Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:11 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 5:11 pm, 1st May 2019

On Friday, the RSPB launched its “Let Nature Sing” track and accompanying video, which we should promote as much as we can. The track brings attention to the fact that we have 40 million fewer birds today and reminds us of birdsong. It is a call to action. We can add to that the loss of pollinating insects, the destruction of habitats and the 1 million species under threat. These problems alone are reason enough to declare a climate emergency, and I am glad to be speaking in this debate.

The Government must commit to and grow a low-carbon economy. The country wants us to accelerate action and lead the world. I want briefly to mention the sustainable development goals. They have not been mentioned yet, but they include clear commitments to helping the world’s poorest countries address climate change, and there are things that we, as a global leader, can do.

At home, there are things we must do. Getting it right will reduce the demand on the NHS; create and spread wealth across all corners of the UK, which is of particular interest to Cornwall; reduce demand on energy supply; provide warm and comfortable homes, as Edward Miliband made clear; support small businesses and create skilled workforces, especially in construction and the renewables sector; boost the car manufacturing industry and innovation in greener fuels; and support sustainable food production.

Practical measures are needed. Cornwall Council is one of the first councils, if not the first, to commit to being carbon-free by 2030. We are talking about funding and accelerating the work to address fuel poor homes; launching a car scrappage scheme to support poorer families to move to more fuel efficient vehicles; and increasing support such as that provided by Salix Finance, which provides 100% interest-free loans to public buildings, including schools, so that they can put renewable solutions on their roofs and reap the benefits once the loans are repaid.

We are also calling for the introduction of the environment Bill, which the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Dr Coffey, assured me in a recent debate will happen immediately after the next Queen’s Speech. In that Bill, we must establish the nature recovery network, invest in woodland recovery and incentivise landowners to adopt nature-friendly practices. Finally, people in Cornwall are calling for citizens’ assemblies to be established to identify solutions both nationally and locally and give people a stake in how this country moves forward.

The Government must take a lead. Councils such as the Duchy of Cornwall want to get on top of this agenda, conquer this and be a force for good, but they need Government policy and funds to allow them to do it.