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I've been fascinated by a couple of examples over the last day of how much climate change really matters when push comes to shove.
Remember how the UK government held the big climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow only three months ago?
And remember how Boris Johnson urged that “It’s one minute to midnight on that doomsday clock and we need to act now”?
They look a lot like empty words now, because news broke yesterday that his government plans to fast track six new oil and gas wells in the North Sea.
The UK is in the grip of a national crisis of soaring energy bills. Households could see their energy bills rise by as much as 50% in the next couple of months. The UK government needs to find a way to bring those prices down and more domestic gas security is part of the plan.
Over here, we have the case of Rio Tinto. The company’s decision to close the Tiwai aluminium smelter was seen as a win for New Zealand’s ability to meet its climate targets because we’d be getting rid of 0.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that the smelter pumps into the air every year.
But as soon as Rio Tinto signaled yesterday that it might want to keep the smelter open beyond the 2024 closure date, regional leaders were all over the papers saying how wonderful the news was.
Because here’s a fact we need to accept: no matter how important climate change is to people, it is hardly ever more important than being able to pay your bills or keep your job. Most people will vote for jobs and a warm house before they vote for the climate.
Governments should – and obviously do – bear that in mind.
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