Thursday, 24 June 2021

Act locally but think globally, says professor

A NATURAL historian and palaeontologist is backing efforts to put environmental targets into UK law.

Professor Richard Fortey, of St Andrews Road, Henley, has agreed to be an ambassador for the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill.

This provides a framework of policies to help the UK reduce its emissions and ecological footprint, both at home and internationally.

It would require the UK to have strict targets on CO2 emissions and ensure there is protection and restoration for biodiversity and wildlife habitats.

The bill has been put forward by Green MP Caroline Lucas and is supported by environmental groups, including Greener Henley.

Prof Fortey said: “I believe in their objectives and I think they have gone about it in the right way.

“What they are trying to do is get a bill enshrined in law so that we can achieve the things that many of us have wanted to do for some time.

“I don’t believe people are evil but they just don’t know very much. There are a lot of people that just don’t care very much.

“Overall, the holistic approach must take environmental degradation much more seriously than just having a few meadows and planting some trees. Anything we can do to strengthen our position with regards to the use of nature and conservation is important. We have a few parks here and there but it is about a much bigger picture and we have to take a much wider view.”

Henley Town Council declared a climate emergency last year and a designated committee was formed in 2019. The climate emergency working group is working on a number of initiatives to help reduce the town’s carbon footprint, including tree planting and installing more electric vehicle charging points.

Prof Fortey said the approach to carbon capture more generally was too “simple-minded” and that more attention should be paid to the ecological footprint of actions in this country.

He said: “We are getting rid of our plastic waste without taking responsibility for the impact on the planet. We know that micro plastics in the sea are continuing to cause havoc but we see it as not being our problem.

“The Government has made a lot of noise. To say you don’t believe in the environment and conservation would be poison. Nobody could say it, even if they believe it secretly. Every Government says they are in favour of helping the environment but I will judge them by the actions they take.

“We must take responsibility for the whole chain that our consumer demands have elsewhere. It is no use exporting our waste elsewhere and then planting trees. There needs to be a holistic approach.

“There is an old saying ‘Act locally, think globally’. We should all be looking at ways to make a difference.”

Henley MP John Howell has refused to support the bill, saying it has many “errors”, but agrees that it’s important to tackle the climate crisis.

He said: “I think the bill underestimates the work the Government has already done and is doing in this area. Some of the things it proposes, such as citizens’ assembly, are not the best way forward.

“One of the things already done is making sure that new houses are built to zero-carbon standards and we have done a lot of work to reduce the damage that plastic can do to the oceans.”

Mr Howell added: “Unless the Government decides to bring sections of the bill into an existing law, it’s not going to get anywhere.”

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