John Tanner

Oxford Mail:

City council board member for cleaner, greener Oxford

It’s really about our children and grandchildren. What sort of world are they going to inherit?

The ground-breaking Paris Agreement on climate change will make all the difference to Oxford in the years ahead.

The choice is stark.

If world temperatures continue to rise Oxford will see more flooding, more over-hot or over-wet summers and more strong winds.

As sea levels rise and deserts expand more refugees will come knocking on our door.

But if the agreement succeeds temperatures will begin to fall back to where they are now.

Oxford will get its energy from renewables.

Didcot’s gas-fired power station will eventually close.

We will be driving around in non-polluting electric cars.

In Paris 195 countries agreed that “climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet”.

It was a huge achievement by Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister and socialist, to persuade so many nations to agree.

They all accepted that “deep reductions in global emissions will be required”.

US President Obama, Chinese premier Xi, Putin from Russia and the rest all agreed. Their aim is to keep global temperature rises well below 2C.

What is more, world leaders agreed how to achieve this. There will be regular reviews of each nation’s targets for cutting carbon dioxide and other climate-damaging gases. $100bn will be set aside to help poorer countries get out of fossil fuels.

When I was a child we did not know that the coal we were burning to keep British industry going and to warm our homes was hurting the planet.

We assumed the world’s atmosphere would somehow cope with all the pollution.

Today scientists tell us the planet cannot cope.

Temperatures are steadily rising. The ice at the polar regions is melting. Cyclones in the hotter tropics are more powerful. Deserts are expanding as rainfall fails elsewhere.

Oxford is in the lead in tackling climate change. Now with the Paris Agreement we know that we have not been wasting our time.

What would be the point of cutting our carbon if China and India only increase theirs?

It is scientists at Oxford’s universities who are measuring climate changes around the world.

Oxfordshire companies are fitting solar panels, insulting roofs, and introducing electric vehicles.

Now we know it is all worthwhile.

The Paris Agreement means every country is invited to declare planned carbon footprint cuts.

This is what the agreement calls “intended national determined targets”.

Of course it would be better if they were legally binding. But it’s a start.

Britain is already committed to an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

This is spelled out in the Climate Change Act passed by the last Labour government.

This country’s carbon footprint is beginning to shrink.

But is the current Conservative government doing enough?

Certainly cutting subsidies to renewable energy, abandoning the Green Deal and encouraging fracking are not going to help.

In Oxfordshire the public’s commitment to saving the planet is clear. Schools installing solar panels, the Oxford hospitals heat-sharing scheme and the BMW car factory reducing energy costs, all help.

More and more of us are using less energy, especially from fossil fuels.

In the run-up to the Paris conference Oxford City Council joined a pledge by other Labour councils. We want Oxford to be using only clean renewable energy by 2050. Cities around the world, from New York to Sydney, have pledged similar targets.

Of course some people, including local Conservative councillors, say there is nothing we can do to stop climate change.

I disagree.

The scientific evidence is clear.

Our planet is warming up and man-made gases, especially carbon dioxide, are making things worse.

The Paris Agreement is a wonderful Christmas present.

Now we all have to make a New Year’s resolution, for our children’s sake. We must be more energy efficient, burn less fossil fuel and invest more in clean renewable energy.