A video shot from footage broadcast by the UK parliament's parliamentary recording unit shows David Attenborough speaking to a Commons select committee on climate change, July 9 2019. Picture: HANDOUT / AFP
A video shot from footage broadcast by the UK parliament's parliamentary recording unit shows David Attenborough speaking to a Commons select committee on climate change, July 9 2019. Picture: HANDOUT / AFP

London — Naturalist David Attenborough told British legislators on Tuesday it would be essential to stick to a new target to decarbonise the economy, warning that failure to tackle climate change could lead to massive social unrest.

Attenborough, one of the world’s most influential wildlife broadcasters, said Britain’s move in June to become the first Group of Seven country to commit to a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 could help galvanise broader international action.

“It’s a tough target. It’s not an easy statement to have made, and it’s going to cost money,” Attenborough told a hearing of parliament’s business, energy and industrial strategy committee. “It’s actually a practical commitment, and I hope to goodness that we can achieve it and stick by it.”

Attenborough, who has become increasingly outspoken about risks posed by the climate crisis in recent years, added: “It’s absolutely essential that it should be done … if we’re going to avoid massive social unrest.”

The most encouraging thing I see is that the electorate of tomorrow is already making their voice very, very clear.

Attenborough had earlier told the hearing that he drew hope from an upsurge in environmental activism by a younger generation aware that they would bear the brunt of climate effects as the crisis worsened in coming decades.

“The problems in 20-30 years are going to be major problems that are going to cause great social unrest, changes in what we eat, how we live,” Attenborough said.

“The most encouraging thing I see is that the electorate of tomorrow is already making their voice very, very clear.”

Attenborough, the man behind the Planet Earth and Blue Planet documentaries, also said the environmental impact of air travel should be factored into ticket prices.

“If you cost that, you would see that the tickets are extraordinarily cheap,” he said.

Meanwhile, AFP reports that Paris, which in 2015 hosted the signing of a historic agreement on fighting global warming, on Tuesday declared a climate emergency following similar moves by other cities and national parliaments.

“Paris, like other cities, declares a climate emergency,” Celia Blauel, deputy mayor in charge of the environment, told a municipal council meeting, stressing the need to adhere to the objectives of the 2015 agreement.

The declaration also said Paris city hall would create a “climate academy” with the aim of better educating the young and the public about the issue. Ahead of municipal elections in 2020, the French capital’s socialist mayor, Anne Hidalgo, is seeking to burnish her green credentials, with climate change a real concern for many voters.

Britain’s parliament became the first in the world to declare a climate emergency, passing the largely symbolic motion on May 1, with Ireland’s parliament passing a similar motion on May 10.

According to The Climate Mobilization, a US non-governmental organisation pushing for such declarations, about 650 local authorities in cities and towns across the world have now declared a climate emergency. In a major victory for the activists, New York City declared a climate emergency on June 26, becoming the biggest city to make the announcement.

The 2015 Paris deal saw nations commit to limit global temperature rises to “well below” 2°C and to a 1.5°C cap if possible. But in a major blow, President Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that the US was pulling out of the agreement. 

Reuters/AFP