What's laughable about 40%?

Yesterday someone scoffed at the idea of the UK doing enough to secure my future on this planet. They told me that the idea that the UK could go to the EU and push for 40% emission reductions was “laughable”!

That person was Pete Betts the director of international climate change at DECC (The Department for Energy and Climate Change). Also known as Jan’s boss! He was in town for a couple of days to take part in some bilateral negotiations and meetings. The UK Youth were given time to go in and speak to him and put our views across of how we feel the UK is doing.

One thing we raised with him was the question of the UK pushing within the EU for the strongest possible targets. Currently the EU is at 20% there is the opportunity for us to go to 30% if lots of other things happen and other countries do certain things, but even that is looking unlikely.

We wanted him to be more ambitious than that, we wanted him to go to the EU and push for 40%.

40% is the minimum the science demands if we are to have any chance of stopping runaway climate change.

40% is the minimum vulnerable people demand if they are to have any chance of mere survival.

40% is the minimum I demand if I am to have any chance of a future.

40% is not laughable.

But the feeling in the UK seems to be that we are already leading on emissions reductions and that basically we are doing enough.

Undoubtedly the UK is ahead of many countries, but that’s not saying much- it would be hard not to be ahead of countries like Canada and Japan.

So we do have the opportunity to take a leadership role, but presently we are sitting back enjoying not being the bad guy for once. The time for that is over!

If the UK is to lead we need to push for targets as strong as the science demands and work hard to convince others to join us. To do this we also need to lead domestically, how can we claim we have the integrity to lead when we are still making decisions like Kingsnorth and Heathrow.

How will we ever lead if we view the minimum we need as laughable.

The young people in that room didn’t find the chance of not having a future laughable. And with quite some emotion we told him.

We told why we are here putting our lives on hold. We told him why we are here, working 16 hour days, getting only 4 hours sleep a night. We told him why we are here speaking to him, pushing him, begging him, to lead.

We are fighting because our very lives depend on it!

But I’m not sure Pete was really taking it in.

So if you are with us please contact Pete and let him know that it is our future he is messing with!

Let him know we want better leadership from the UK, on targets, on finance, on domestic policy, whatever he may think we do not believe we are doing enough! Please tell him to pass this message on to everyone in his department because they hold our future in their hands.

Tel: 020 7238 1214   Fax: 020 7082 8599

Email: peter.betts@decc.gsi.gov.uk

(and please do copy me in anna@ukycc.org)

The only thing laughable about 40% is that is only the MINIMUM we need!

About The Author

Avatar of Anna Collins

Born and bred in Warrington in the *sunny* North of England, Anna was brought up by parents with a deep sense of justice and taught to always fight for what she believed is right. "I guess you could say it was in the blood, my gran went to Greenham Common in the 80s."

  • Jenny from folkroup

    Just checking this is Anna from folkgroup? If so have passed your blog details on to the geography staff at Lymm and asked them to use it with certain groups of students – it sounds incredably interesting the work you’re doing and a very worthwhile cause.

  • Richard

    This is an excellent blog, Anna. Very compelling. On your suggestion, I am going to write to Peter Betts. However, some more info would be helpful, if you can provide it. Do you know? -
    1. Have any other countries committed to 40 per cent cuts?
    2. Where is the science that says that 40 per cent cuts are needed by 2020? What institutions have recommended this? Some web links (preferably from scientific institutions) to help back up this stat would be useful.

    I think that having this will help strengthen the case in my letter.

    Thanks to you, and to the rest of trackers for everything you’ve done the last two weeks. I think that you’re all are quite brilliant. And I look forwarding to hearing what you get up to post-Bonn.


  • Sarah Lloyd

    Hi Anna, I felt proud of you when I read this blog, this to my mind is exactly the line of reasoning that needs to be taken with those who think that pussy-footing and pandering to present-time greed and narcissism is acceptable. Like the previous respondent said, it would be great if you could post the links to the science of 40% .
    Surely anyone can see now that corporate level business carries little for people and the planet,desires only to preserve the status it has made for itself in the past , is unprepared to release it’s own addiction to profit, and this profit is increasingly at the expense ot your generations future.It is unacceptable thinking and parasitic upon your generations right to exist to negotiate from this perspective. Please continue to speak up and resist this conceited imperialism that would tell you to ‘get real’ and accept token gestures, ignoring the evidence to the contrary. Shame on Pete Bett’s, he sounds like he’s been in his job too long.

