“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.” – Ansel Adams
Earth’s surface temperature has risen, ice sheets are shrinking, sea levels are rising, and extreme weather events are becoming more common. Scientists have come to the consensus that the planet is quickly dying, and world governments have now rushed to pass legislation that will stop the damage from going beyond the point of no return. With pressure from several environmental organisations such as the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), governments have started to discuss the most effective ways to save Earth from environmental ruin. But is their legislation effective or is selfish ambition hindering their progress?
According to the CCC, the UK has the potential to lead the fight against global warming, stopping climate change by reaching net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050. Sadiq Khan aims to impose the toughest emissions standards for vehicles in any city and the government have supported proposals to develop carbon capture and utilisation facilities. Labour aims to create this net-zero greenhouse gas by, as Jeremy Corbyn has said, ‘ushering in a “green industrial revolution”’. Talk of climate change has attracted unity between British parties, with the Labour, Green, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems all expressing their support for youth climate strikers. And despite the Conservatives lack of decisiveness on the situation, Parliament has finally declared a ‘Climate change emergency’, becoming the first in the world to announce such.
The USA has been considerably slow in the race against global warming but nevertheless currently has several initiatives and legislation that are helping keep the country green and pollutants minimised. One includes the Clean Air Act which regulates air emissions and allows the United States environmental protection agency to authorise the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), which in turn protects individuals from hazardous pollutants in the air. While the US is making progress, Trump withdrawing from The Paris Climate Agreement and a Democrat-Republican divide on climate change both hinder developments towards productive and effective advancements. This lack of unity has ultimately stopped a ‘great’ nation like the US from being frontrunners tackling climate change, left in the dust by smaller countries like Morocco and Switzerland.
The first country to host a UN conference on the environment and one of the first to sign the international climate change treaty Kyoto Protocol, Sweden can be considered the most ‘environmentally friendly’ nation in the world. Sweden not only has the success of proactive politicians but citizen engagement and high aspirations for the country concerning its environmental aims. And while Sweden, (or no country for that matter) has ever ranked ‘very good’ on the Climate Change Performance Index, it certainly is the greatest nation in helping in the fight against climate change and with the evident incapabilities of other governments may be the greatest for many years to come.
But are governments doing enough?
There is no doubt that governments hold an important role in helping the environment. They hold the power to pass effective legislation and the wealth to fund initiatives that could halt, or even reverse the effects of climate change. However, it is clear that governments are not yet proactive enough. Issues of indecisiveness, left-right political divides and an overall lack of clear strategy could be the very things that hinder us from evolving into a greener world.
And the real show of whether governments are doing enough goes beyond words but instead requires action; can our governments live up to their commitments, or will we be left with empty promises and a dying world?