The UK has declared a climate emergency
2nd May 2019
Last night in Parliament, the UK became the first country to declare an "environment and climate emergency".
Whether you've 'voted with your wallet' by buying renewable energy, cutting your plastic consumption or driving an electric car; or have taken to the streets in the fight against climate change; your efforts were not in vain.
In the wake of this landmark declaration, I wanted to write about my experiences fighting for action on climate change here in the UK.
For the past three years I have been lobbying against climate change as part of the UK Youth Climate Coalition (UKYCC), alongside some of the kindest and most intelligent youth volunteers in the UK.
UKYCC is a youth environmental organisation which started in 2008 and is made up of passionate 18-29 year olds from all over the UK. Its mission is to mobilise and empower young people to take positive action for global climate justice and aims for a just, sustainable world.
At UKYCC we’ve worked tirelessly, from attending the UN Conference of the Parties (COP) every year for the past 10 years, meeting with MPs, holding discussions with local councils and sending countless petitions and letters of demand.
We had made incredible, strong alliances with the some of the biggest names in the environmental movement. We sat down cross-legged with Nick Hurd in Marrakesh. But the imminent threat of climate change was ever more pressing, and recently our members had been becoming more and more restless with how much we were actually affecting change.
Therefore, last year we started taking bigger steps within the climate movement. We travelled to Preston New Road to support the local community who had been tirelessly lobbying against fracking. We spent weekends camping out with the Pont Valley Protection Camp, supporting the local people who were protesting coal mining in County Durham.
Last year, we staged our own demonstration through central London alongside the US-born intersectional youth climate movement, Zero Hour, and some of the very earliest Extinction Rebellion protesters, with the support of thought-leaders like Chris Packham.
Speeches are beginning! pic.twitter.com/o4PSZzHKOt— This Is Zero Hour | London (@zerohourlondon) July 21, 2018
Last year's This is Zero Hour protest
Whilst UKYCC is spending more and more of our time in direct action, we still spend a lot of time talking, too. We recognise that having the time spare to volunteer and to lobby against climate change is a privilege. A privilege that not everyone can afford.
What a "climate emergency" will mean for the UK
The UK Parliament's landmark declaration will be crucial in progressing industries like renewable energy – which need to become the norm. It shouldn’t just be the few industry shakers that prioritise the need for clean energy and low prices. The burden and costs of air pollution are increasingly unfairly distributed to disadvantaged groups, who also have to pay to clean things up too.
The UK government has declared that poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. This shows how increasingly important affordable access to electric vehicles is also becoming.
The non-violent direct action group, Extinction Rebellion, is a name that has become more and more well-known over the past few months. While not everyone agrees on their methods, the group has brought the concerns of the many to the mainstream. Many of us care deeply about the environment, but do not agree with direct action or overly-political acts. The important thing is that we have a mutual recognition of how important our world is, which is what the UK government showed yesterday.
This momentous government declaration ultimately shows us that our personal efforts to combat climate change are not in vain. Whether it be to switch to a renewable energy company, to buy an electric vehicle or to even just to make small dietary changes: now that the UK government has pledged to take even bolder steps to combat climate change, we can move forward towards a greener future.
So well done for doing your bit, and choosing renewable energy for your home! Our work we've done to raise awareness for this global catastrophe has already made a difference. But acknowledging the problem is just step one. Now we need to act.
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