The RSA Action and Research Centre report, A New Agenda on Climate Change: Facing Up to Stealth Denial and Winding Down on Fossil Fuels, suggests that the challenge is being intensified by mischaracterising the climate problem as an exclusively environmental issue, rather than a broader systemic threat to the global financial system, public health and national security.

According to the RSA, Britain can take a leading role in addressing the global climate problem, but only if it draws up a new agenda that “faces up to pervasive ‘stealth denial’ and the need to focus on keeping fossil fuels in the ground”.

Data gathered for the report indicates that about two thirds of the population “intellectually accept” the reality of anthropogenic climate change, but “deny” some or all of the corresponding feelings, responsibility and agency that are necessary to deal with it.

It also argues that this ‘stealth denial’ may be what perpetuates the plan of trying to minimise carbon emissions while maximising fossil fuel production.

This, it says, can be largely attributed to a lack of Government action. Speaking at the RSA in May 2013, John Ashton FRSA, special representative for climate change for the UK Government 2006-2012 said that not one of the UK’s big national parties are yet serious about climate change.

“It’s not that they don’t have policies, even some good ones. But they haven’t built a conversation with the country about what climate change means in relation to their values; what it means in the context of our history and our character; what it means for the choices we now face, where we are going, and, ultimately about who we think we are,” he added.

Despite this, Britain “should be doing relatively well” due to reducing its dependence on coal and the introduction of a cross-party consensus on the 2008 Climate Change Act, which, it says, offered a robust framework for reducing emissions by 80% by 2050.

However, less encouraging signs in recent months are also highlighted in the report, such as the slow uptake of the Green Deal, attributed to high interest rates, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) cut to the number of staff working on climate change adaptation from 38 to six.

Continuing on the unfolding of its work, it claims that some leading Government figures have suggested dismantling the 2008 Climate Change Act, while the Green investment bank “appears to be unable to borrow or lend”.

“British political will on climate change is flagging, and is not currently fit for purpose,” it adds.

Leigh Stringer

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