Climate emergency: what’s the plan? | Friends of the Earth (2022)

We know about the dangers of hitting 1.5°C of global warming. We also know we’re on course for over 3°C. So what’s the plan?

Parliament has declared a climate emergency because when it comes to stopping climate breakdown – we're in the last-chance saloon.

We need to put the brakes on climate breakdown as soon as possible. That means urgently cutting greenhouse gas emissions until we’re only producing as many as the earth can naturally absorb.

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Why? Because of the things we already know about: the extreme weather events and sea-level rises that are already devastating people’s lives.

But also because of the things that would take us over the edge – hurtling into irreversible ecological collapses – tipping points that will trigger hostile environments for people around the world.

We've identified 6 areas the UK government should focus on immediately. I'll come to that in a minute.

First, let’s define what we actually mean by a climate emergency.

What is a climate emergency?

For those islanders who have already lost their homes to sea level rise – like the low-lying Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea – the idea of a climate emergency is not new.

Ditto for those communities of subsistence farmers across the globe whose land is becoming more salty and less productive due to climate breakdown. Or the millions of people harmed by extreme weather events over the past few years.

These impacts on many of the planet’s poorest people are a good enough reason alone to call the current situation an "emergency".

But, technically, we're in a climate emergency because it's our last chance to stop runaway climate change. Alarm bells are ringing and it isn't a drill.

We're in danger of going past points of no return: tipping points that will accelerate global warming and cause an irreversible collapse of natural systems that we depend on.

(Video) Climate Emergency Webinar

Passing these tipping points will significantly harm millions more people, now and in the future.

What are these climate tipping points?

There are numerous tipping points, including:

Loss of coral reefs

Climate emergency: what’s the plan? | Friends of the Earth (1)

Coral reefs are under immense pressure, from over-fishing, nutrient pollution, ocean acidification and, of course, climate breakdown.

The world’s top climate scientists – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – estimate that coral reefs will decline by a further 70–90% at 1.5°C of global warming.

The loss of coral reefs is predicted by researchers to harm tens of millions of people. Coral reefs provide a direct supply of food to people. They are also a nursery for around a quarter of the oceans fish. In addition they provide flood protection for low lying communities and ecosystems.

Without much more rapid and radical action on climate change we can probably kiss coral reefs and the services they provide goodbye.

Irreversible melting of ice sheets

The IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5°C states:

“Marine ice sheet instability in Antarctica and/or irreversible loss of the Greenland ice sheet could result in multi-metre rise in sea level over hundreds to thousands of years. These instabilities could be triggered at around 1.5°C to 2°C of global warming.”

We can’t be sure how much sea-level rise this would lead to – the understanding of how melt water may exacerbate the speed of ice loss is still developing .

Sea level rise isn’t likely to reach more than a metre by 2100, although even this will cause huge hardship and costs. But over the next centuries sea level rise could be 10 meters or more.

(Video) Scotland's Response to the Climate Emergency: Industry

The impact of all this freshwater pouring into the oceans could significantly weaken ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream – which could further disrupt the weather.

Losing these ice sheets would be a calamitous injustice for future generations.

Loss of the Amazon

Climate emergency: what’s the plan? | Friends of the Earth (2)

Destroying 40% of the Amazon would be enough to tip it from a forest into savanna and grassland.

That 40% threshold could be breached through logging, burning, climate change or all three.

If it were just climate change (ie logging had stopped), this would happen at a higher temperature (+3°C). But with logging, fires and lower levels of warming working together we'd lose the Amazon earlier.

The Amazon is a truly amazing biodiversity hotspot. But significantly, it’s also a huge carbon store.

Savannas store less than half the carbon of the Amazon forest, so the conversion of the huge forest to savanna would accelerate global warming.

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Contagious collapses

Then there’s the potential domino effect of crossing these and other tipping points. The Stockholm Resilience Centre calls this "contagious collapses".

Crossing one tipping point could trigger changes that make crossing the second more likely, and then the third, and so on.

This isn’t certain but it’s plausible and the rational reaction is to cut greenhouses gases as fast as possible to be on the safe side.

(Video) Scotland's Response to the Climate Emergency: Agriculture, Land use and Marine

Climate Action Plan: what needs to be done

The school strikers, street protests and campaigning groups like Friends of the Earth have turned up the heat on the UK parliament. It has declared a climate emergency. That’s a good start.

