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

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The message is that we need to do far more in this country, but we also need to carry that message elsewhere. I cannot be the only person in this House who is very disappointed by the statements made by President Bolsonaro of Brazil concerning the future of the Amazon rain forest. It is a precious asset for the people of Brazil, as well as something necessary for the whole world. We will be in danger of forcing into extinction species that we have never even discovered, and that is exactly what is happening at the present time. It means that a creative thought process is needed in our international relations.

The last Labour Government brought in some of the most ambitious legislation in the world with the Climate Change Act 2008, and I pay a special thank you and tribute to my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband and others who brought it in. They did incredible work to ensure it happened, and I remember my right hon. Friend’s work at the Copenhagen conference in 2009 when the UK was given a prime seat in the negotiations because we had genuine respect on this issue due to the Climate Change Act he had piloted through Parliament.

Since then, I am sorry to say, we have fallen behind. Conservative Members will boast that the UK is reducing carbon emissions, but I have to tell them it is too slow. At the current rate, we will not reach zero emissions until the end of the century, more than 50 years too late. By that time, our grandchildren will be fighting for survival on a dying planet.

The point that Greta Thunberg made to me and others when we met her last week is that we should listen to the science, which is an impressive thing for her to say on behalf of all the young people she works with and speaks for. The IPCC has said:

“Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

The IPCC has also said that such action is urgent.

The science says this is an emergency, but an emergency does not have to be a catastrophe. We could use it as an opportunity to rebuild our economy so that it works for the many, not the few. This is not a time to allow despair to take over, but a time for action. We can do this. The Government can improve the lives of our people while defending our natural world. What we do in this country can have an impact around the globe.

Let us embrace hope. The children in schools get it. They get it right away. They grasp the threat to their own future and, in fact, they want to be taught more about it as part of the curriculum and their normal school day. Are we to be content to hand down a broken planet to our children? That is the question we must ask ourselves today. We have a chance to act before it is too late, and it is a chance that will not be available to succeeding generations. It is our historic duty to take it.

I urge Members to support the motion before the House today.