UK Parliament First in World to Declare Climate Emergency
The UK parliament became the first national legislative body in the world to declare a climate change "emergency" Wednesday. The historic move closely follows Extinction Rebellion protests that blocked traffic in key parts of central London for a week in April.
The protest had three demands: that the UK government "tell the truth" about climate change, that it achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 and that it create a citizens' assembly to help with that process. The protesters embraced parliament's decision Wednesday as a step towards meeting their first demand.
BREAKING - UK MPs pass a motion to declare an environment & climate emergency. This has seen them start to… https://t.co/zzqk37UDWP— Extinction Rebellion (@Extinction Rebellion)1556734853.0
The emergency declaration was proposed by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
"Today, we have the opportunity to say, 'We hear you,'" Corbyn told parliament, according to Reuters. "By becoming the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency, we could, and I hope we do, set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments all around the world."
The motion was approved without a vote and registers the views of the House of Commons without compelling the government to act on any particular policy proposal, BBC News explained. It also calls for the government to work towards carbon neutrality before 2050 and for ministers to draft proposals within the next six months to restore the country's environment and create a "zero waste economy."
Labour has just forced the UK Parliament to declare a #ClimateEmergency. Real politics comes from the ground up, a… https://t.co/w30ougbdFo— Jeremy Corbyn (@Jeremy Corbyn)1556737674.0
Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May had chosen not to whip party members against the motion. Her Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged the threat posed by climate change, but refused to outright declare an emergency, The Independent reported. He did promise legislation shortly to tackle both climate change and "broader ecological degradation."
"Not only do I welcome the opportunity that this debate provides, I also want to make it clear that on this side of the house we recognise that the situation we face is an emergency. It is a crisis, it is a threat, that all of us have to unite to meet," Gove said during the debate, as The Guardian reported.
However, Green Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas challenged the conservative record on climate during the debate, pointing to the party's approval for a third runway at Heathrow airport. Also on Wednesday a judges ruled against green groups and local governments who had challenged the runway, partly on the grounds that it was a breach of the UK's commitment to the Paris agreement, The Guardian reported.
Climate activists were cautiously optimistic about the declaration. Greta Thunberg, who addressed the UK's parliament last week, tweeted her support.
"Now other nations must follow. And words must turn into immediate action," she wrote.
“MPs have passed a motion making the UK parliament the first in the world to declare an “environment and climate em… https://t.co/YaE31sJBG7— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1556740082.0
Greenpeace UK Politics head Rebecca Newsom said the declaration was a long time coming.
"The best time to declare a climate emergency was 30 years ago; the second best time is now," she said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Both Gove and Corbyn promised to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump on his climate denialism. Gove said he would raise the issue with Trump when he visits the UK in June, according to The Guardian.
"We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US President Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis," Corbyn said in his remarks Wednesday, as BBC News reported.
Regional and municipal UK governments have already declared climate emergencies, among them Wales, Scotland, Manchester and London.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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