Now government has to act fast to do its bit to stop us overshooting the point of no return. Our best chance of avoiding these tipping points is to keep global warming below 1.5°C.

Here are 6 solutions the government should commit to to combat climate breakdown:

1. Transport

Government must crack down on the most polluting modes of transport. They should introduce a frequent flyer levy and phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans within the decade and help motorists switch rapidly to electric vehicles (with electricity powered by renewable sources).

Public transport needs to become the go-to way of getting about across all UK regions. Instead of funding the massive roads programme, government should be spending this money on cheap and brilliant public transport, such as free buses for the under 30s – and improving services out of cities – while making it easier for people to cycle and walk wherever possible.

2. Power

Electricity can't come from dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas anymore.

We need a permanent ban on fracking. And instead of importing dirty energy, the UK should be powered by a home-grown renewables sector.

Government must pull out all the stops (through finance and regulation) to double the speed of renewable energy rollout and achieve 100% clean energy from the wind, sun and sea. The offshore wind industry is a UK success story with new jobs and plummeting costs. The government has said it wants 40GW of offshore wind power by 2030 and has said it will help onshore wind and solar with guaranteed prices. But they haven’t changed the planning rules that are holding back onshore wind. We need a lot more renewable energy that the government is currently considering.

3. Buildings and homes

Government should fund a massive insulation scheme and shift to homes heated mainly by electricity, provided by the UK’s vast renewable energy resources (see solution 2).

All existing homes should be retrofitted with insulation, and all new homes should be zero carbon with renewable energy technologies fitted as standard.

A scheme like this would help end fuel poverty, and the misery of cold, expensive-to-heat homes (whether rented or owned).

4. Trees and food

Government needs to put funding in place to double tree cover (which removes planet-wrecking emissions from the air around us) and incentivise nature-friendly farming.

(Video) Scotland's Response to the Climate Emergency: Reflections

They’ll also need to introduce policy support for sustainable diets and reducing food waste to enable this shift.

5. Consumption

Our current system encourages us to waste food and rely on single-use plastics or short-lived products (such as gadgets and clothes), a lot of which end up in landfill, incinerators, or in our seas and waterways.

We need to redesign products and reshape how the economy works so that we extract, use and consume much less of the Earth’s resources. And government leadership is key to making that happen.

6. International justice

Poorer countries (predominantly in the Global South) suffer disproportionately when it comes to the effects of climate breakdown – such as droughts and floods – and yet often they have contributed the least to global carbon emissions.

The UK, on the other hand, was the first country to industrialise and is in the top 10 of the world's worst emitters of all time. We're also effectively funding climate breakdown. Over the last decade, billions of pounds of taxpayers money have been spent on supporting oil and gas projects overseas. Instead of funding such projects, the UK government must pay its fair share to support more vulnerable countries dealing with the impacts of climate breakdown.

We can beat the climate emergency

Humans are ingenious. We’ve sent people to space, traced the history of our genes and how they affect our appearance and behaviour, and developed medicines that have extended our lives.

Our next big achievement is to stop runaway climate change.

Only 12 months ago the school strikes and Extinction Rebellion protests were not on the radar. Who would have thought that their actions would have led to parliament announcing a climate emergency?

Now let’s make the government adopt our Climate Action Plan.

Tell the government to take urgent action on climate


Climate emergency: what’s the plan? | Friends of the Earth? ›

Stop the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Invest in brilliant and cheap public transport, cycling and walking everywhere. What you can do: Take fewer long-haul flights – and use the train instead of the plane for shorter journeys.

What is the Friends of the Earth doing for climate change? ›

Friends of the Earth is proud to be part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world. We believe in climate justice and that fighting climate breakdown isn't solely about cutting domestic carbon emissions, but building a fairer and more just world in the process.

What is a climate emergency action plan? ›

On November 17, 2020, Council approved the Climate Emergency Action Plan. This puts Vancouver on track to reduce our carbon pollution by 50% by 2030, in alignment with the findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

How do you prepare for a climate emergency? ›

Adapt your home and property
  1. flood proof your property.
  2. keep valuables, precious items and documents on higher ground.
  3. make sure you have insurance cover for your property and contents.
  4. avoid tarmac or paving over the garden, as this prevents rain draining away.

