John Knight's July 2021 Talking Politics column for Macclesfield Express

26 July 2021

Thank you to everyone in Macclesfield, Bollington, Poynton and elsewhere who is still observing social distancing. With Covid infection rates still running high, the Conservative government has washed its hands of any further responsibility for public health; removing legal requirements for people to maintain safe distancing and wear face-coverings in crowded public places, instead making it a matter of “private choice”. However, a large majority still seem to be doing what they can to take care of themselves and their communities, by continuing to wear face-masks, use hand-sanitiser and keep apart in the shops, on buses and trains.

Governments don’t appear to be taking much more responsibility for the longer-term health of our planet, either. The world’s changing climate is producing more and more extreme weather events. The “heat dome” over North America’s Pacific Coast has seen temperatures reach the 40s, killing at least 500 in Canada alone, while widespread flooding has left hundreds dead and towns devastated in Germany, the Low Countries and across Europe. Wildfires in Siberia - caused by exceptional summer temperatures - are in turn speeding up global warming by destroying huge swathes of boreal forest and melting the tundra permafrost, in turn releasing vast quantities of climate-changing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

With the United Nations’ COP26 climate change conference to be held in Glasgow in November, we need our government to start taking a lead with action, not words. It is no use talking about “decarbonising” transport, while at the same time prioritising road-building and aviation; electric cars will still clog up our roads and use up irreplaceable natural resources. The government is still considering new coal mines and expanding North Sea gas production, while their target for eliminating net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is 20 years past the point of no return.

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