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Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:26 pm on 7th September 2016.

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Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 5:26 pm, 7th September 2016

I apologise for not attending the first part of this debate. I was chairing the Environmental Audit Committee where we were hearing from Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Minister from the Department for Exiting the EU.

I congratulate my hon. Friend Barry Gardiner on bringing this debate forward. It has been some time since we debated climate change. Like other speakers, I believe that this issue is one of the three great challenges of our age. The first is the challenge of the ageing society and how we can all live better now that we are living longer. How can society adapt to that new longevity? The second challenge stems from technology hollowing out traditional jobs and traditional workforces. How can the Government collect taxes on the new economy when the intellectual capital exists in places such as California, but the products are consumed in our own country? The final great challenge of our age is climate change.

There is the challenge of adaptation to protect our island from the different weather patterns we will see in the future. How can we mitigate the risks and play our part in the world in standing by our poorer neighbours? As previous speakers have said, they have done nothing to cause this catastrophe, but having risen out of poverty, they now risk seeing hundreds of millions of their own people being dragged back into it through climate change. It will either cut off their food supplies and their traditional ways of life or, in the worst-case scenarios, see island states disappear under water altogether.

In 2015, 190 countries adopted the new climate agreement in the first ever universal and legally binding global deal. We cannot overstate how much of an achievement that was and what a great part the UK Government played in achieving it. The now Home Secretary, then Climate Change Secretary, really took the lead on that, and it is a great shame that the Government have now abolished the Department for Energy and Climate Change. The lessons from other countries show that when climate change is put into a pot alongside other industrial and energy policies, climate change is often the loser as economic interests take over. We do not value what we cannot see. This is one of the big “abstract thinking” problems of trying to deal with climate change. We are talking about worst-case scenarios in 20, 30 or 40 years’ time, but scientists would argue that we have just seen 14 consecutive months as the hottest on record and are now 1.1° above our pre-industrial revolution peak.