What is the plan to stop climate change? ›

Cut emissions

Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are the main drivers of global warming. While climate change cannot be stopped, it can be slowed. To avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we'll need to reach “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.

Is Friends of the Earth legitimate? ›

Friends of the Earth is a 501(c)(3) organization, with an IRS ruling year of 1974, and donations are tax-deductible.

How does Friends of the Earth work? ›

Friends of the Earth, as an outspoken leader in the environmental and progressive communities, seeks to change the perception of the public, media, and policymakers — and effect policy change — with hard-hitting, well-reasoned policy analysis and advocacy campaigns that describe what needs to be done, rather than what ...

WHO has declared a climate emergency? ›

Countries and jurisdictions that have declared Climate Emergency
Country/TerritoryDeclared a Climate Emergency
United KingdomPartial + Member EU-CED
United StatesPartial
Vatican CityYes
46 more rows

What is climate change crisis? ›

Rising temperatures are fueling environmental degradation, natural disasters, weather extremes, food and water insecurity, economic disruption, conflict, and terrorism. Sea levels are rising, the Arctic is melting, coral reefs are dying, oceans are acidifying, and forests are burning.

Has BC declared a climate emergency? ›

2021 has been a year of emergencies in British Columbia.

What can I do right now to help climate change? ›

18 Simple Things You Can Do About Climate Change
  1. 1) Bring your own bottle or mug. ...
  2. 2) Replace inefficient bulbs. ...
  3. 3) Turn off some lights. ...
  4. 4) Have a “2 degrees” goal at home. ...
  5. 5) Walk or bike somewhere you'd normally drive today. ...
  6. 6) Vote! ...
  7. 7) Plant something. ...
  8. 8) Take a hike.
Jan 8, 2019

Is world prepared for climate change? ›

The world is not ready for climate change, which poses a number of serious risks, says the planet's leading body of climate scientists.

How long does the Earth have left? ›

The upshot: Earth has at least 1.5 billion years left to support life, the researchers report this month in Geophysical Research Letters. If humans last that long, Earth would be generally uncomfortable for them, but livable in some areas just below the polar regions, Wolf suggests.

How long do we have until climate change is irreversible? ›

There is some indication the system has experienced a gradual weakening over the past few decades, and it may be critically unstable. Lenton's research suggests that if global temperatures continue to rise, the AMOC could collapse in 50 to 250 years.

How long do we have to stop climate change? ›

Climate change report: Earth has 11 years to avoid the worst scenarios : NPR. Climate change report: Earth has 11 years to avoid the worst scenarios Carbon dioxide emissions are rebounding after a dip in 2020, and researchers say that at the current rate, Earth's "carbon budget" will be exhausted in roughly 11 years.

Is Friends of the Earth Political? ›

Campaign issues

Friends of the Earth (International) is an international membership organisation, with members spread across the world. Its advocacy programs focus on environmental issues, highlighting their social, political and human rights contexts.

Who is behind Friends of the Earth? ›

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) was founded in 1971 by four organisations from France, Sweden, the UK and the USA.

What does Friends of the Earth do with donations? ›

From our campaigners and lawyers to local groups and supporters, we push for change on causes that matter to you, like: Protecting your local area and making it more climate friendly. Taking government to court over climate-wrecking projects. Fighting for environmental and social justice globally.

What sort of charity is Friends of the Earth? ›

Friends of the Earth Charitable Trust is dedicated to achieving the following charitable objectives: The conservation, protection and sustainable use for the public benefit of the Earth's natural environment, including biodiversity, atmosphere, water, land and natural resources.

How much money does Friends of the Earth have? ›

Friends of the Earth aims to hold a General Fund (defined in Note 1 to the accounts) equating to between two and four months of expenditure, in order to protect against and manage the risks to which the organisation is exposed. For the 2019-20 period, this equated to a range of between £1.8m and £3.6m.

Which country declares climate emergency first? ›

UK becomes world's 1st country to declare climate emergency.

What are 3 facts about climate change? ›

11 Interesting Facts About Climate Change
  • We Are Certain We Caused It. ...
  • CO2 Is At Its Highest in 2 Million Years. ...
  • We Are Losing 1.2 Trillion Tons of Ice Each Year. ...
  • Attribution Is Now Possible (Extreme Weather) ...
  • Global Warming Is (Partially) Reversible. ...
  • We Lost 302.4 Billion Work Hours to Excessive Heat In 2019.
May 29, 2022

What will happen if climate change doesn't stop? ›

The wildlife we love and their habitat will be destroyed, leading to mass species extinction. Superstorms, drought, and heat waves would become increasingly common and more extreme, leading to major health crises and illness. Agricultural production would plummet, likely leading to global food shortages and famine.

