The Time For UK Leadership on Climate Change is Now

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up by the United Nations, with the mandate from governments around the globe to carry out reviews of climate science, which would become the basis for policy and decision making. Thousands of scientists each year contribute to the review and provide a comprehensive overview of the drivers of climate change. This month the IPCC published part of it’s sixth report, with a condensed summary of 14,000 scientific papers. The report acts as a benchmark, providing world leaders with the scientific grounding and guidance as to whether their policies and actions are going far enough, and quick enough. The last time the IPCC produced a report of this scale was in 2013. Each iteration of the IPCC report is more stark than the last, leaving no room to question the ever looming reality of climate change, and the evidence being clear that developing countries are feeling the effects the hardest.

The wildfires across Libya, Algeria and Tunisia have reinforced the IPCC findings on Africa. What we are witnessing now – the floods, heat waves and wildfires – are just a foretaste of what’s to come if governments don’t take urgent action. Over the past week I have been watching the news and following the wildfires across North Africa with great despair. I’m proud to be of dual heritage, namely Algerian and Irish, and that only solidified when I finally had the privilege of meeting my Algerian family for the first time three years ago. I felt instantly at home and loved exploring the beautiful country for the first time. I messaged family members immediately after hearing of the wildfires that were devastating the lives and landscapes in Algeria. I felt hopeless as my aunt cried down the phone, “my country is burning down in front of me”.  Whilst these wildfires in Northern Algeria appear to have originated by arson, their scale and unfathomable strength is undoubtedly fuelled by the arid conditions that have become progressively worse due to climate change.

As the report makes clear, weather events such as heatwaves, heavy rainfall, droughts and hurricanes are becoming more frequent and more likely as a result of the climate crisis. There is no time for delay. We need immediate action to avoid worsening impacts. The UN Climate Summit COP26, hosted by the UK, is the perfect opportunity for the government to put its climate leadership rhetoric to the test, centering negotiations around the world’s poorest and the support they require to keep their countries alive. As the main drivers of climate emissions, developed countries have a responsibility to provide financial resources to poorer countries desperately in need of adaptation strategies. Currently only half of the finance handed out to developing countries is in the form of grants, the rest is loans with returns expected from the donor. We must not worsen the debt crisis with loans to poorer countries that cannot afford to pay them back. We have a duty to provide them with condition free grants.

Whilst supporting those that need it the most, the time is also now for the UK to step up their leadership on the international stage and set the agenda for ambitious targets for the years ahead. Transformational change is possible, but only with a joined up radical new approach.

Leila Bousbaa: Senior Events Officer – Coalition for Global Prosperity

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