climate & energy specialist
This has been a big year for us in the climate team. Throughout 2016 it was all about keeping the momentum going from the groundbreaking Paris Agreement, both internationally and at home.
On the world stage there were three big climate moments. In October, governments meeting in Montreal agreed a scheme to tackle aviation emissions. Days later, a deal was struck in Kigali to slash emissions from air-conditioning called hydrofluorocarbons. Completing the hat-trick, in November the Paris Agreement entered into force, less than a year after the ink had dried. This is an astonishingly quick turnaround – the Kyoto Protocol took over seven years!
My main focus in 2016 was the aviation deal. WWF-UK has a long history on aviation, including a successful legal challenge against the need for a Heathrow third runway in 2010, and our One in Five campaign which helped businesses save money by flying less. More recently we’ve been pushing for action among the 191 nations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to halt the runaway growth in aviation emissions.
Last spring we supported the launch of the Flightpath 1.5 campaign. It urged ICAO to deliver climate action in line with the Paris Agreement. Finally, after years of talk but little progress, ICAO agreed a carbon offsetting and reduction scheme for international aviation. This important step forward means airlines will, for the first time, have to start paying for their climate-warming pollution. After so much hard work, it was fantastic to see some of WWF’s key asks included in the final deal, such as binding offset standards and tying ambition to the Paris Agreement.
But it was a result to be celebrated with a beer rather than champagne. There’s still much to do. We need to make sure airlines don’t use dodgy offsets or unsustainable biofuels to meet their targets. We need to improve aircraft efficiency, boost alternatives to flying and deal with the non-CO2 impacts of aviation. We need a long-term aviation emissions goal in line with a 1.5°C future. And at home we need to make sure the third runway plan for Heathrow (which is back from the dead) doesn’t bust our climate targets.
Notwithstanding Heathrow, the momentum behind the Paris Agreement is alive and well in the UK. Before Paris, the UK pledged to phase out coal power. And in the summer, the government agreed the Fifth Carbon Budget, which sets carbon targets to 2032 and keeps us on track for our 2050 goal to reduce emissions by 80% from 1990 levels.
Now the government needs to deliver an emissions reduction plan setting out how to achieve these goals. It needs to keep up the good progress in renewables and support game-changing energy storage technologies. It needs to accelerate action on energy-efficient buildings and transport. It needs to embed low-carbon growth into the UK’s industrial strategy. And it needs to deal with that troublesome runway!
In 2017 I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to push for climate action in Westminster, Holyrood and the Senedd.
Show the love
You can help, too. With Brexit and President Trump dominating political debate, it’s more important than ever to show that we care about climate change. So on Valentine’s Day we’re asking you to #ShowTheLove for all the things you love that are affected by climate change. Then on 25 March you can support climate action by turning off your lights for Earth Hour.
The EU referendum and the US election don’t change the scientific reality of climate change. So we need to ensure the Paris momentum becomes unstoppable. Then a sustainable future, where people and nature can thrive together, will be within reach.