You are here: Cutting carbon rhetoric as well as emissions

UNA-UK Executive Director Phil Mulligan on cutting carbon rhetoric as well as emissions

One of the most important events of 2012 will be the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June, the outcomes of which will be discussed at UNA-UK's UN Forum event on 14 July . Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, who has been invited to speak at the Forum, is right to point out that we need bottom-up as well as top-down approaches if we are to combat climate change.

But the lead has to come from countries like the UK that have enjoyed long periods of economic prosperity, often at the expense of environmental sustainability. Rich nations need to accept what appear to be sacrifices in terms of emission cuts and funding arrangements but which are in fact vital to avoiding ruination for us all.

The UK government should be commended for its recent decision to provide £10m to the UN Adaptation Fund, which offers assistance to the world's poorest countries. They have contributed least to climate change but are already bearing the brunt of its impacts. However, £10m is a drop in a dangerously warming ocean when set against the estimated £28bn per year that the UK needs to spend to keep temperature rises to acceptable levels, according to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (or indeed the 5–20% loss in global GDP it projected if climate change remains unchecked).

When governments cannot be relied on to take bold action, activism is more important than ever and much is happening at the local level (see the excellent work by UNA Canterbury). But difficult personal choices also have to be made. Research indicates that emissions rise throughout a person's life before peaking after 60. As we get older, therefore, we have to get wiser about minimising our carbon emissions. Put that alongside the campaigning which UNA-UK and its members promote and you have a combination we can be particularly proud of.