In June 2020, the temperature reached 38C in eastern Siberia, the hottest ever recorded within the Arctic Circle. This year, each of the 16 areas in the North where air quality is monitored failed to meet at least one of the latest World Health Organization air quality standards. In the last ten years, we have already seen numerous flooding incidents in our city that has ruined lives, livelihoods, and homes.
The Climate crisis isn’t a future event. It is happening right now.
This week, I am attending the COP26 conference in Glasgow with other political leaders to discuss plans to arrest humanity’s slide into further climate catastrophe. It is a make-or-break moment to tackle the climate emergency.
Empty talk from world leaders, Boris Johnson ‘resting his eyes’ and billionaires pontificating isn’t going to cut it.
We need firm commitments from those with the power to enact change, come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets, protect and restore ecosystems and construct resilient infrastructure to protect homes and livelihoods.
It is crucial that countries with the broadest shoulders and international financial institutions carry the majority of the financial responsibility to reach global net zero.
If world leaders are not seriously working towards firm and real commitments this month, it is a dereliction of duty.
Already our young people are leading the way in protecting the planet that they will inherit. Groups like Climate Coalition NI have brought this issue to the fore with online debates and campaigns, demonstrated outside Stormont on numerous occasions supporting net-zero climate legislation and holding local leaders to ensure that they put their money where their mouth is when it comes to addressing climate change. As Greta Thunberg says, we should ‘act as if our house is on fire,’ and our youth are doing just that. In years to come, we will be grateful for their persistent efforts today.
As political leaders, we have to put our money where our mouths are, and the SDLP will not be found wanting in combatting the climate emergency.
In Westminster, I am currently bringing forward a Climate Change Bill which will force the British government to declare a climate emergency, bring forward the date to achieve net-zero emissions, introduce a strategy to advance a green jobs agenda, guarantee a just transition and create a green corporate levy on large companies to help fund climate action.
The SDLP is also supporting the cross-party Climate Change Bill currently working its way through the Assembly.
The climate crisis is here, and the people of Derry get that- it’s time for governments worldwide to catch up with people on the ground.
COP26 is an opportunity for real change to reduce emissions and safeguard our world for future generations.
We must take this opportunity now because we may not get another.