No, we cannot. The moral obligation of every generation, as the TV naturalist and broadcaster suggested, should be to leave our planet and natural environment in better shape for those to come.
And while this is the international age of industrial innovation, no continent, community or corner is immune from climate change and global warming; lives are being lost by the minute.
As such, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s succinct message – “If we don’t act now, it will be too late” – needs to be heeded world dignitaries arrive in Glasgow for Britain’s most significant world event since the 2012 Olympics.
After all, the abiding failure of previous leaders to act with purpose and unanimity is fuelling a climate catastrophe that is self-evident here through coastal erosion, more frequent flooding and weather extremes.
And while the absence of China and Russia, two of the world’s biggest polluters, from the United Nations-led summit reflects poorly on global diplomacy, it does not justify inaction.
Quite the opposite. It places a bigger onus on conservationists like Sir David and Prince of Wales, a lifelong environmentalist very much ahead of his time as he prepares to deputise for the Queen, to use their powers of persusion to galvanise leaders to take a stand on a global challenge that is incalculably greater in scale than the still devastating Covid pandemic.
This is also a chance for the PM to lead from the front – Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May passed laws committing the UK to become the first world-leading economy to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 – and showcase the example that Britain, and this county in particular, now sets.
After all, Yorkshire finds itself at the forefront of the green energy revolution thanks to flagship projects ranging from the Siemens factory in Hull manufacturing offshore wind turbine blades to the landmark announcement just this week by Morrisons than the Bradford-based supermarket wants to be net zero by 2035 – five years earlier than planned – thanks to its renewed focus on local produce and energy efficiency.
This is why Yorkshire is proud to call itself a ‘climate conscious county’– the theme of a special supplement in The Yorkshire Post this weekend to coincide with both COP26 and this newspaper’s inaugural climate change summit on November 10.
This is just a start – this newspaper has, for example, long advocated fundamental changes to the planning system like those now put forward by the CPRE which prioritise “thriving 20-minute neighbourhoods that place housing, amenities and workplaces within walking distance of each other”.
And while this region should be proud of its record to date – one which prompted Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to acknowledge how Yorkshire is setting the pace, domestically and internationally, for “the green industrial revolution” – there is a moral responsibility to go faster and further.
After all, the world is a global village because of its inter-dependency on climate and individual actions, from switching unused lights and electrical appliances to resisting unnecessary car journeys, do have the power to inspire far-reaching political change at a national and international level.
Now it is up to all of us, as Sir David implored, to seize the moment for the generations to come – and the future of the planet that we all call home.
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