Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:43 pm on 1st May 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs 3:43 pm, 1st May 2019

Last year’s IPCC report could not have been any clearer: we have just 12 years to take real action. That is not 12 years to debate whether we need to take action, but 12 years to implement policies that dramatically cut down on our carbon emissions and change how we, as individuals, live our lives. That needs to start today. It may not be fashionable these days, but we need to heed the advice of experts. Dr Dmitry Yumashev of Lancaster University recently published research showing the potential $70 trillion cost if we fail to take action and meet our targets. We simply cannot afford—financially or otherwise —to continue down the same route we have been on.

I will talk briefly about young people. I am proud that the Labour-led Lancaster City Council has already declared a climate emergency; it was one of the first councils to do so. That was led by our young activists across the Lancaster district, and I pay tribute to Councillor Amara Betts-Patel, Councillor Oliver Robinson, Peter Curphey, Haddi Malik and Dan Chester, to name but a few of the young people calling on their council to do more and to put forward bold policies to tackle this crisis. The onus is now on us in the House to listen to the words of young activists up and down the country and globally and to put climate change at the forefront of everything that we do.

It is clear that we need to do more on how we travel about our communities. We need to make the switch to public transport, but in Fleetwood it could not be more evident how far away we are from having a sustainable transport policy. Every morning, hundreds of my constituents get into their cars and drive down the A585 to access jobs and education. If they were given a reliable, low-carbon alternative, I know that many would ditch their cars and jump on public transport, so the Government really need to get serious about investing in sustainable transport for communities such as Fleetwood, so that people can make that switch. That means urgently rebalancing our transport spending towards communities such as Fleetwood and to the north-west of England, bringing back into use disused rail lines that were cut by Beeching and making sure that people have the chance to use greener alternatives to cars.

Harnessing the power of wind and water has huge potential to transform Lancashire into a true energy coast. Hydro, wind, and solar energy industries have the potential to provide thousands of skilled, highly paid jobs, which will transform employment prospects for our young people while providing for our energy needs. The beginnings of this green economy are already visible in Fleetwood: I recently visited 4Navitas, which builds vertical-axis wind turbines and which was set up and is run by Fleetwood entrepreneurs Paul Cook and Marcus Stefani. Other Fleetwood entrepreneurs have been pursuing plans to construct a hydro barrage across the River Wyre, which again has huge potential to transform the town.

Sadly, the Government continue to ignore the potential of this new green economy and persevere with damaging and unwanted policies, such as fracking. The people of Lancashire said no to fracking. It is not compatible with meeting our climate change objectives, and it is time that the Government woke up and banned fracking in this country, as the Labour party has proposed.

The Government need to lead the charge for a sustainable future, but that does not mean that individuals and communities cannot take a stand. I was pleased to support the Extinction Rebellion activists in Lancaster last week, who were demonstrating about the need to change the way we live our lives and standing up for a green future. Part of that future needs to involve making sustainable choices about how we live and what we eat. Most scientists now agree that we need to eat significantly less meat to tackle climate change, and we need to recognise the real damage that intensively farmed meat has on the ecosystems of developing nations.

I believe that only a Labour Government who place the environment at the front and centre of Government policy and usher in this green industrial revolution will succeed in halting the slide to environmental chaos. Future generations will not forgive us if we do not take this opportunity for positive action. We owe it to our children to seize this opportunity and to vote today to declare a climate emergency.