Latest dire warning from the IPCC report – what are we doing locally to counter climate breakdown?

Screenshot of IPCC report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its latest report this week. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, described it as an “atlas of human suffering”.

Alice Bell, co-director at the climate change charity Possible, wrote in the Guardian:

“The key findings are bleak, if familiar. Climate breakdown is accelerating rapidly; many of the impacts will be more severe than predicted. Nowhere will be spared.”

“The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet,”

said Hans-Otto Pörtner, a co-chair of the working group producing the IPCC report.

Bell’s article continued:

“These health impacts are physical – increased chance of dengue fever, for example, or cardiovascular disease – but also mental: the suffering from living through storms, famine, heat stress, and the loss of homes and cultures.

“The report is scientific, yes, with the numbers and notes on degrees of confidence you’d expect, but with a clear conclusion: we are living that nightmare-scenario future, which scientists in the 20th century warned us about.”

“Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly-closing window to secure a liveable future,” said Pörtner.

The article added:

“Not only are we on course for loss and suffering, but many have also lost and suffered a lot already, and some things are already gone for ever. As John Kerry, the US special presidential envoy for climate, put it:

’The question at this point is not whether we can altogether avoid the crisis – it is whether we can avoid the worst consequences.’

Emotionally speaking, it’s entirely appropriate to grieve for, as well as fear, climate impacts.

Alice Bell went on to say:

“If we give in to doom completely, we only give in to the worst-case scenarios coming true. Plus, as the new report emphasises, every bit of a degree celsius matters – there is still so much we can save. I know climate campaigners always say this, but now really is the time for action.

“The best antidote to climate fear is always climate action, so roll up your sleeves and get to work. Not sure where to start? Do something that brings you joy. You’ll be at your most powerful and your most infectious. Climate change is grim, plain and simple. “But taking action on it can be an absolute ball.”

So, what are we doing about it?

The climate emergency is the reason I stood for election to Lyme Regis Town Council (LRTC). In May 2019, when the climate and ecological crisis was the huge looming issue, I felt politicians at every level were not taking it seriously enough. And back then, we seemed to have more time to prepare than we do, as this week’s report proves.

In July 2019 the new town council declared the climate and environmental emergency, its ambition to reduce our impact to net zero by 2030, and pledged to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Now, the town council has put its own Zero Carbon 2030 plan into action.

The next step is for the council to show leadership and ambition in helping the community transition to Zero Carbon by 2030, which is why I requested a budget allocation for the remaining term of the current council (to 2024). £75,000 was agreed last December.

Councillors and staff members underwent free Carbon Literacy training in October and January as part of the pilot for a town and parish councillor toolkit, and the council decided to seek accreditation as a Carbon Literate Organisation. If successful, LRTC would become one of the first town councils in the UK to achieve this.

LRTC’s Environment Committee recently proposed a project led by the Lyme Regis Development Trust on the Lyme area’s ‘2030 Vision’, to engage widely across the Lyme, Charmouth, Uplyme area to listen to residents’ views on their hopes, dreams and aspirations for their future town.

Future Town

Part of the funding requested was to enable the continued involvement of the Royal College of Art’s (RCA’s) Intelligent Mobility Design Centre, following their work with us (and two other UK towns) on the ‘Future Town’ community place-making and transport planning project in 2020. This was presented to the Minister for Transport and other government departments as a model of innovative community engagement.

Image courtesy of the Royal College of Art’s Future Towns project

Woodroffe School participated with their Year 12 Art & Design students undertaking a project looking at future sustainable transport and access opportunities for Lyme. This image created by Phoebe Peel showed how creative the students were. They imagined very different ways of getting around with lovely thoughtful consideration for people with varying mobility restrictions and visions of how much better a sustainable and greener Lyme Regis could look and feel.

The ‘Future Town’ team chose Phoebe’s image for the front of their report and as the final image, as an optimistic vision of the future in their presentations to the government!

Vision of an ideal future town, by Year 12 student Phoebe Peel

Richard Vine, Head of Art and Computing at the Woodroffe School recently reflected:

“Lower Sixth form students taking Graphics participated in the Future Town project as an opportunity to be truly creative in illustrating the future challenges that face us in battling the consequences of climate change and doing our collective best to stifle it. They considered transport issues in particular and could see that a very different model would be needed for the town if we are serious about doing our bit to limit the damage we are inflicting on our planet. This is a theme that occupies the minds of our young people and one they will quickly engage with and want to act on. It’s possibly time to put them in charge?”

2030 Vision Community Conversation

The ‘2030 Vision Community Conversation’ is planned, to build on the ‘Future Town’ findings and continue to listen to residents about their day-to-day challenges, as well as gauge their hopes and ideas for what our area could and should look like in 2030.

  • What are the things that matter most?
  • What could be done to improve the way we move around?
  • Would better, more frequent and affordable transport services offer wider opportunities for us?
  • Could we improve our public and social spaces?
  • Crucially, how do our young people see their future here and how could we make it better for them?

Several dates will be planned from early April in different locations, at different times and days to encourage widespread engagement. There will also be an online map and public discussion platform, to share ideas and aspirations. People with mobility issues will be encouraged to share their ideas in ways which suit them best.

All the local schools will be invited to participate, so we look forward to more lively and creative ideas from every age group.

The project will continue over the next couple of years and will aim to identify key issues and, crucially, what the capacity is in the community to work together on identified projects. It is hoped that other stakeholders in the RCA’s ‘Future Town’ research (e.g. the Transport Planning Society, Royal Town Planning Institute, Sustrans, Living Streets,  the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation, the Centre for Ageing Better, National Association of Local Councils) alongside consultants, may be able to help us develop viable project proposals towards the transition to net zero.

Future plans

The town council recently submitted a bid to the Department of Transport fund for community minibuses for Lyme and Charmouth, linking to Axminster, alongside car-sharing, cargo vans and bikes and electric bike rental hubs across a wider network. The Dorset Climate Action Network’s transport team is linking community groups and councillors interested in collaborating on transport and access proposals, which aim to improve connections and accessibility as well as decarbonise transport services.

Five volunteers from Lyme, Uplyme and Charmouth are currently being trained as Community Energy Champions by the Centre for Sustainable Energy, as Bridport Town Council generously invited us to join their scheme. The champions will help residents in Lyme to be more energy-efficient and reduce their carbon emissions, save on their bills and keep warm. Look out for us at future events and at the 2030 Vision public engagements.

There are toolkits available now which didn’t exist when the town council first declared a climate and environmental emergency, and undertook to reduce emissions to net zero by 2030. We have a strong community with many active groups, including Turn Lyme Green/Plastic Free Lyme and the Dorset Climate Action Network.

The graphic below from the Impact Community Carbon Calculator shows the average greenhouse gas emissions per household for Lyme Regis, and how we compare to Dorset and national averages.

Lyme Regis: whole carbon footprint, source: IMPACT Community carbon calculator

We have a very high footprint, so have further to go than most people.

How do Lyme residents compare to Dorset and UK average per household carbon emissions? Source: IMPACT Community carbon calculator

What should we be doing now?

I’ve invited local residents to tell me what else we should be doing in Lyme. What about in your area? Are there any local activities aimed at meeting the climate and environmental challenges that have been reiterated by the global scientific and political community this week?

The climate and ecological crises are real, and they threaten our way of life in ways we do not want to imagine. However, as Hans-Otto Pörtner said, we do have “a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future”.

So, whatever we do, as far as I’m concerned, doing nothing is not an option!