These profound words from the Archbishop of York to mark his first Yorkshire Day here go to the heart of this newspaper’s conscientious decision to choose to highlight the issue of climate change on this traditional weekend of celebration in God’s Own County.
The need for a collective response – from families to communities and innovators to employers – is made even more timely by this week’s confirmation that Britain’s 10 warmest years in history have now all occurred since 2002.
And with 2020 now being officially recorded as third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest year on record, the eyes of the world will be on Britain when it hosts the COP26 summit of world leaders in Glasgow later this year.
It is why The Yorkshire Post is both proud and duty-bound to launch Yorkshire: A Climate Conscious County today with the unveiling of a major summit – another first for the region – to take place on November 9 as a precursor to the COP26 gathering, with expanded coverage of environmental issues to feature on our print and digital platforms.
As Archbishop Stephen Cottrell writes so eloquently while monitoring the River Ouse rise and fall at Bishopthorpe Palace, and the historical precedents that he’s already witnessed in his first year in York, the irresponsible course of action is to ignore the issue in the vain hope that it goes away or can be left to future generations. By then it will be too late – the climate is already changing around Yorkshire with alarming frequency as the weather becomes more extreme.
Nevertheless, this county is already uniquely placed, as Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng sets out in today’s edition, to play its part in a global effort because of its world-leading expertise in green energy and the leadership of cutting-edge businesses who already show how “green and growth go hand-in-hand”. Now the challenge is to persuade others to follow this region’s world-leading example.
Yet, in doing so, it is also imperative to harness will of local people to make a difference and think – and act – green as they go about their daily lives while persuading political leaders to put the environment at the forefront of all future decisions.
And it is in the interests of all to do so. As the University of Cambridge’s environmental economist Dr Matthew Agarwala said so persuasively this week, the opportunities are significant if they’re grasped now. But the price of inaction, he warned, will be even greater to society, and taxpayers, than the cost of the Covid pandemic if existing plans to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero are delayed because of political prevarication or a reluctance to accept the seriousness of the threat to the planet’s future.
And while this will, inevitably, result in uncomfortable decisions – the Archbishop warns that “we are probably going to have to learn to live with less” if our “insatiable desire for everything” is not to “leave us with nothing” – recent weather catastrophes around the world, in addition to the increased prevalence of flooding across Yorkshire, show that now is the time for a climate of change when it comes to environmental, energy and consumer policy.
As President John F Kennedy famously challenged the American people in his 1961 inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” It is a proposition that we put to the people of Yorkshire this weekend in the belief that they, too, will want to play a more active role in the societal test which remains a defining benchmark for every generation; namely the quality of the environment that they bequeath to their successors.
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