Why Disasters Like The Amazon Rainforest Fire Are Relevant To Us Here In The UK

Staying in Europe is the only way we can make a serious impact on climate change and the environment, MEP Alex Phillips writes.

The Amazon rainforest – the largest rainforest in the world – is on fire.

It’s been burning for three weeks and it’s still going, taking the homes of one million indigenous people with it along with millions of species of animals and plants – and oxygen.

If we ever needed a reminder of how precious the environment is, this Brazilian catastrophe is it.

The ecological and environmental fall out is overwhelmingly bleak. The Amazon provides 20% of the world’s oxygen – it’s a resource we cannot afford to lose, particularly when we’re in the midst of a climate emergency.

A new poll has revealed that 85% of Brits are worried about climate change, with the majority believing that the UK should bring all carbon emissions to net zero more quickly than by the 2050 target announced by the Government. They’re totally right.

“If we’re serious about the environment, the UK has no option but to stay in Europe and adopt a Green New Deal so that we can put systems in place that would assure a sustainable future.”

The Amazon may be thousands of miles away but these sorts of disasters are relevant to us here in the UK beyond simply mourning the destruction of a beautiful natural landmark.

We really can’t afford to lose such a massive carbon sink.

Air pollution in some parts of the UK is up to five times over the EU limit and MPs are now warning that people will have to stop using their cars if we’re to meet our climate change targets because technology alone cant solve the greenhouse gas emissions from transport in this country.

We are already contravening EU law but consider how much bigger our clean air violations could become if we leave Europe.

Equally, the EU has a mammoth job on its hands in meeting its zero net carbon target by 2050. The only way we can hold it to account is by staying politically involved. Brexit will mean that no one can put in safe guards against our dangerously high levels of pollution while also forbidding us the chance to make sure that the EU is really doing its bit for cleaner air.

Much of my work as an MEP is concerned with pushing through a Green New Deal, which would see the creation of secure, well-paid jobs within green industries.

Employment and job creation is absolutely fundamental to fighting climate change, which is why I sit on both the Employment and Environmental committees in Brussels.

The Amazonian fires are believed to have been deliberately started by arsonists looking to illegally clear forest to raise cattle.

One solution would be for us all to refuse to buy things like Brazialian corned beef from places like Morrisons and Lidl – which has been linked to a company supposedly involved in these fires.

But if we are to offset natural disasters like this by bringing down our own carbon footprint, then we need to go beyond individual consumption.

A Green New Deal will kick-start the economy in two ways: by ending austerity via a commitment to the biggest investment we have ever seen in renewable energies and energy efficiency measures, and tackling the climate crisis head-on. The two are intertwined. You can’t commit to creating more jobs that will directly contribute towards tackling the climate crisis without also making a positive impact on the environment.

By putting jobs at the forefront of the discussion around climate change, we can do things like ensure that vulnerable members of society live in properly insulated housing. Something as simple as investing in effective insulation would create more jobs and ensure that fewer people have to stay in accommodation that is too hot or cold for a good standard of living.

It’s not just the Amazon rainforest that’s at risk either.

Earlier this week, Iceland mourned the first death of a glacier. The country’s prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir commemorated the mass by attaching a “letter to the future” to the side of the mountain.

It read: “Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”

We need an international effort to offset these disasters and to ensure that they don’t keep happening.

If we’re serious about the environment, the UK has no option but to stay in Europe and adopt a Green New Deal so that we can put systems in place that would assure a sustainable future.

This is our chance to make sure that we make a practical difference, to stop the tragic trajectory we seem hell-bent on following. As part of a wider European community, we can transform our job market to make it the greenest, fairest it’s ever been.

Staying in Europe is the best chance we have of fighting climate change and injustice today.

Alex Phillips is a Green Party MEP for South East England


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