Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:24 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2:24 pm, 1st May 2019

All posts recognise the vital role that the UK has to play in ensuring that we deal with environmental and climate change challenges. Whether that means ensuring that we halt deforestation in Indonesia or that we deal effectively with the challenges of climate change in Vietnam or Bangladesh, we deploy our international development money and our overseas development assistance with exactly that goal. Is there more that we can do in the future? Absolutely, but as my hon. Friend pointed out—and as the Foreign Secretary is making clear today in the Sahel—this is an area where our moral responsibility for the world’s poorest, our own interest in global security and our debt to the next generation coincide.

I want to conclude simply by saying that there will be an opportunity in the environment Bill that we intend to bring before the House shortly—the first environment Bill for many years, a flagship measure—for Members across the House to work together to ensure that we have the highest standards of environmental protection. I have been grateful for the work undertaken by the Chair of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee to ensure that the Bill is improved. I have never seen a Bill come to this House that has not benefited from scrutiny, improvement and enhancement along the way.

The way in which the Bill will mark a step change in how this country tackles the twin challenges of climate change and our broader ecological degradation is a test for us all. Will we approach it in a spirit of constructive but determined energy? Will we use that legislation to say that we will all work together, as we worked together across parties in 2008 when the Climate Change Act was introduced, to demonstrate that Britain—the country that was responsible for the first industrial revolution—is powering a new green revolution?

The responsibility rests on us all to be honest and gracious about the achievements of other parties, as I was earlier about the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Environment Minister. But it is also incumbent on us all to recognise that, if we really believe that we face an emergency and a crisis, we should do as our forefathers did when this country faced emergencies and crises in 1914 and in 1940. We put aside partisanship, we recognised the sincerity on the other side and we acknowledged that both sides had made mistakes, but we had a shared ambition to prove that Britain could lead. We have led in the past in defence of freedom. Let us lead now in defence of our planet.