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Climate change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. Shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, fires raging across vast expanses of forest and extreme heat waves and drought, coupled with rapid biodiversity and ecosystem loss, combining to create a mass extinction event that threatens or severely impacts all life on our planet; the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale.
Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.
Climate change refers to the long-term change in the planet's average weather patterns (such as temperature and rainfall) and changes in the frequency and severity of these patterns. As a result of warming temperatures and changes in rainfall, we are seeing impacts around the world such as rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, and melting ice caps and extreme weather events.
What is climate change?
The warming of our climate is caused by a build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
The gases trap heat by forming a blanket around the Earth - like the glass of a greenhouse.
These gases stay in the atmosphere for many years. As they build up, the planet's temperature rises. Then, as the world warms up, feedback-loops can accelerate warming: melting polar ice means less of the sun's heat is reflected back into space.
Greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere mainly due to the burning of fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas - and by cutting down forests. Greenhouse-gas levels have rocketed in the last 100 years.
What's the difference between zero carbon and carbon neutral?
In February 2019, Hastings Borough Council declared a climate emergency and committed to preparing a report, outlining how to reduce carbon emissions and work towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
Zero carbon means that no carbon emissions are being produced from a product or service for example zero-carbon electricity could be provided by a 100% renewable energy supplier.
Carbon neutral means that while some emissions are still being generated by a building/ process these emissions are being offset somewhere else making the overall new emissions zero.
Our strategy and action plan
The Climate Emergency Strategy and Action Plan is our first step. Our response to the Climate Emergency will be an ongoing conversation with organisations, businesses and residents within Hastings and beyond, continuing to engage and learn as new challenge and new opportunities arise. In addition, we will continue to lobby central government to significantly increase powers to drive significant change locally, and for greater intervention by central government to reduce climate change and reduce dependency on unsustainable energy sources. We recognise that to achieve our ambition, Hastings not only needs action locally but from the government and the wider world.
There are actions that we can and will take to limit our own use of unsustainable energy sources and encourage others to do the same. This is, however, limited by available resources and the scale of government cuts that the council is having to cope with. Hastings Borough Council is committed to taking a firm lead on this and we want to achieve a carbon neutral Hastings. The strategy is a town wide ambition, we want to create a shared vision which is not owned by any single organisation.
The strategy considers the direct sources of emissions from our use of energy in the town that are responsible for climate change. It does not consider the indirect source of emissions from our businesses and residents caused by the things we buy from around the world.
The strategy is a starting point and considers some of the ways to reduce the town's direct emissions. The strategy also seeks to work with partners to prepare for the impacts of climate change and adapt to extreme weather events as a result of climate change, which are expected to increase in the future.
Climate change science
The science is now building a string consensus of the need for action. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on Global Warming, published in October 2018, describes the enormous harm that a 2°C rise is likely to cause compared to a 1.5°C rise. The report went on to say that limiting global warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities.
Since this declaration, we have seen growing public support for environmental action including the Youth Strike 4 Climate Action marches.Together we can make a difference if we act now.
For more information about the science behind climate change, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases updates on the latest climate change science and what this means for the world, and in the UK the Committee on Climate Change provides independent advice to government on building a low-carbon economy and preparing for climate change.
Impacts of climate change we are already seeing and experiencing.
We are currently experiencing the impacts of approximately 1°C warming. This has implications for people and the natural world, as it affects many social and environmental factors and also our health - including clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.
For further information about weather and climate change, take a look at the following websites:
In Hastings we have also felt the impacts of a changing climate. We have experienced flooding and unseasonable extreme weather events in the last few years and we are likely to see more extreme weather events including increased number of storms, flooding, and hotter, drier summers. These, in turn, impact our communities, homes, businesses and the infrastructure of the town.