While the U.S. was celebrating the President's Day weekend, and shortly after the Republican-led Senate rejected legislation upholding climate science, the leaders of the three main parties in the United Kingdom signed an agreement to work together across party lines to tackle the climate crisis head-on. Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron joined forces with Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg as well as Labor Party leader Ed Miliband to:
- Seek a legally binding, global climate deal that limits temperature rises to below 2°C.
- Forge an agreement on carbon budgets according to the Climate Change Act.
- Accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy and to end unabated coal for power generation.
This announcement comes after sustained advocacy by groups working to protect the health of UK citizens from both the danger of climate disruption and pollution from coal-fired power. According to the Health and Environment Alliance pollution from coal plants cause 1,600 premature deaths, 363,266 lost work days, and over one million incidents of lower respiratory symptoms every year in the U.K., costing $1.7 to $4.7 billion each year. Moreover, the nation is forced to find coal from unfriendly sources, spending around $1.5 billion on coal imports from Russia even as the situation deteriorated in Ukraine and new sanctions were introduced.
But this new pledge goes far beyond simply addressing domestic concerns around the use of coal and climate - it sets the tone as we go into the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris later this year. While the naysayers like to claim the U.S. would be acting alone, it is clear that there is global momentum for action. From the historic agreement between the U.S. and China in November, to this news out of the UK, we are seeing proof that countries around the world are prepared to take concrete steps to counter climate change.