Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:59 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee 4:59 pm, 1st May 2019

It is a privilege to speak in this debate. I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend and neighbour the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the Front Bench; he will remember when we cycled up the A21 together.

The local infrastructure starting to emerge in west Kent is extremely impressive, and the work done by our local councils in greening the areas where we live is fantastic. This is not just a domestic debate, however. In fact, it is particularly not a domestic debate. As we declare a climate change emergency today, it is essential that we remember that. Privileged as I am to chair the Foreign Affairs Committee, it is important to look around the world and see where the threats appear. For example, when we look at the low-lying fields of the Mekong and the threats to rice production, which feeds so many millions—indeed, billions—in south-east Asia, or when we look at the south-east of China and see many intensively inhabited areas of that country at threat, it is important that we talk about this question not just for ourselves but for the whole world.

Many Members will have heard me being critical of one aspect of China this morning, so they will perhaps forgive me if I reflect on a different aspect. China’s work on reforestation and changing and reversing the desertification of many areas of land is inspiring. What that country has done to promote better green policies in certain areas is in many ways an example to all of us from which we need to draw very important lessons. The threats we see are not just problems for south-east Asia; they affect us here in the west. For example, when we look at some of the triggers—I do not mean all—of the Syrian civil war, which has led to mass migration and very severe political repercussions in Europe, it is impossible not to look at the challenges of climate change in that country and the impact they have had on farmers. Talking about the rise of al-Shabaab in the Maghreb and the Sahel without talking about climate change is just impossible.

As we talk today about climate change, we are talking fundamentally not just about the environmental security of our homes and the dreadful curse of fly-tipping poisoning some of our waterways, which we see in west Kent and, sadly, probably in other areas too, but about how we structure a world to deal with the inability to address those threats unless we reverse some of the impacts of climate change. I welcome this debate very much and I agree that this is an emergency.