Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:56 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Rosie Duffield Rosie Duffield Labour, Canterbury 4:56 pm, 1st May 2019

I am relieved and pleased that today my party is urging the Government to declare an environmental and climate emergency. It is our duty to do so on behalf of every citizen of not only the UK but the world: those who do not have the chance to raise their voices in this place and those who have raised their voices outside here in many towns and cities across the country and beyond our shores.

There is a climate emergency. We have no more time to speculate, discuss, dither or hesitate and taking action is now urgent. Now is the time to listen to the experts, scientists and groups such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and ClientEarth. There has been plenty of discussion here and in the media in the past few weeks about the protests, the school strikes and the young people who have forced the climate emergency on to the news agenda. At a time when only one issue has been completely dominating all our agendas in this place, those protestors have forced us to notice that, while we have been distracted elsewhere, our planet is breaking down.

The devastating impacts of the warming of the planet cannot possibly now be ignored. Food production, agriculture, our oceans and wildlife and the very air that we breathe are all of course vital to sustaining life on earth itself. We are denying ourselves and future generations the most beautiful treasures that our planet has to offer, such as our coral reefs, which we have allowed to be all but entirely destroyed. Our greed and desire for instant, throwaway products that float out to sea, destroying the ocean wildlife, has got to change. We need to let go of our dependency on the quickest, fastest and easiest and learn to reuse and recycle as part of our everyday lives.

In my constituency, air pollution is a very serious concern. Despite that, our council has inadequate and outdated air monitoring equipment that, according to local experts, is unfit for purpose. One such expert is Professor Stephen Peckham, director of the Centre for Health Services Studies at the University of Kent. He set up Canterbury Clean Air, of which I am proud to have been founding member, a few years ago. Together, the group used more suitable monitors, which could measure particulates such as PM2.5. The levels recorded were much higher than those recommended by the World Health Organisation. The levels of NO2 and ozone, or O3, also regularly exceed national hourly limits. According to Professor Peckham and his team, those pollutants cause significant health problems, especially among children, whose lungs become stunted.

I join my colleagues across the House to urge the Government to see the situation as the emergency it is and allow us to tackle climate change urgently.