Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:47 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 1:47 pm, 1st May 2019

I am going to make some progress before giving way to some more colleagues.

I have been a Member of this House for 36 years. In that time I have observed something about this place that is glaringly obvious but seldom acknowledged: Parliament rarely leads change; it usually drags its feet— it is normally the last place to pick up on the major reforms that society is demanding. Think about the huge transformations in our society—workers’ rights, women’s rights and gay rights. The impetus has always come from outside—from social movements and communities—while Westminster is often the last place to understand that.

Let us not repeat that pattern. Let us respond to what a young generation is saying to us in raising the alarm. By becoming the first Parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency, we could, and I hope we do, set off a wave of actions from Parliaments and Governments all around the world. Surely if we lead by example and others follow, that would be the best possible answer to the all too common excuse we all hear on doorsteps: “Why should we act when others won’t?”