This year’s event, COP26, is taking place right here in the UK; and as time ticks on towards the tipping point of no repair for our planet, it is the most important yet.
Certainly, around the world, extreme weather events are becoming more severe more often, air pollution is impacting the health of millions, and sea levels are continually rising.
It is important to remember, therefore, that climate change is not simply a problem for other countries, or for the grandchildren of the future.
For all of us in Barnsley today, it places everything about our way of life – our safety, health, jobs, homes, security and even our food – under threat.
The fuel crisis of the last few months is testament to this. It has shown us that our families are reliant on the world’s resources to drive to work each day, find the food we need on supermarket shelves, and heat our homes in the cold. When such resources are compromised, chaos ensues.
Yet, despite its crucial importance to our day to day lives, we are significantly off target on our battle to beat climate change and preserve our environment, both nationally and globally. COP26 is, therefore, a unique opportunity to steer us all onto the right path. By setting out clear commitments and detailed delivery plans, the summit has the potential to put us on track to limit global warming to 1.5C, both at home and internationally.
Locally, it is also vital that we play our part. I was pleased to chair the first meeting of the Positive Climate Partnership recently, ensuring the right steps are taken in our town to reach net zero by 2045.
However, though we must all play our part in tackling climate change, this burden must not fall disproportionately on working people.
Instead, in Barnsley where the largest private sector employer used to be the coal board but is now ASOS, there is now an opportunity for highly skilled and secure green jobs to regenerate our town, as well as ignite our battle against climate change.
For example, with the Coal Authority estimating that there is enough geothermal energy in ex-coal mines to heat 180m homes, the right green investment could see the people of Barnsley become the next generation of well-paid green energy engineers, scientists, and experts.
As we move away from the energy sources of the past, our coalfield communities deserve to remain at the forefront of powering our nation.
Having kept the country’s lights on in centuries gone by, towns like Barnsley are more than capable of being the future of renewable energy and leading the fight against climate change, if only we are given the chance.