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Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:01 pm on 7th September 2016.

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Photo of Margaret Greenwood Margaret Greenwood Labour, Wirral West 5:01 pm, 7th September 2016

Absolutely. Climate justice is very important to this debate.

Last year, I attended the COP21 legislators summit in Paris, which was organised by GLOBE and the French National Assembly. I attended it alongside colleagues from across the House who are also on the Environmental Audit Committee. I particularly thank Graham Stuart for his work within the GLOBE organisation.

The summit was attended by over 200 parliamentarians from around the world, from whom we heard, at first hand, accounts of climate change. We heard about how more frequent weather events are threatening the lives of these people, and about the threats to diversity in places such as South Africa and Brazil. We heard from people in India about the impact of the retreat of the Himalayan glaciers on water supplies, and about the threat of increasing sea levels. We also heard from politicians from Nigeria, who described how in the north of that country the desert is moving in and about how Lake Chad, which once seemed to be like an ocean, now appears as a puddle. That has been accompanied by internal migration, delivering an awful lot of upheaval for those people.

We know that climate change is the biggest global challenge that we face. Its impact is clear around the world in increased storms, flooding, droughts and movement of peoples because of lack of resources. We also know that the poorest people on the planet are the most badly affected; as one of the richest nations on earth, we have a real duty to do something about that. The message at the summit could not have been clearer. We must reach our targets on emissions to reduce climate change and must protect fragile ecosystems. Action is needed at local, national and international level.

I was proud to hear British politicians being praised for the lead that our country has taken in tackling climate change. In particular, respect was shown for my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband and for Lord Prescott, who was hailed in Paris as the “father of the two degrees” for the part he played in focusing the world’s attention on the significance of the 2° target. Back in the UK, the Home Secretary is to be congratulated on the contribution she made in Paris last year to help bring about the final agreement. It is clear that Britain has the expertise to play an important role in tackling the greatest global challenge the world faces. It is therefore important that we continue to show leadership.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to ending the unabated use of coal in energy generation all together by 2025 and to restrict its use from 2023. I urge them also to commit to banning the burning of coal underground, an issue I have raised on a number of occasions. I ask them to look very closely at that; it would be particularly welcome in my constituency of Wirral West. I am pleased that the Minister is committed to the ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change. But we must be clear that this Government’s record on taking action to cut carbon emissions in the UK is poor, and the policy direction of the past year is particularly worrying.

Last year, the Government cut feed-in tariffs for solar by 65%. Further attacks on that important industry are imminent through a proposed rise in business rates for businesses and other organisations, including state schools, that have installed solar panels on their roofs. The Government announced plans to privatise the Green Investment Bank, despite its real success in investing in more risky renewable projects. They also ended support for new onshore wind through the renewables obligation a year earlier than expected. In the face of huge public opposition to fracking, they are pressing ahead with encouraging that carbon-hungry technology. All those measures are undermining my confidence that the Government are serious about tackling climate change; I am sure they are undermining the confidence of a lot of other people.

We face the greatest challenge to the future of the planet. The agreement reached in Paris last year was greeted with celebrations right around the world, and rightly so. The Paris climate deal offers the very best chance for ourselves, our children and our future children for a more secure future. Hillary Clinton has said that if she is elected US President in November her Administration will mobilise a global effort, on a scale not seen since the second world war, to tackle climate change. China and the United States have already ratified the treaty. France has completed the domestic legislative process.

Britain must step up to the plate and lay an Order in Council so that Parliament can approve the treaty and send a clear signal to other European states that we still intend to provide a strong international lead on tackling climate change. In addition, the Government must revisit their damaging policies, so we can foster vital green industries, provide confidence to investors and be at the forefront of the green energy revolution that must surely come. There should be absolutely no delay. I urge the Government to take action.