Tackling climate change presents many ethical and moral dilemmas, not the least of which is where responsibility for fixing the problem lies, writes Cllr Giles Archibald, leader of South Lakeland District Council.
Because of our industrial past, Britain, like the USA, has created a disproportionate amount of the CO2 in the atmosphere. However, we will likely not be the most affected by global warming.
Indeed, it is poorer countries, like Bangladesh and Vietnam, which have contributed little to climate change, which are likely to suffer most from its effects. So, who should pay for the havoc being caused on these countries by climate change?
The Maldives will likely be below sea level by the end of the century. Should the past polluters pay for its population’s resettlement?
The worst impacts of climate change are likely to be in the future. But if we address it now, we deny developing countries the use of fossil fuels, on the back of which developed countries built their prosperous economies. Are we to tell them they can no longer use fossil fuels? Sadly, yes. However, I highly doubt we will be willing to fully compensate them for our unintentional past damage to the environment.
How do you solve the problem of climate change when no one owns the atmosphere and everybody is contributing to the problem in varying degrees?
And how do we stop the worst polluters? (If part of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil is purposefully destroyed by fire, we all feel the consequences.
But we are powerless to stop it happening).
Can we take the risk of leaving the finding of a solution to the problem of climate change to a technology yet to be invented? I don’t think so.
One approach, via the Paris agreement, has been to ask countries to come forward voluntarily with offers of greenhouse gas reductions. But it is proving inadequate. Indeed. the US, a major contributor with 14 per cent of global emissions, has pulled out.
China, the other major polluter (26 per cent of emissions annually), has only agreed to peak its emissions by 2030. Many nations have made offers, but are not delivering on their promises. There is no global mechanism to ensure countries commit to reductions and stick to them. That is why we need a strong leadership from the most powerful nations.
Understanding the climate challenge is difficult – solving it may seem impossible. But solve it we must.