The Big Picture
There are a lot of organisations working towards tackling global climate change at various scales, and various targets being set for various different dates. It can get very confusing!
The Paris Climate Agreement
Starting at the top we have the Paris Climate Agreement, which was drafted at the UN COP21 conference in Paris in 2015, and then signed in 2016. The UN COP conference (or United Nations Conference of the Parties) is the annual United Nations conference on climate change.
The Paris Climate Agreement is an enormously important
document as it’s the first time in history that all of the world’s nations have been united on a single agreement.
The key goals of the Paris Climate Agreement are:
- To keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0C (3.6F) above preindustrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more, to 1.5C
- To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100
- To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge
- For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing “climate finance” to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy
The Paris Climate Agreement is focused on balancing new emissions. It doesn’t relate to emissions already in the air, which will persist and continue to cause global heating.
Note – if you were to take all places on earth at all times of the year and average those temperatures out, you would get the global average temperature which is around 15°C.
Please watch this video which explains the Paris Climate Agreement in a bit more detail. (Published in 2017)
AR6 Climate Change report from the IPCC
On 9th August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their 6th assessment report, their first being released in 1990.
The key findings from the latest report are:
- Human activity has “unequivocally” caused the climate crisis
- Climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the world
- The speed of sea level rise has nearly tripled compared to 1901-1971
- By 2050, the best-case scenario predicts Arctic seas to be ice-free come summertime
- The past 5 years have been the hottest on record since 1850
The IPCC report uses the reference period 1850–1900 to represent pre-industrial temperature.
The global surface temperature was approximately 1.1°C higher in the decade between 2011-2020 than between 1850-1900, and the report shows that greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible. By 2040, the global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming compared to pre-industrial temperatures.
Unless there are rapid, sustained and large-scale reductions of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions, including CO2, methane and others, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement, will be beyond reach.
Please watch the video on the IPCC 2021 report which gives more detail. (Published in 2021)
UK Net Zero Target
The Paris Climate agreement essentially said that the world cannot warm by more than 2°C (ideally no more than 1.5°C,) but didn’t tell each country how much they had to cut their emissions by and when they had to do it by, instead that was left to the individual countries to decide.
On 27th June 2019, the United Kingdom became the first major economy to pass a law stating that the United Kingdom will bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by year 2050.
A little note on terminology here:
- Carbon Neutral/Net Zero – This means that you are still allowed to produce some greenhouse gases, but this is balanced with carbon saving measures. Examples of this include planting trees, Carbon Capture and Storage or purchasing Carbon Offset credits
- Zero Carbon – This means that no carbon dioxide is produced at all (In practice, this basically means don’t burn fossil fuels)
The road map of how the UK aims to achieve this goal has been developed by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). We will go over the CCC net zero road map when we have our group call so we can interrogate it together.
Oxford Climate Emergency
There are many people that say that it doesn’t matter what the targets are, it is important that we transition to a net zero society as fast as humanly possible.
90% of Assembly Members agreed that the UK Government’s current target to reach zero carbon by 2050 is not ambitious enough, and that Oxford should aim to achieve net zero sooner than 2050.
Members set a vision to reduce the City Council’s own emissions to net zero by 2030 at the latest, 20 years earlier than the target the UK government has set out.
By declaring a climate emergency, Oxford City Council has committed to:
- Sign up to a science based carbon reduction target that is consistent with achieving the Paris Agreement of no more than 1.5°C global temperature increase.
- Work to make Oxford City Council operations Carbon Neutral by 2030, and call on central government to provide the funding and powers to make this possible.
- Work with other organisations and governments within the UK and internationally to determine and implement best practice methods to limit Global Heating to less than 1.5°C.
Outside of Oxford City Council’s own operations, Oxford to Zero is the campaign for Oxford to achieve zero carbon emissions across the city as a whole by the year 2040 – ten years ahead of the legal deadline set by the Government.
Partnership and collaboration is key to achieving this goal, and in February 2021, the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership was created. The partnership is a group of leaders from Oxford’s main institutions and employers, including the universities, hospitals, businesses and other organisations.
Oxfordshire County Council has also set a target to become net-zero across their own operations by 2030. They are members of the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership, and have commissioned the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford to produce a detailed evidence base and transition plan for net zero in Oxfordshire. The Pathways to a Zero Carbon Oxfordshire document sets out the investment required to meet net zero across all sectors.
The County Council’s have collectively developed a Climate Action Oxfordshire website, offering practical advice for residents wanting to reduce their carbon footprint and save energy. The website lists measures people can take and rates them according to the effort, impact, and cost. This one stop shop has sections aimed at individuals, communities, and organisations, including businesses, and advice on transport, lifestyle, shopping, home and biodiversity matters.
Please watch the short videos below to learn more about Oxford City Council’s plans for a Zero Carbon Council, and the Zero Carbon Oxford Partnership. (Published in 2021)
There are also many communities, individuals and groups working towards climate justice in Oxfordshire, including…
Music Declares / Culture Declares Emergency
In our sector, many organisations have been involved with the “Music Declares Emergency” and “Culture Declares Emergency” movements.
Music Declares Emergency and Culture Declares Emergency call upon cultural and creative organisations to add their voices to the growing chorus of people demanding action against climate change, and asks organisations to act to lower their own carbon emissions.
The Big Picture Quiz
Now that you’ve completed this section, please complete this short quiz before moving on. The link to move on to the next section will appear once you have completed the quiz.