AS I write, another climate summit is underway in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. Another year has gone by since the last one, COP 26 in Glasgow, and once again the world’s heads of government are gathered together making high-sounding promises of action to limit the climate change which is destroying our planet’s life support system.
Once again the UN Secretary General and the world’s top scientists are warning that we are on the brink of a global catastrophe with time running out ever faster, and once again the politicians are promising too little too late, with no guarantees that even those inadequate promises will be kept.
Our addiction to fossil fuels is not just the cause of the climate crisis: it is also the main driver of our current cost of living crisis.
Russia has shut off the gas supply to the EU, but that is only a problem because we have not built enough wind turbines or installed enough solar panels, or insulated our homes and other buildings, and because our privatised electricity market links the price of electricity to the price of gas. And because our politicians chose to carry on with business as usual, and put off the sensible actions they could have begun over 30 years ago when the first climate summit took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
None of this is any consolation to
those like myself who have spent 40 or more years warning of this crisis through the Green Party and other environmental organisations.
There is no pleasure in saying “we told you so” while knowing that we failed to get our message across, and that our grandchildren’s generation will have to pay the price.
Whatever we may think of their methods, born of frustration and desperation, the “Just Stop Oil” and “Insulate Britain” protestors are right in their demands. The time that once existed for a gradual and painless transition has been frittered away.
The radical action we now need is simply common sense. Instead of spending billions to inadequately subsidise fuel bills, we should confiscate the unearned windfall profits of the oil, gas and power giants and permanently cut fuel bills by insulating every home and investing in the renewable energy of wind, sun and tide which has zero fuel cost.
We must invest in enough cheap or free public transport to make the private car redundant, drastically cut transport emissions and restore healthy clean air. We must cut consumption and waste by making things to last and be repaired, not thrown away. And the richest must pay their fair share, not be given endless tax cuts.
The solutions are simple and obvious. What we need is the political will to implement them. Unfortunately, there is no sign as yet of that coming out of the beanfeast in Sharm El-Sheikh.