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16.02.2024

Our Climate and the Environment – What to Expect in 2024

As we step into 2024, the convergence of political shifts, global climate concerns, and commitments made at international summits like COP28 set the stage for a crucial year ahead. With general elections looming in key global powers like the US and the UK, the direction of climate action hangs in the balance.

Has Climate Change Reached a Tipping Point?

The past 12 months have seen some of the hottest temperatures on record. 2015’s Paris Agreement saw world leaders pledging to make efforts to slow down global warming and stop global temperatures rising more than 1.5C. However, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service has reported a warming of 1.52C between February 2023 and January 2024. 

Polar ice caps are melting due to global warming, which also affects ocean temperatures.

Ocean temperatures are rising too, with a record high of 21.05C on 3rd February this year. The weather phenomenon of El Niño is a factor, although this is only expected to raise temps by 0.2C. This rise in temperatures is not the only noticeable sign of climate change – we have also seen floods, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires worldwide.

The Political Landscape of 2024

This year is a politically significant one too. More voters than ever before, globally, face general elections in 2024. The US election is coming up this November, and the UK elections taking place no later than January 2025. These two significant global powers will make a large impact on the world and its future, not least in terms of climate action. It’s becoming harder for those in power to ignore the effects of climate change and the oil, gas and coal industries that are behind it. 

Climate change protests aim to persuade the government to take the issue more seriously.

In the UK, the leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pushed back some key environmental targets. The upcoming ban on new petrol and diesel cars has been pushed back to 2035, and a similar ban on fossil fuel boilers is now set for 2026. Energy efficiency targets on rental homes have also been scrapped. Sunak remains confident that by 2050, the UK will reach net zero, despite these softer targets. 

The leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, announced a green investment budget of £28 billion in 2021 but has since reneged on this promise as the election looms. Labour planned to hit climate targets, create secure green jobs and even create a publicly-owned green power company. They still intend to do these things, but Labour has rowed back on the exact amount, saying they don’t want to be ‘reckless’ with public money.

December’s COP28 Climate Summit

COP28 climate change summit in the UAE. Photo by COP28 / Christopher Pike
Photo by COP28 / Christopher Pike

At the COP28 summit last year, nations agreed to transition away from fossil fuels. The summit was controversial, however, as it was held in Dubai, one of the world’s top oil-producing countries, and the COP28 president Sultan al-Jaber is CEO of ADNOC, aka the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Smaller nations that are the most affected by climate change also felt underrepresented at COP28, and there was no specified timescale or plan for this ‘transition away’ from fossil fuels.

Has the UK Taken Action on Climate Change?

It might seem like those in power have not been taking climate change seriously, but we have made several significant positive changes. We have cut our carbon emissions from electricity generation by three quarters since 1990, and around 40% of our electricity is generated by renewable sources. 

Another recent initiative is BNG, which has recently become part of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1990 via the Environment Act of 2021. All new building developments need to deliver at least 10% of Biodiversity Net Gain. England is the first country to enact such a law, which will increase biodiversity and halt species decline. 

The Environment Act gives powers to policymakers to protect our environment including air quality, water quality, waste reduction and biodiversity. A watchdog has also been created in the form of the Office for Environmental Protection or OEP to hold the government and organisations accountable for their actions that affect the environment. The effects of the Act have already been felt – this is where the single-use plastic ban came from. Some groups have criticised the Act, saying it does not go far enough and the policies are too fluid to enforce. 

A Great Crested Newt, an endangered species here in the UK due to destruction of their habitat

Our recently crowned King Charles is a long-time supporter of eco-friendly practices such as sustainability and conservation. His organic farming methods on his Home Farm estate some 30 years ago have faced much criticism, but are now seen as ahead of their time. Hopefully, his platform as a monarch will give him even more opportunities to spearhead environmental causes.

Despite setbacks and controversies, there are signs of progress and proactive measures being taken to address climate change. The decisions made in 2024 will shape the trajectory of our planet’s future, and we must continue to push for bold, decisive action to safeguard our planet for generations to come.

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