As the Americans were voting to make Donald Trump the next President of the USA, Winchester Action on Climate Change’s meeting was looking at the implications for local people of changes across the world.

The good news, and the most important, is that over 100 nations across the world have now signed up to the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global warming below 2 degrees and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. From last Friday, every country in the world is bound to play their part in slowing and reversing decades of climate change. 

Brexit does not change that. And neither does the election of a US President who perhaps doesn’t believe climate change is real. The Agreement is now internationally binding.

The second good news is that China, India and other countries with fast-growing economies are investing heavily in renewable energy. The Chinese Government is famous for taking the long view, and this is a good example.

And here in the UK, much more of our energy now comes from renewable sources and less from dirty coal, with a visible impact on our carbon footprint. Last year, a record 46% of UK's electricity was generated by clean energy sources (including nuclear). Renewable sources accounted for around a quarter of the UK’s electricity generation in 2015, outstripping coal power (22%) for the first time [Government data - more here.]

A Government survey shows that more than three quarters of the British public supports renewable energy. [ DECC Public Attitudes Tracker Wave 14 here]

Jim Thompson, former Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management and former Treasurer of the European Network of Environmental Professionals, gave another piece of good news to the meeting on 8 November. Brexit doesn't overturn UK law. It's the UK government, not the EU, that requires us in Winchester, and every other part of the nation, to contribute to achieving an 80% cut in our greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  And the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) still requires the UK to conserve and protect wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats.

But the meeting felt there is plenty to for us to do.

EU directives on subjects such as air quality, birds, habitats, and water, give stronger environmental protection than our own laws. A question mark hangs over these until the form of exit from the EU is known.

Energetic discussion concluded that the most important first step is to campaign for the Government to turn all these directives into British laws so that our wildlife and air will be safeguarded after Brexit. Neither the European Referendum (nor the US Elections) were votes to get rid of environmental protections. The Government will have time and opportunity after Brexit to repeal any of these laws if it decides, after expert examination, that they aren't needed.

The meeting called on all supporters to ask their MP to support the Climate Coalition pledge to build a healthy and prosperous future for all by:

  1. Establishing the UK as a world leader on the environment by committing to match or exceed current environmental, wildlife and habitat protections.
  2. Ensuring the UK leads on climate change by publishing robust low carbon investment plans and ratifying the Paris Agreement this year. 
  3. Creating a countryside richer in nature by supporting farmers and landowners to deliver environmental benefits alongside a thriving farming sector.

Signing petitions and writing to politicians does make a difference. WinACC’s website has a page called “Have Your Say”, where it's easy to click on campaigns to stop fossil fuel, to clean our air by cutting out diesel fuel, to give the same subsidy to wind power as to fossil fuel, and to safeguard the environmental protection we get from the European Union.