pret a Manger – to name but a few.
The UK’s Clean Air Strategy
The UK gas set its own targets too. In May 2018, the UK government published the Clean Air Strategy to cut air pollution and human exposure to particulate matter pollution – the fourth biggest health risk behind cancer, obesity and heart disease. The new strategy is part of a 25-year plan to leave the environment in a better state and is an addition to the £3.5 billion scheme already in place to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles, set out in July 2017.
Of course, there’s a good reason for the UK set itself this target. The goal is to halve the number of people living in areas where concentrations of particulate matter are above guideline limits by 2025. What’s more, it pledges to ensure only the cleanest domestic fuels are available, to tackle ammonia from farming, to address non-exhaust emissions of microplastics from vehicles, to empower local government with new primary legislation, to invest in scientific research and innovation in clean technology, and much more.
We’re coming closer to eliminating our use of coal. There are eight coal-fired power stations in use in the UK today, but a ban on coal introduced this year (which will come into force in October 2025) has presented energy companies with an ultimatum: adapt your existing assets to generate greener energy or close your power station. This rule has already set in motion the change, with some stations adapting or building infrastructure for cleaner energy generation, whilst others have decided to remain active right up until the ban
The plan to replace coal power plants with cleaner technologies came about through climate talks in Bonn. It was Canada, the UK and the Marshall Islands who led the way, forming a global alliance called ‘Powering Past Coal.’ One year on since its launch, the alliance now has 75 members who are committed to replacing unabated coal-fired electricity with cleaner alternatives.
More strategies: Road to Zero Strategy
Whenever climate change is mentioned, the transport industry is often highlighted. Transportation accounts for a higher overall share of greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector of the economy, so changes are vital if the UK is to hit its carbon reduction targets. The Department for Transport’s 2018 ‘Road to Zero Strategy,’ sets out that at least 50% (and as many as 70%) of new car sales will be ultra-low emission by 2030, and up to 40% for new vans. This policy also addresses reducing emissions from vehicles already on the roads and plans to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.
One method to achieve this is electric vehicles. The move towards zero-emission cars will mean a major expansion of green infrastructure across the country, with a major focus on increasing the availability of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The Road to Zero strategy sets the stage for what the government has hailed ‘the biggest technological advancement to hit UK roads since the invention of the combustion engine.’
Sources: Guardian, BBC, The Sun, Greenpeace, Reusethisbag, DEFRA, Climate Action, Poweringpastcoalalliance, Gov.uk