Brexit has distracted us from the climate disaster awaiting us. Britain must step up

(The Guardian, 6 Jun 2019) A UN climate conference bid could be a perfect catalyst for change – and unify the UK for the push for a green revolution.

Almost halfway through 2019, it has felt, sometimes, like a breakthrough year for climate action. Given the rapid emergence of social movements across the world calling for climate justice, this often previously sidelined issue has become a international conversation. But the harsh reality of the challenge at hand re-emerged as the “leader of the free world” attempted to position the United States – one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters – as clean on climate, in an extended exchange with Prince Charles during his state visit to the UK. To contextualise, this comes in the wake of an Orwellian rebranding of hydrocarbons as “freedom molecules” and “freedom gas” by the US energy department ahead of a major export drive.

Battlelines have been drawn around climate action in the US, with the Democratic primary campaign defined by candidates declaring their support for Green New Deal-style policies. Such is the strength of feeling that the issue has become a litmus test of contenders’ viability for the presidential nomination for 2020. With polling on such legislation indicating majority support among both Democrat and Republican voters, it’s clear that climate action can become a unifying issue as ordinary people seek solutions to the crisis, even as politicians of the right complain.

Here in the UK, there’s also potential for climate action to unite people, regardless of party allegiances. The year 2020 could see the debut of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), the decision-making body of the UN framework convention on climate change, on home soil.

Recent polling suggests about three-quarters of adults in the UK see climate change as the biggest crisis facing humanity today, yet only 5% feel ready to tackle it. The UK’s bid to host COP26, the largest since Paris 2015, provides a unique opportunity to tackle the crisis and drive forward a progressive and radical climate agenda – but it will require real climate leadership from the UK government. COP26 could be a defining moment for the UK – we could establish a national identity through leadership on the climate crisis, bringing unity out of our confused and divided politics.

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The Guardian, 6 Jun 2019: Brexit has distracted us from the climate disaster awaiting us. Britain must step up