More than ever we must stand together on climate change

We still have time to act to avert worst-case environmental scenarios predicted for our planet but the door is closing fast

Ollie Taylor
Nine by Five Media


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This article first appeared in the Jersey Evening Post on 14 August 2021

In just the two months since I wrote my last piece on the Jersey Citizens’ Assembly, we’ve had a killer US/Canada heat dome that smashed temperature records, killer floods and record-breaking temperatures in western Europe, killer wildfires in Greece, Turkey, Italy, and California. Evidence of the North Atlantic Current slowing and at crisis point — formerly a fringe theory when it made the plot for the disaster movie “The Day After Tomorrow” — and now we have the release of the sixth UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report.

In summary, the report states that irreparable damage has been done to the planet by humans that can’t be fixed, that no region will be spared from climate change, and that we’re now left in a position of trying to mitigate worst-case scenarios as fast as possible but mass deaths of species, including our own, is currently our forecasted future. However, there’s still a glimmer of hope, although the door is closing it’s not yet shut, we still have time to act.

Which brings us to the recommendations for achieving carbon neutrality by the Jersey Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change. Their recommendations will influence the government’s carbon-neutral roadmap, which islanders are invited to share their views on, that will be debated in the States Assembly Spring 2022. By that time Jersey should also be signed up to the Paris Agreement that legally binds us to achieve at least net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

There are three main areas to the Citizen’s Assembly’s recommendations to reduce our carbon emissions: transport, housing, and education.

On the transport front, the aim is to decarbonise public transport by 2025 as well as making it more accessible and affordable so that more people use it as their primary mode of transportation. 40 cities all around the world including Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Liverpool, London, and Oxford in the UK have also made this pledge to achieve zero-emission bus fleets by 2025. So far, Jersey is not off to a great start with the government stating expensive infrastructure costs and apparently a lack of available zero-emission buses to suit our roads, despite Guernsey testing an all-electric bus right now, choosing instead three biofuel buses for a new St Helier “Hopper” service.

Another recommendation is to encourage walking and cycling by making Jersey a safe and enjoyable environment for both cyclists and pedestrians through investment in infrastructure and education to ensure a walking and cycling first transport model, something the government has already started but there’s clearly still a long way to go before any significant mental and physical health benefits are felt.

Another contentious area and ambitious recommendation is the phase-out of fossil-fuelled private cars, with no new Jersey registration of fossil fuel vehicles after 2025, as well as reduce overall car use through the provision of alternative modes of transport. Norway is the only other country to set such a challenging target date but the UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Iceland, Slovenia, and India have all set dates to phase out fossil fuel vehicles by 2030.

The next major area that needs addressing is our ageing housing and property stock. Recommendations include bringing into law carbon neutral standards for all buildings by 2023, with plans to retrofit residential buildings to ensure optimal energy efficiency and the government to share their recommendations with Islanders by the end of 2022. This will also include financing options, education programmes, and incentive schemes, prior to enforcement commencing in 2030.

Further recommendations include all new and existing government and commercial properties to become carbon neutral by 2030, with the government to lead the way immediately through the introduction of legislation, standards and practical assistance. For rental properties, both residential and commercial, the plan is to reduce carbon emissions through a system of Energy Performance Certificates by January 2025.

Updating and improving our property stock makes sense on a number of levels. It reduces energy consumption, lowers costs for consumers, improves productivity but it’s also a matter of life and death. A 2017 report to the Jersey Department of the Environment categorised risks to health, well-being and productivity from high temperatures as “Already high risk”. Jersey’s average temperature has risen 2 degrees in the last decade where we’ve also had the two warmest years since records began, with our highest temperature of 35.7 degrees reached in 2019.

Heatwaves currently cause thousands of additional deaths in the UK each year due to poorly designed property conditions. This risk is only expected to increase with the number of premature deaths from heat potentially tripling by 2050. Summers are on track to regularly hit 40C even if we manage to limit global warming to 1.5C, virtually impossible now due to the drastic measures required to limit global emissions.

The final major area and probably the most important of all is in changing hearts and minds. With the plan to educate and support Jersey consumers and Island suppliers to transition to carbon neutral ways of studying, living, and working so Jersey and its environment are protected and improved by 2030. This will include a change in mindset and culture causing a reduction in the demand for travel particularly commuting, car usage, air travel, and freight.

They also recommend appointing a Minister for Energy as soon as possible but no later than 2022, advised by an independent expert panel, to take overall responsibility for the transition to become zero-carbon by 2045 or sooner.

Another recommendation is for government to enable and empower communities to become carbon neutral by creating policy and funding frameworks for communal power generation and energy efficiency measures related to heating, cooling and cooking and include Island-wide feasibility studies and energy audits.

All these recommendations by the Citizen’s Assembly only relate to going carbon neutral but this is only part of the growing climate change problem, the IPCC report clearly shows that Jersey also will need to deal with its impacts.

The aforementioned Department of the Environment report also highlights that Jersey is already at high risk from flooding and coastal changes that threaten communities, businesses and infrastructure. As well as being the 2nd hottest year on record, 2020 was also the wettest since records began. The greatest risk stems from a combined storm rainfall and coastal sea flooding, with the probability of this event happening only increasing as our planet warms. According to the government’s Shoreline Management Plan, it’s estimated that £198 million will need to be spent on protecting Jersey’s coastline from erosion and flooding over the next century.

Other climate-related risks that are set to become high for Jersey in the future include droughts and contamination of our freshwater supplies by seawater, leading to shortages in the public water supply, and for agriculture, energy generation and industry. Even at full capacity, Jersey currently only has 120 days’ worth of water whereas Guernsey, with a smaller population, has around 360 days’ worth, a reason why Jersey Water is calling for another reservoir.

There will also be increased risks to domestic and international food production and trade. Extreme weather events, fuel shortages and other logistic difficulties will threaten our food security. Jersey is also an exporter of agricultural goods and these could be threatened by climate change with one of the wettest Octobers on record in 2019 had farmers fearing they’d lose up to 1,000 tonnes of Jersey potatoes.

Then there are new and emerging pests and diseases, and invasive nonnative species affecting people, plants and animals. The outbreak of disease could have “severe impacts” on agricultural production where there is a reliance on single crops such as the Jersey Royal. There are also potential human health risks in the future with climate change expecting to influence the distribution of malaria, West Nile virus, Chikungunya fever, dengue, Leishmaniasis, Lyme’s disease and tick-borne encephalitis.

Despite our current government agreeing to become carbon neutral, very few of our politicians are prepared or equipped to understand what this means in reality and act accordingly, which is no different from other politicians around the world currently failing its people, it’s a major reason why we’re in this mess. So far the problem has mostly been left to the market to resolve which has turned out to be a huge failure, as the IPCC report clearly demonstrates.

Before the Citizen’s Assembly gave their recommendations, they identified and voted to prioritise the values with which they would assess them during the process. Out of 22 values, overwhelmingly above all else was to “enable a fair and just transition where the financial burden is equitably shared”. In this value lies the key not only to Jersey’s success in the fight against climate change but all the nations of this planet. Never has the saying together we stand divided we will fall held so much weight over our future.



Ollie Taylor
Nine by Five Media

Jersey (UK) Evening Post columnist and founder of Nine by Five Media. Always looking for the local angle. Views are all mine and not that of any employer.