“As the stark reality of the climate emergency becomes clearer & clearer, many of our political leaders have their heads in the sand.” John Mcdonnell, labour List, 15 August 2023.

The UN General Secretary António Guterres recently commented that “The era of global warming has ended; the era of global boiling has arrived.”

He added that “leaders must lead. No more hesitancy. No more excuses. No more waiting for others to move first. There is simply no more time for that,” and argued that “it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the very worst of climate change. But only with dramatic, immediate climate action.”

The urgency of the climate situation – and the need for mass actions around it and political leadership to tackle it –has been confirmed by experts again and again in recent months.

To give just one example, Professor Jim Skea of Imperial College London, who was recently elected as Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in an interview this week said that climate change may be happening even quicker than expected. And as he also pointed out, the extent and nature of the climate catastrophe that is unfolding is confirmed by a quick look at the headlines any month.

Recently we have seen the fires in Hawali, British tourists running from fires in Rhodes in Greece, severe drought in Spain, Italy hit record temperatures with major consequences for society and economy, and the incredible images of smog clouds over New York.

July 2023 was officially the hottest month ever on our planet, involving new heat records being set in numerous countries, and following a record-setting June, according to research by a European Union climate monitor.

Additionally, global temperatures in July rose above the 1.5-degree threshold put in place by the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set tangible goals for hundreds of nations to lower global warming levels and tackle climate change.

Yet as this stark reality of the climate emergency becomes clearer and clearer, many of our political leaders – here and internationally – seem to have their heads in the sand even more than previously, especially when it comes to the need to decarbonise the economy, and move away from oil, gas and coal.

In this regard, as they experience the environmental impacts of the ongoing climate crisis in their own lives, generations to come will look back on the 1st August 2023 as the day a UK Tory Government led by Rishi Sunak gave up on tackling climate change and put their futures at risk – by granting new oil and gas licences to the polluting profiteers – all in the hope to gain a few votes in a next General Election which many believe is already lost.

This is the road to disaster. You simply can’t decarbonise the economy by opening up new oil, gas and coal fields, which is why the International Energy Agency – regarded as a quite conservative agency by many climate justice campaigners – has clearly said there should be no new gas, oil or coal fields opened up if we are stop climate breakdown.

In response to the Government’s dangerous shift on this and other areas of climate policy, the Labour Opposition has a great responsibility.

In particular, there should be no agreement that an incoming Labour government will allow this dangerous and irresponsible award of new oil and gas licences to stand.

We should not be committed to Sunak’s environmental threat to our planet and our children’s futures, but to real action and massive investment in a fairer, greener and more equal future for all.

The UK Climate Change Committee recently warned Britain’s leadership position on addressing global warming had been “very substantially challenged” by all the government chaos and reactionary actions we have seen over recent years.

As I’ve said before, our (mis) leaders simply can’t be trusted to develop an agenda that take on the vested interests of big business, but this is exactly what is needed to tackle the climate emergency. We need to build the massive movements – here and globally – in society that can take on the polluters and put forward the policies of a socialist Green New Deal which can address the deepening climate and cost-of-living emergencies.

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