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Responding to environmental breakdown

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has long been at the forefront of climate change awareness and communication.

On 12th February, I attended the IPPR's 'Responding to Environmental Breakdown' conference alongside more than 130 delegates. The event was designed to be the launch of a clear and necessary response to the climate change crisis we now face.

The agenda on the day sought to examine three key areas of the environmental breakdown we are facing. These were –

  1. The scale and pace of environmental change – the age of environmental breakdown.

  2. Implications – a new domain of risk facing policymakers.

  3. A transformational response is required.

All three features were introduced by panels of five experts in their fields and included the policy director for the Soil Association, the Sustainability manger from the NHS, several high ranking academics and the Shadow Treasury Minister for the Labour party.

Issue 1, the scale and pace of environmental change was aptly described as a ‘climate change crisis’ by several of the panels and no attendees seemed to disagree.

The description of the process we are experiencing as ‘environmental breakdown’ was born out by one panellist listing all of the key natural disasters which had occurred in 2018 alone.

And the backdrop to this conference was the stark 12 year warning on climate change issued by the United Nations only three weeks ago.

Several of the guest speakers discussed the problem from their perspective so the representative from the soil association spoke of the alarming erosion of good farming soil and how this is already making it hard to grow enough crops to feed the world’s population.

Her plea was for farmers to move away from the modern trend of monoculture and steer towards mixed crops and biodiversity. She spoke about the worrying trend in insect decline especially amongst pollinators.

A move away from the current mono culture to a much more diversified crop structure and a reduction in the overuse of pesticides would help insect populations recover.

Several of the speakers spoke about climate change from their particular perspectives and explained some of the ways their organisations were planning for the future.

But the underlying message coming out of the conference was the sheer size of the problem and the daunting nature and scale of the solutions needed.

It became clear that the delegates see this as the greatest threat mankind has ever faced and that the solutions will only materialise when all aspects of the global society work together. They specifically cited the need for the lawmakers, big business and the general public to work together if success was to become a reality.

Tom Walsh

Community Ambassador


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