What Does the Law Mean for Climate Change?

Climate change is having a massive impact on the world. The Earth is getting warmer and sea levels are rising. In turn causing more floods, bush fires, droughts, and heatwaves. An example can be seen in the Arctic, the ice is melting very fast. It is 65% thinner than it was in 1975. If nothing is done to reduce emissions, the Arctic will see ice-free summers.

The key to reducing climate change is to cut emissions. Globally, The Paris Agreement is the first in helping to reduce emissions. There are over 190 countries that have made voluntary pledges to reduce emissions by 2030.

In the UK we can see the effects of climate change. We are experiencing warmer summers and wetter winters, and this will only become more frequent. According to the Met Office, it is expected, that in 50 years’ time, the UK will see winters 30% wetter and summers 60% drier.[1]

So where does the law fit into all this? Well in a bid to try and tackle climate change, the government made a pledge to reduce gas emissions. The target date for reducing these is by 2050 and by a level of at least 80% of those in 1990.

To establish these pledges, the government brought in the Climate Change Act 2008, which received Royal Assent in November 2008. The Act created a committee, now known as the ‘Committee on Climate Change’ or ‘CCC’ for short, to help make sure these targets are hit. They must produce evidence to the government that the targets are being met by being ‘independently assessed’.

In Scotland, The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 commits them to a “Net Zero” emissions target by 2045.

In Wales, The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 means the Welsh Government must develop carbon budgets and reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

In Northern Ireland, they are developing a new Energy Strategy. If it goes ahead, it will mean Northern Ireland could contribute better to UK targets for Net-Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

What can we do to help reduce emissions? We can adapt the way we travel. We can walk instead of driving. We can improve the energy efficiency in our homes and look at the way we eat by eliminating food waste or using peat-free compost.

However, this is just skimming the surface of climate change, the issue is so much bigger and there are so many areas to explore. This is just a brief overview. Nonetheless, whatever we choose to do, can make a difference in reducing climate change, even if we do not experience it in our lifetime, it will benefit the next generation.

Written By: Zoe Martin

OULS News Reporter

[1] https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/climate-change/effects-of-climate-change

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