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Jeremy's Blog 22nd October: The Climate Change Journey

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 21st October 2021

Net zero by 2050 – a short and simple phrase for vast and complex changes across society and the economy over a generation. The Government has taken another set of steps on this road with this week’s series of papers setting out more policies, actions and more intermediate targets as it tackles domestic policy and seeks to lead the COP26 summit. Both require detailed practical policies, blending regulation, tax, investment and new markets to drive choices and values that will create change on the ground. Grand proclamations are hollow without this.

Yet, all that does not cancel climate change but could contain it. Adaptation to further change will still be needed as temperatures rise and conditions change with more experience of their consequences from more flooding to an English wine industry.

Thus, the Government’s new papers confirm the direction, marking some steps, but are nowhere near the last word. They show how much has to be done in this decade for the 2050 target to be met. Much of that bears on rural land management and housing with the accompanying professional challenges. The 2030s and the 2040s would then follow through, grappling with the tougher and remaining issues with carbon prices rising.

Governments in London, Edinburgh and elsewhere now yoke biodiversity with climate change. The common theme is an emphasis on nature as a foundation for society and the economy. London stresses its intention of achieving improvement, not just managing decline – a major shift whose full force we have yet to see.

The Environment Bill, now in its final stages in Parliament, is to be the master legislation for much of this with policies from the setting of economy-wide targets for air and water quality or species abundance to the mechanisms for planning controls to deliver biodiversity. Though earlier, the Agriculture Act’s land management aspects are to be seen in that matrix which will come to inform the spread of rural professional work.

One measure of policies yet to come is in the Green Finance Institute’s report on the “finance gap”, the difference between the money already committed to this work and what will be needed put at £56 billion: England - £27 billion; Scotland - £20 billion; Wales - £5 billion; Northern Ireland - £4 billion for Northern Ireland. At the same time, £30 billion of fuel duty will be lost, the NHS is hungry for money, the population ages and there is no clear path to the growth to pay for this.

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