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Climate change has become the issue of a generation. In recent years Climate Strikes to Extinction Rebellion have shown how the issue energises people the world over. In the midst of a global pandemic that has devastated the lives of millions, it is more important than ever to look ahead at issues that might threaten our futures. There is no issue more threatening than the climate emergency- rising sea levels, extreme weather events and drought.
In the most recent general election Channel 4 hosted a climate debate in recognition of the fact that climate change has become a large factor in many voters decision. The issue most concerns younger people. In a poll conducted by Amnesty and released on Human Rights Day (10 December in 2019) young people were questioned on what were the five most important issues for them. There were 10,000 people questioned across 22 countries in 6 different continents. 41% of respondents selected climate change as one of the most important issues for them. It was the most common picked issue globally. In second place was pollution with 36% of respondents picking that. Terrorism came in third at 31%.
In response to the growing pressure from the younger generations and activists of all ages there has been a growing movement for change. The first climate emergency declaration came from a city in Melbourne, Australia where Trent McCarthy a Greens Councillor in the city of Darebin became the first person to declare an emergency. This happened on the 5th December 2016. In 2018 a Green politician in the UK, Carla Denyer from Bristol City Council, decided to champion a declaration in Bristol which caused a ripple effect in the rest of the nation. By July 2019, over 400 local authorities and parliaments the world over had made a declaration on the issue. The UK became the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency on the 1st May 2019 following declarations from the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.
In a motion on November 20th, Lancaster University has made a significant step in declaring a climate emergency alongside a pledge to attempt to become carbon net zero by 2035. Lancaster University is already the university which produces the most renewable energy among UK universities according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. By 2030 Lancaster hopes to have carbon net zero for carbon emissions from electricity and heating and to then reduce other emissions by 2035. The wind turbine at Lancaster already produces 4,000MWh of electricity a year which covers around 15% of the universities electricity consumption. This move from Lancaster University is very encouraging and will only add to the momentum to get all other UK universities declaring the climate emergency too. This problem is only going to get more important in coming years- lets make the right steps now.