By the time you’re reading this, it will probably be 12 degrees Celsius and raining, but as I write, the United Kingdom is currently experiencing its hottest ever week, with temperatures reaching as high as 40 degrees Celsius in parts of the country.
The climate crisis is real, and it’s happening now. The infrastructure in the United Kingdom was not built to withstand such extraordinarily high temperatures. This was illustrated by the sheer number of wildfires that occurred across the country, as well as train and transport services grinding to a halt.
This heatwave should serve as a stark warning of the consequences of climate change and must not be dismissed. Some people have been pointing to the heatwave of 1976 as evidence that there isn’t anything to worry about. This is incorrect. What is happening now is not like what happened in 1976. We, as a nation, are experiencing more heatwaves and they are getting much more intense. The UK’s top ten hottest years have all occurred since 2002, proving that human actions are having catastrophic impacts on our climate.
What we need is an international and national effort. I was really pleased to see Labour commit to spending £28bn a year once in Government on tackling climate change. This climate investment pledge would fund green jobs and industry, equip our economy for the future, and keep home warms (with the added benefit of driving energy bills down in the process). I hope that sooner, rather than later, Labour is a position to make that pledge a reality.
However, we can also make a difference locally. There are simple things, like planting more trees, which cools areas but also improves air quality and biodiversity. But this is only the start of what we can achieve. There is ambitious and exciting work being undertaken by Tameside Council. For example, in 2021, Cllr Allison Gwynne signed-off on the Council’s five-year Climate Change Environment Strategy, which commits to improving biodiversity, reducing consumption, and backing green travel and transport.
There is always more work to do, and it’s very important that we don’t take our foot off the pedal either locally or nationally. If we don’t act now, the consequences don’t really bear thinking about. If, however, we work together and take the bold steps needed, we can build a brighter, cleaner and more prosperous future for ourselves and for future generations.