Individual action won’t cut it on climate change – campaigner

A veteran environmental campaigner has told Londoners that individual gestures like reducing car use and watching energy consumption in the home are not enough to address the urgent issue of climate change.

Speaking at the London Older People’s Assembly at City Hall on Monday, Phil Thornhill of the Campaign Against Climate Change said that governments alone had the power to make the necessary changes and that individuals would have the greatest impact if they lobbied their parliamentary representatives to take action.

“I’m not saying don’t do these things, but whatever the good conscientious people do, quite frankly there are a lot of people out there who don’t give a damn and we’re all going to suffer from their emissions,” he said.

“We need something that’s co-ordinated from the centre, that’s the only thing that’s going to make our individual efforts worthwhile. Individual action builds the moral argument but without a centrally directed plan it’s not going to work.”

He fielded questions from the assembly floor about the dangers of perceived nanny-stateism and a possible backlash from those fed up of being dictated to, comparing the urgency of today’s situation to the national effort during World War Two.

“Social attitudes take time to change and we don’t have time,” he said.

Mr Thornhill claimed what was needed was a national address from the Premier with the same level of gravitas of King George VI telling the people of Britain that they were at war and would all need to work together to overcome adversity.

“You may remember when the Germans were blowing up convoys nobody told you please don’t eat too much, they told you you had to and set up rationing. They told you the community is in danger, and we have to do something as a community,” he said.

“There wasn’t much room for people who didn’t agree.”

Campaigners around the globe will be pushing the point home in December when world leaders gather in Bali to discuss climate change at the planned UN Summit.

Simultaneous demonstrations are planned in what is expected to be the biggest mass protest yet about a lack of political will to take effective action.

The London Older People’s Assembly is an annual event held to provide a forum for older people to discuss key issues. This year’s event focused on climate change.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: “London is often seen as a city of young people, yet almost 16 per cent of the city’s population – nearly 1.2 million people – are aged 60 or over, and almost a quarter of a million people are aged over 80. We need to actively engage with London’s older people if we are to make real inroads in cutting the capital’s contribution to climate change.”

Sam Bond

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