Cllr Barry Lewis is the Leader of Derbyshire County Council.
We found ourselves in a remarkable situation at our last Full Council meeting in Derbyshire County Council. During a motion on climate change, tabled by the opposition via various left-wing groups such as Extinction Rebellion, we talked about well-established evidence on past climate change fluctuation as well as the current irrefutable evidence that climate change is real, happening, and needs solutions.
Yet, despite the fact that we put forward a series of radical and sector-leading measures to reduce Derbyshire’s own carbon footprint, we were vilified as climate change deniers simply because we would not tie ourselves into a target of carbon neutrality by 2030. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) does not call for that until 2050, and as a local authority, we are fully behind this aspiration.
This shows how the Left has weaponised the climate change debate, and it is fair to say that the scientific community and successive governments that have not helped as questioning climate science is perceived as heresy. The tide is turning, thankfully, led in part by recent internal reforms within the IPCC, which need to continue. Objectivity, evidence, and challenge are key cornerstones of good scientific practice.
To be clear, I believe we are in the midst of perhaps the most significant global extinction event this planet has ever seen, and climate change and its impacts are already upon us. The impact of extreme weather events, like heat waves, droughts, and storms, which have killed or displaced countless people are changing the face of our planet. What we cannot influence as a local authority is the amount of CO2 America, China, or other emerging economies pump into the atmosphere.
But rather than believe that humanity is pernicious, I believe we are capable of ameliorating some of the damage and adapting to a different future because of emerging technologies and a rapid switch from fossil fuels. The story of humanity is a long story of adapting to climate change and that IS irrefutable. The IPCC recognised the need to do this as far back as 2007 in the following statement:
“Working Group I concluded that, even if emissions were stabilised now, global temperatures would increase by on average 0.6C by 2100. Furthermore, some current targets to reduce emissions assume a global average temperature increase of about 1.5C above present (i.e. 2C above pre-industrial temperatures). A significant amount of potential impact will therefore need to be adapted to, regardless of how effective are our efforts at mitigation.”
Research has overtaken these temperature predictions, of course. We’re now facing a potentially 3°C rise by the end of the century, so there is an even more urgent need to adapt.
Further, The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) invests in research, and produces countless articles dedicated to ensuring we adapt our farming systems to feed the planet. Adaptation to climate change is therefore a central priority for humanity, but to the enraged Left, it is anathema.
One expression of adaptation in the UK is that of our burgeoning English Wine industry (and I declare an interest as an English vineyard owner), probably our fastest growing agricultural sector, and another will-be opportunity for increased tourism in a warmer Britain. Whilst some will not like these scenarios, it is probably not going to be possible to change the trajectory of climate change significantly enough to reverse it. So to adapt and seek opportunities is absolutely the correct course of action; to think otherwise is simply foolhardy.
Left-wingers have latched on to climate change as a new orthodoxy, and are willing to use their weaponised bible of selective scientific arguments to attempt to put governments and councils under undue pressure with these motions. They don’t even need to understand the wider science, just stick to select spoon-fed lines and call you a climate change denier.
It did not help that the government, specifically Michael Gove, chose not to challenge this orthodoxy in a recent commons debate, allowing the term ‘Climate Emergency’ to be approved. Also, the Government’s challenge to the educationally disrupting, again, left-wing incited, school climate strikes promoted by Greta Thunberg, was disappointing. There are many good things Michael Gove has done as DEFRA Minister in showing we lead on the green agenda by action rather than words. However, what he has done in not challenging them is made a rod for the back of local governments. This is symptomatic of the issues facing a hobbled and rudderless government at present. The Extinction Rebellion, who had vocally and visibly protested on this issue recently in Westminster, have now, buoyed by their perceived success in London, embarked on a roadshow of doing the same at councils across the country (and globe).
And whilst, as I said, we support the IPCC science and key recommendations, and we even support some of the key arguments within these motions, we cannot and should not commit our local authorities to targets that frankly are probably unachievable in the time, and would harm our local economies, hinder green growth, and cost taxpayers a significant amount of money in times of severe financial difficulties. What many people fail to recognise is that the debate in London, and acceptance of the term ‘Climate Emergency’, was non-binding. In council motion debates, it does bind us.
Labour, led by a cohort of Marxists that had a stated aim of restarting deep coal mining, one of the most polluting and damaging industries the planet has ever seen, obviously could do no wrong in this debate, which goes to show the frankly astonishing levels of hypocrisy at play. There is not a bandwagon low enough that Labour won’t jump on for a headline.
Derbyshire has drawn the first common sense evidence-based line in the sand in this key debate, and we hope others will follow suit. Whatever happens though, we will hold the line until common sense becomes the norm again.