The Laws & Bans Helping To Protect The Planet
Catch a glimpse of the news and it seems obvious that climate change is having an effect. There are more severe droughts and flash floods than ever. However, it’s not just global warming that is endangering our planet. There are many issues, including the use of plastic, that is having a major impact on the world and its inhabitants.
Against this backdrop, world leaders are being urged to act. Recent UN climate talks in Poland delivered a damning message — act now and lower greenhouse emissions or it will be too late. Speaking at the summit, Sir David Attenborough reinforced this message, warning that climate change is now the greatest threat to humanity and could lead to the collapse of civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world.
All is not lost though. Thankfully, the public’s awareness on the subject is growing. The likes of environmental charities, popular broadcast programmes (e.g. Blue Planet), influential celebrities and a whole host of media are all making a major impact too – educating the masses and inspiring action on a global scale.
There’s undoubtedly still a long way to go, but progress appears to be being made slowly. Leaders from across the globe are stepping up efforts to ensure marked changes are being made to dramatically reduce emissions and change behaviours – and fast.
Here, Flogas Energy, who specialise in gas installation cover some of the most influential environmental laws and regulations in place today:
The Paris Agreement – 2015
This landmark deal united the world’s nations in a single agreement to tackle climate change from 2020. Nearly 200 countries within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came to a consensus in 2015 to cut greenhouse emissions and have committed to limit temperature rises worldwide by no more than 2C above pre-industrial times. In fact, the aim is to limit this further, to 1.5C if possible. Progress will be reviewed every five years and financial funding from donor nations will go to less developed countries.
The Paris Agreement could go further. It’s been noted by scientists that the Paris Agreement must be stepped up if it’s going to successfully meet the targets that have been set and truly curb the effects of climate change. A recent UN report suggests that the world actually needs to triple its current efforts to meet the 2C target.
Is the Agreement in jeopardy already? President Trump is preparing to withdraw the commitment of the USA. This isn’t something that can legally happen until after the next presidential election though so, at the moment, it’s a case of ‘watch this space’.
War on plastic
Plastic waste is a huge environmental problem. An estimated 12.7 million tonnes of it ends up in our oceans each year (the equivalent of a truck load every minute). This has led many countries to introduce bans or taxes to try and limit the exponential rise in plastic usage. Denmark started levying a charge on plastics bags as early as 1993, and the 2002 ‘bag tax’ in Ireland resulted in a huge 90% drop in demand for single-use plastic bags. More recently, Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a ban on plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers could be in place in the UK by late 2019. Looking ahead, the European Union has voiced its intention to ban a range of plastic items (including straws, plates and single-use cutlery) completely by 2021, justifying that these can be replaced with more sustainable materials.
Thankfully, the issue of plastic has been in the media recently. The issue now seems to be at the forefront of public consciousness. This has made a number of major companies make significant changes to their operations by ditching plastic (or pledging to do so rapidly). This includes food outlets such as McDonalds and Pizza Express, all Four Seasons and Hilton hotels, as well as pub chain Wetherspoons and sandwich shop Pret a Manger – to name but a few.
The Clean Air Strategy
This UK government initiative was released in May 2018. Clean Air Strategy bids to cut air pollution and human exposure to particulate matter pollution, which is the fourth biggest health risk behind cancer, obesity and heart disease. The new strategy is part of a 25-year plan to leave the environment in a better state and is an addition to the £3.5 billion scheme already in place to reduce air pollution from road transport and diesel vehicles, set out in July last year.
Ultimately, what is the aim of the Clean Growth Strategy? Its end goal is to reduce the number of people living in areas where concentrations of particulate matter are above guideline limits by half by 2025. What’s more, it pledges to ensure only the cleanest domestic fuels are available, to tackle ammonia from farming, to address non-exhaust emissions of micro plastics from vehicles, to empower local government with new primary legislation, to invest in scientific research and innovation in clean technology, and much more.
The Ban On Coal
Did you know that the UK still has eight coal-fired power stations? However, a ban on coal introduced this year (which will come into force in October 2025) has presented energy companies with an ultimatum: adapt your existing assets to generate greener energy or close your power station. This rule has already set in motion the change, with some stations adapting or building infrastructure for cleaner energy generation, whilst others have decided to remain active right up until the ban.
Climate talks that took place in Bonn (COP23) made the decision that coal power plants should be phased out and replaced with cleaner technologies. It was Canada, the UK and the Marshall Islands who led the way, forming a global alliance called ‘Powering Past Coal.’ One year on since its launch, the alliance now has 75 members who are committed to replacing unabated coal-fired electricity with cleaner alternatives.
Road to Zero Strategy
It’s maybe no surprise that transportation is a huge cause of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, changes are vital if the UK is to hit its carbon reduction targets. The Department for Transport’s 2018 ‘Road to Zero Strategy,’ sets out that at least 50% (and as many as 70%) of new car sales will be ultra-low emission by 2030, and up to 40% for new vans. This policy also addresses reducing emissions from vehicles already on the roads and plans to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.
If a large-scale emergence of zero emission cars does come to fruition, then green infrastructure will need to be expanded too. There’ll also need to be a major focus on increasing the availability of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs). The Road to Zero strategy sets the stage for what the government has hailed ‘the biggest technology advancement to hit UK roads since the invention of the combustion engine.’
Sources: Guardian, BBC, The Sun, Greenpeace, Reusethisbag, DEFRA, Climate Action, Poweringpastcoalalliance, Gov.uk