    Very best to you and the work you are doing,

  • Sarah Lloyd

    PS I’ll write to Pete Bett when you post the science evidence

  • Richard

    I’m still looking for info about government that have committed to aggressive cuts, but interestingly, BT have committed to making 80 per cent cuts by 2020. If a corporation can take a stand like this then surely governments can?

  • annac

    Hey guys, thanks for all your comments. So just to clarify we’re talking about the EU cuts as a whole here. Within that the burden will be shared differently between the countries.

    Every country has there own domestic targets-such as ours at 80%

    OK so the science- here’s where it gets complicated.

    IPCC says 25-40% cuts to get to 450 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    450ppm only gives us a 50% chance of stopping runaway climate change.

    would you get on a plane if it only had a 50% chance of getting to its destination without crashing?

    We need 350ppm to stabilise the climate.

    To achieve that we need much higher emission cuts- hence 40% only being the minimum.

    I’m really bad at explaining the science but I hope that helps!

  • Richard

    Thanks, Anna. That is helpful. Any links to the actual IPCC reports would be extra useful. But no worries if you don’t have them.

  • Marcin Gerwin

    You can download full IPCC report here:

    It’s kind of technical and a bit outdated. I would recommend State of the World 2009, which is more easy-to-read: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5984

    In chapter 2 all details with regards to CO2 level in the atmosphere and impact on temperature are explained.

    There is no big science behind calculating the level of CO2 emissions reduction needed. You can calculate it on your own. We are now at 389 ppm. Currently the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere grows by around 2 ppm per year. The maximum level at which we should no longer burn fossil fuels is 450 ppm.

  • Sarah Lloyd

    Thanks Anna, for me, air quality is a very helpful,immediate way to visualise an understanding of the actuality of climate degradation, it simplifies it down to something I can readily see and feel, and no I probably wouldnt get on the plane if it was only 50:50, there would have to be something very meaningful at the end to make me take that risk, certainly something more than abstract virtual economic profit, or the stability of market shares for a small elite of global players. Perhaps this line of reasoning is naive, but in the end, to my mind, its our ongoing lifeworld we have to think of and protect, not the fortunes of temporary orders of constructed power.

  • Sarah Lloyd

    Hi Anna, Thanks for your insights into the last few days proceedings, your football match visual metaphor sounded great and the rapping very dynamic and brave as an intervention…a huge well done to all of you. Have sent a letter to Pete Betts , will let you know if he replies, could you post a list of anyone else you think it would be good to write to on this,
    Well done again, very best wishes

  • Noddy

    For both Sarah and Richard: THE SCIENCE

    The best place I’ve found to explain the science is http://www.carbonequity.info . It’s an Australian carbon rationing website. Scroll down their home page and download the pdf, ‘Target Practice’. This is comprehensive and technical. For an easier-to-digest-intro click the icon a bit down the left hand side titled ‘Why we must ration our future’. Read that? Now wallow in the zillion other excellent essays on the site.

    If you’re really serious then, to go to source, you must read the last IPCC report, AR4. This is the original scientific data that the governments are pissing on. The ‘Summary for Policymakers’ at
    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf is marginally more accessible than the main report body. It’s not supposed to be clear and readable you understand; we wouldn’t want the ORDINARY people finding out about all this!!!

    A highly respected website run solely by climate scientists is http://www.realclimate.org which you can search for immense blog discussions on the whole damn lot between debating scientists and Joe public. They comment on and explain breaking news too; all the answers you want are in there….somewhere!

    I’ve now read over 15 climate BOOKS including uni texts and the best, clearest and most comprehensive by far is ‘The Rough Guide to Climate Change’ by Robert Henson. I would really recommend this to everybody. Have it handy to check new issues as they arise in the news. It’s even funny in places. ‘Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction’ by Mark Maslin, Ox Uni Press is a close second (but less fun, more sciency).

    But, yes, Anna C is absolutely darn right to fight for 40%. We don’t know for sure we haven’t ALREADY passed vital climate ‘tipping points’. Let’s all backpedal together very very hard!

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