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Climate emergency : The solutions

Climate emergency : The solutions

How do we stop the climate emergency from becoming a full-blown disaster? Our experts have come up with a plan – focusing on 6 areas of society. But the clock is ticking. In a matter of years, dangerous levels of global warming will lead to more extreme weather, poverty, suffering and loss of life. We urgently need to stop emitting more climate pollution than the world's plants and trees can absorb. Read to find out our plan to make that happen - and how you can take action:

Plastic problem: why we need government action

Plastic problem: why we need government action

Plastic is almost inescapable. Asking people to avoid plastic just isn’t realistic unless we get tough on the companies producing it.

Plastic pollution is suffocating the planet. Nowhere is immune. It’s been found in the highest mountains and deepest oceans. We’ve even discovered tiny plastic waste in Britain's most iconic and remote rivers, lakes and reservoirs – including the seemingly crystal-clear waters of the Lake District. 

Scientists have found plastic in air, drinking water, seafood and human stools . As well as the health concerns, wildlife can become entangled in it or end up ingesting it. Plastic hangs around in the environment for at least hundreds of years. It doesn’t disappear, it just breaks down into tiny pieces that continue to pollute our lives. And one study  has now revealed that plastics degrading in our oceans are releasing methane – a potent greenhouse gas.

Avoiding it is more difficult than it sounds. It’s in so many of the everyday things we buy. In a lot of cases it’s hidden from plain sight, lurking in everything from teabags and beer caps, to clothes and cosmetics. We can all do our bit to reduce the plastic we use. But with the amount of plastic produced set to grow by 40%  over the next decade, our individual efforts will never be enough to solve the problem. 

What is the solution to the plastic problem?

We need government action.

The government has made some encouraging pledges to act on things like cotton buds and straws. But to tackle all the many sources of plastic pollution, we need legislation that commits the government to phasing it out. 

We're not suggesting an outright ban on plastics. Some plastics are essential or hard to replace – getting rid of them could lead to worse social and environmental outcomes. For example, banning plastics in clothes without a viable alternative could lead to an increase in cotton production – an industry known for using lots of water and pesticides. Part of the process will involve identifying those types of plastics and eradicating all the rest. 

A new law to end plastic pollution

Together with our partners in the Women’s Institute, we’ve launched a piece of legislation called the Plastic Pollution Bill. The Bill calls for a phase out of plastic pollution. It commits this and future governments to stopping the flow of plastic into our waterways and oceans. 

The Bill is already gathering pace, with MPs from across the main parties as well as many other charities and organisations supporting it, but there’s still a long way to go to make this new law a reality. 

Help us get a plastics law - find out more here:

Our New Trees Campaign - Why doubling tree cover will help stop climate chaos

Our New Trees Campaign - Why doubling tree cover will help stop climate chaos

Nature is the ultimate carbon capture and storage machine. That’s one reason we should double tree cover in the UK, says Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth's chief executive.

“Craig, the science on climate change is now so stark, surely Friends of the Earth should be working on that and nothing else. I mean, protecting biodiversity is important, but we have to stop climate change first.”

“Craig, I’m so worried about ecosystem collapse – surely Friends of the Earth should focus on that, and leave the fight on climate change to others.”

These comments were made to me by two people I respect enormously, each with a long history in the environmental movement. Funny how compartmentalising the world can stop us seeing the big picture. The truth is, to see runaway climate change and ecosystem collapse as separate issues is artificial. Both are symptoms of humanity’s failure to respect and live fairly within environmental limits.

We have no hope of stopping climate change unless we can restore the abundance of nature. And we have no hope of stopping the crisis in biodiversity unless we tackle climate change and – more to the point – the root causes of both. Of course, to avoid runaway climate change we need to stop burning fossil fuels, power our world on renewable energy, promote energy efficiency, decarbonise transport and so on. But we also need to restore the abundance of nature and its ability to regulate the climate. That’s not just about stopping the loss of nature – including deforestation in the tropics – but also reversing that decline.

New trees campaign

This is why, in 2019, Friends of the Earth is launching a campaign to double tree cover in every region of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We want to encourage tree planting (right trees, right place), but also rewilding and lots of natural regeneration of our native trees.

We’re doing so partly because of what it will do for wildlife, air quality and wellbeing (studies show that trees are good for people’s mental health). But we’re also launching this campaign because doubling the number of trees could deliver annual carbon sequestration of around 37-50 MtCO2e (million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) per year. That’s equal to around 10% of the UK’s current greenhouse gas emissions.

Trees will be our focus, but we’re hoping to stimulate a much wider debate about why restoring nature is essential for tackling climate change. Click below if you’d like to find out more about our new trees campaign: