If governments won’t avert climate crisis, we must

by 17 Dec, 2019

The world is on track for a climate crisis. Currently, we are set to exceed 2 degrees of warming by the 2030’s. This is in just ten years’ time. At this level of warming, we lose 99% of coral reefs and 8% of plant life. Meanwhile 37% of the global population will be exposed to severe heat in 1 of every 5 years.

And this is best case scenario. Based on current trends, the world is on track for more than 4 degrees of warming by 2100. To put this into context, 4 degrees in the other direction was the ice age.

The only way to stop this is to stop burning fossil fuel. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to keep below 2 degrees of warming the world must slash Co2 emissions by 45% by 2030. Globally, we must become carbon neutral by 2050.

However, after record-breaking amounts of talking, this month the 25th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change failed to deliver a plan to achieve anything like this.

Recycling won’t solve climate crisis

In recent years, consumption habits have been the focus of climate solutions. Rather than cut subsidies to political donors in the fossil fuel industry, governments have instead encouraged us to recycle, switch off the lights and eat less meat.

These actions are good practice, but they will not save the planet. Firm carbon reduction targets backed by specific, time-bound action plans from governments will.

Yet, after an extra two days of debate and negotiation, this month world leaders could only agree to kick the can down the road. The best global governments could come up with is to aim to set stronger carbon cutting targets by next year’s COP meeting in Glasgow. Meanwhile, no agreement at all was reached on reforming carbon trading markets.

Fossil fuel subsidies growing

Just as turkey’s won’t vote for Christmas, fossil fuel companies will not switch to producing renewable energy until they are forced to. And right now, far from being forced to change, they are being encouraged not to.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the global fossil fuel industry received $5.2 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies in 2017. This is equivalent to 6.5% of the global economy, or more than twice the UK’s total annual economic output.

More importantly, however, it is $500 billion more than in 2015. This is when world leaders signed the Paris Climate Accord agreeing to limit global warming to 2 degrees.

Who is funding the climate crisis?

Governments are not the only ones supporting the fossil fuel industry, though. We are too. The 99% of us that allow our money to go into the default fund of our pension are doing it. By not engaging with our savings, we allow them to go straight into oil and gas giants.

Those of us that bank with HSBC, Barclays or Standard Chartered, are also funding fossil fuel expansion every single day. While we take to the streets and avoid plastic like the plague, our salaries are destroying our planet.

For a long time, the financial system has worked to disengage us from our money: to convince us it is too difficult or boring to think about. While we’ve been looking away, though, our cash has been creating a climate crisis.

Now, it’s time to take back control. Now it’s time for a new kind of money.


About the author

About the author

Rebecca Jones

A financial journalist and communications consultant for nearly a decade, Rebecca has worked across national media, b2b, charities and for the UK’s most established sustainable investment team.