Yesterday, on 27th February 2019, an eerily summery winter evening, Ards and North Down Borough Council passed Northern Ireland’s first Climate Emergency motion. Led by Green Party councillors Rachel Woods and Barry McKee, the motion was agreed without changes in a full meeting of the Council chamber.
This comes not a moment too soon for a region which is set to face major challenges over the next 10-20 years as temperatures, and sea-levels, rise. Parts of the Ards peninsula, along with much of the inner parts of Belfast, are likely to be underwater in our lifetimes. And perhaps a lot sooner than we expect.
A ground-breaking IPCC report in October 2018, amalgamating all the recent scientific research, found that on our current path, global temperatures will rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040. It gave societies 12 years to take immediate and drastic action to keep temperatures under this level.
But immediate and drastic action is not being taken. Global carbon emissions are rising not falling.
As such, subsequent and cascading climate developments now indicate that the pace of change may be much faster than this, with a rise of 1.5-2 degrees being fairly inevitable – perhaps as soon 2030 – and a rise of up to 4 degrees Celsius more likely by the end of the century.
Even at 2 degrees, life as we know it will be forever changed. These infographics from the New York Times give a flavour of what’s on the way. Or take a whirl around the science at 350.org. If you’re in rude mental health today and would like a more fleshed out version, check out David Wallace Wells‘ work, for example “Time to Panic“. Or Ron Meador on “near-term social collapse due to climate chaos.”
If that seems too abstract, you can enter your postcode in this map to see if you’ll be swimming to work in the near future (the image above is the projection for +2 degrees).
Ards and North Down Borough Council is part of a wave of dozens of councils across the UK, and many more globally, which have recently declared climate emergency.
According to the Climate Emergency Declaration website, as of February 27th, 38 UK councils have made a declaration. Ards and North Down makes 39. The pace of change is fast, with 10 declarations in the past week alone, and more motions on the way.
“Emergency mode or mobilisation is when councils allocate all discretionary funds available to the council to the task of community education, advocacy for action by higher levels governments, mitigation or resilience building and could include funding or undertaking the planning and research needed to implement full state and national emergency mobilisations.”
This is the Ards and North Down Council motion, which gives a pretty good idea of what concrete steps will follow.
” That this Council notes the recent IPCC report on the impacts of climate breakdown; agrees that drastic and far-reaching measures must be taken across society to try and mitigate the risks and declares a ‘Climate Emergency’. It requests an urgent report to assess the impact of the activities of Ards and North Down Borough Council on greenhouse gas emissions, exploring what mitigation measures can be put in place and establishes a working group to bring the issues of climate breakdown to the fore in the council structures and actions, local communities and businesses, as well as formulating a climate adaptation plan.
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