What will happen to the environment in 2030? ›

By 2030, almost all countries will experience “extreme hot” weather every other year due mainly to greenhouse gas pollution by a handful of big emitters, according to a paper published Thursday by Communications Earth & Environment, reinforcing forecasts that the coming year will be one of the hottest on record.

Where is climate change the worst? ›

The need for action is urgent

At 2°C or higher of warming, human food security risks due to climate change will be more severe, leading to nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, and small island states.

Where will be the safest place to live in 2050? ›

Michigan, says globalization expert. A new book examining the forces shaping the future of global migration forecasts Michigan as the best place in the world to live in 2050.

Which cities in Canada have declared a climate emergency? ›

Read On to see the climate emergency declarations in Canada.
  • Vancouver, British Columbia. Declared January 26, 2019.
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia. ...
  • Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. ...
  • Edmundston , New Brunswick. ...
  • 18. Powell River, British Columbia. ...
  • Kingston, Ontario. ...
  • Islands Trust Council, British Columbia. ...
  • Hamilton, Ontario.

What is the CleanBC Plan? ›

CleanBC (PDF, 5.3MB) is the Province's 2018 plan to meet our climate targets while building a clean, low-carbon economy. The CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 (PDF, 9.2MB) will help B.C. take the additional actions needed to reach our 2030 climate goals and put us on the path to net zero emissions by 2050.

Where should I live to avoid climate change? ›

The best cities for climate change
  • San Francisco, California. ...
  • Seattle, Washington. ...
  • Columbus, Ohio. ...
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota. ...
  • Baltimore, Maryland. ...
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ...
  • Portland, Oregon. ...
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Feb 22, 2022

Can climate change be stopped? ›

While the effects of human activities on Earth's climate to date are irreversible on the timescale of humans alive today, every little bit of avoided future temperature increases results in less warming that would otherwise persist for essentially forever.

Is it too late to stop global warming? ›

And it will never be too late to stop climate change because it will always be better to keep temperature rises as low as possible. Limiting it to 2°C is better than 2.5°C, but better than both of these is keeping it below 1.5°C.

Who is most affected by climate change? ›

Key findings of the report include: That Black and African American individuals are projected to face higher impacts of climate change for all six impacts analyzed in this report, compared to all other demographic groups.

What are countries doing about climate change 2022? ›

Iceland, Denmark and the Netherlands are the countries most prepared for a low-carbon future, according to a new report. Other countries making up the top 10 of the Green Future Index 2022 are the United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden and South Korea.

What has Friends of the Earth accomplished? ›

Millions of friends of the Earth – all over the world – have been achieving extraordinary victories in the fight against climate change, including: 200,000 people across the UK uniting to win the world's first climate law. Local efforts to prevent fracking in the UK for more than half a decade.

What does Friends of the Earth do with donations? ›

From our campaigners and lawyers to local groups and supporters, we push for change on causes that matter to you, like: Protecting your local area and making it more climate friendly. Taking government to court over climate-wrecking projects. Fighting for environmental and social justice globally.

What sort of charity is Friends of the Earth? ›

Friends of the Earth Charitable Trust is dedicated to achieving the following charitable objectives: The conservation, protection and sustainable use for the public benefit of the Earth's natural environment, including biodiversity, atmosphere, water, land and natural resources.

Where does Friends of the Earth get its funding? ›

FOE has received $43 million from foundations, most of which appear to regular support extremist environmental groups including the Foundation for the Carolinas, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Packard Foundation, and the Tides Foundation.


1. Scotland's Response to the Climate Emergency: Electricity and Energy
(Friends of the Earth Scotland)
2. Social enterprises in the climate emergency
(Sustainable Earth Institute)
3. 🚨Climate Emergency🚨 Now what?
(Novara Media)
4. World Scientists Warning of a Climate Emergency - Dr. Phoebe Barnard
(Facing Future)
5. We Are Facing A Climate Emergency!
(Birmingham TV)
6. Tim Crosland, Plan B on Climate Emergency
(PlanB Earth)

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