Wake up, walk out: Demand the UK commits to 42% emissions cuts

As negotiators convene at the Bonn climate talks to wrangle over a post-Copenhagen treaty, people across the UK are standing up for radical emissions cuts.

As negotiators sit down today at the Bonn climate talks to wrangle over a post-Copenhagen treaty, people across the UK are standing up for radical emissions cuts. Participants in the ‘Wake up, walk out’ action – which took place from 1pm today onwards – are aiming to send a clear message to the UK Government: take a lead, and cut carbon emissions 42% by 2020.

Voting with their feet, members of the public were encouraged to break their everyday activities at 1pm to ‘walk out’ and demand that the UK show a lead internationally by adopting a tougher target. Individuals can also show their support by texting WAKEUP, along with their name and postcode, to 82222, and help the topic trend on Twitter by using the #wakeupwalkout hashtag.

Tightening up the UK’s 2020 emissions targets – from the current 34% to 42% – is already supported in principle by the Committee on Climate Change. In their first report, the committee proposed “an Intended budget based on a GHG emissions reduction of 42% in 2020 relative to 1990”. The 34% target now adopted by law should only be an “interim” budget, the committee says, “to apply until a global deal to reduce emissions is agreed.”

At Copenhagen, that deal patently failed to materialize – but its failure to do so was in large part thanks to developed countries not bringing more to the table. Hopes that the European Union was prepared to adopt a tougher 30% target – which would have paved the way for the UK going further – proved unfounded, due to opposition from Italy and Poland.

But the UK and France signalled at Copenhagen that they were willing to go further, climate change secretary Ed Miliband has repeatedly hinting that he “wants to do more” – recently renewing his pledge that “provided there is high ambition from others, [Europe should be] carrying forward our commitment to move from 20% to 30% reductions by 2020”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has already woken up to the challenge, having pledged last year to move to a 42% target. Though criticised at the time by an overcautious Whitehall, the move has since won support from the Committee on Climate Change.

In short, there is a strong case for the UK taking unilateral action in upping its target, in order to spur greater leadership from Europe and move the climate negotiations forward, but to have the confidence to take such a step, politicians and negotiators need the certainty of popular support – of the sort that Wake Up, Walk Out can visibly show.

The Wake Up, Walk Out action has been organised by Be That Change, a social enterprise campaigning against climate change and global poverty, and is supported by Stop Climate Chaos and the National Union of Students.

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