Climate change: Stuart Farr looks at the bigger picture

Amid recent general licence frustrations, Brexit uncertainty and controversy at Downing Street, Stuart Farr warns that we should not lose sight of the things that truly matter.

Can you imagine yourself for a moment standing on the planet Mars? Assume you can breathe without a space suit and please take note of the super powerful telescope on the tripod right next to you.

You are wearing a pair of green wellies, not only to avoid you getting Martian sand between your toes but to remind you that, at some point in its earlier existence, Mars was largely covered in water.

In your mind’s eye, please point your telescope toward the Earth and take a peek. Focus your mind’s telescope closer and briefly pan across our beautiful British countryside.

Feel free to ignore the gentleman sitting under his Wild Justice brolly, whistling Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah and throwing corn to the ferals in his garden (by that I am referring to the local pigeons of course!) Instead, head toward London.

Scan over the new prime minister standing outside No. 10 trying to re-unite the nation with a cobbled idea of how to divorce those 27 countries which are situated roughly to the right of your picture on the other side of the Channel. 

A bit further now… that’s it… focus on the central offices of Defra and have a look through the second window from the right on the third floor. Please magnify.

Look beyond the exhausted civil servant who drafted the new General Licences – surrounded by screwed-up balls of waste printer paper – he or she’s been under pressure and remains far too busy to be disturbed… and yes, just there. Stop.

Observe the lonely civil servant wearing the tank top, drinking black coffee through a plastic straw and a chocolate finger jutting from his or her mouth. That public servant is holding a piece of paper which contains the title: “Saving the Planet from Climate Change. [Draft] Remedial Work and Master Plan”. Got it? Well done. Now, in your mind’s eye please imagine what that document would say. 

It will not say a great deal, I suspect. From your own knowledge and opinions you may be able to conjure up several ideas (or even more) as to what it might or should say but let’s face it – even if we focus on it through our own remarkable human imaginations, it is still difficult to conceive that a detailed, coherent or workable plan to deal with climate change actually exists.

After all the recent distractions of General Licences, changes of leadership, continual Brexit deadlines and state banquets, this is the ball we should be the most careful not to drop.

Besides, if a national treasure like Sir David, our generation’s most honoured and respected Godfather of All Things Natural, is suggesting we’re now up the creek without a paddle, who are we to ignore his wise words? 

Every now and again, a brief reminder of the bigger picture is helpful. Bringing yourself back down to Earth, it may come as some form of relief that a government plan (of sorts) does actually exist.  

The particular positive message for the gun trade – and, importantly, its customers – is there’s a very large contingent who are either directly engaged in or have some indirect involvement with environmentally focused activities and initiatives. 

Whether it’s conservation (with or without a big ‘C’); land and estate management; agriculture or shooting sports or activities, as a collective we do demonstrate respect for the environment and, in many cases, take positive steps to help it flourish.

So why doesn’t anyone seem to notice these positive aspects, preferring to focus instead on the perceived negativities associated with shooting? 

I am not a tree-hugging environmentalist and I am not seeking to bang any particular drum. However, I do suggest that ethical behaviour reaps its own rewards and that many commercial organisations have a genuine desire to “do the right thing”.

Protecting the environment, among other things, isn’t just about corporate social responsibility per se. It is as much about sowing ethical behaviour into the core of your businesses. 

I suspect there will be many of you who want to do their bit for our environment, but to be fair, knowing where to start isn’t always easy. Indeed, some of the methods circulating around that seek to promote or achieve carbon offsetting, for example, have come under criticism. So let’s have a very brief look at the legal framework around this.

The framework relating to climate change is provided by the Climate Change Act 2008. This Act aims to address the need for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides a framework for adapting to climate change going forward.

The Act provides for the completion of a Climate Change Risk Assessment every five years which is then incorporated into a National Adaptation Programme (NAP). Under the Act, the government has powers to require public bodies and operators of key infrastructures to report on the actions they are taking to reduce climate change. An evaluation report is delivered to parliament every two years.

The NAP by definition, is seemingly more focussed on adaptation to climate change rather than reversal. It identifies the critical risks where action is required and sets out the various policies for tackling them.

Better flood defences, improving our country’s bio-security and enhancing the quality and sustainability of our infrastructure to better cope with the impacts of the changes in climate are a few examples. However, these are largely mitigation-based strategies rather than preventative of the underlying cause.

The public announcement which has risen to greater prominence in recent months is the government’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to “zero” by 2050.

Clearly a challenge and one which will no doubt, in the years to come, reflect in a raft of new legislation designed to get people and organisations heading in the right direction. Voluntary engagement can only go so far. Legal and regulatory compliance in order to achieve this target is inevitable I fear. 

To a novice like me, carbon offsetting is a bit like gaining a community chest card in Monopoly. It essentially involves calculating how much carbon dioxide is generated by your activities and then funding a project designed to reduce emissions by the same amount somewhere else, the idea being to neutralise the effect of your own emissions. 

Many organisations initially went for tree planting schemes in foreign countries but despite its apparent environmental appeal this is now hugely controversial.

More popular renewable energy schemes which are Gold Standard approved are considered to be much safer bets if you want to engage in this sort of activity. DIY schemes and offsets which relate to energy efficiencies are also available.

However, do your research and check your facts. There is a global market in carbon offsetting and not all the intermediaries pass muster either legally or ethically – so be careful.

Being seen as an active participant and protector of the environment does offer certain commercial and legal advantages and those can range from enhanced reputation (and business) with customers, better public perception, increased brand awareness and even financial tax efficiencies if the correct type of scheme is chosen.

Given its history steeped in conservation and environmental management, the gun trade is already ahead of the game if it wishes to embrace and tackle these environmental issues on a different level. With the skills and expertise at its disposal I suggest it has a chance of beating its most vocal critics at their own game too.

That said guns are, of course, forged in fire and shaped from wood and that involves carbon. The question is will the trade ultimately be forced by default down a route of carbon neutrality through legislation or can it start an offsetting process now as a means of future proofing its position.

On any analysis, zero emissions is an ambitious target and if achieved our lives will change forever. Don’t be surprised if the tastiest cuts of beef start going ‘off menu’ and being replaced by meat harvested from a test tube or a new non-flatulent hybrid cross-breed.

Game meat will (hopefully) continue to rise in popularity as a low-methane protein source and an attractive alternative to insect protein. Sir Clive Sinclair will finally gain public recognition because his idea of battery-operated vehicles was ahead (maybe even too far ahead) of its time.

Meanwhile, Clarkson et al and those others who steadfastly refuse to give up their combustion engines – which I suspect will become heavily licensed and taxed – will have to flee, possibly to a remote anthrax island somewhere. 

By 2050 I may be zipping around in an electrically powered bath chair anyway. Before then, we shall have to wait patiently to observe the next generation of rugged plug-in 4x4s; an ethically-sourced 12-bore; and clay pigeons made out of powdered air. 

For the best field sports news, reviews, industry and feature content, don’t forget to visit our sister publications Sporting Rifle, Bow International, Clay Shooting Magazine, Airgun Shooter. And our YouTube shows The Shooting Show and The Airgun Shooter

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