Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:26 pm on 1st May 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North 5:26 pm, 1st May 2019

We are 10 years away from the edge of the biggest crisis that humanity will ever face. No ifs, no buts—if this is left unchecked, it will happen in our lifetime. The actions that we take tonight, tomorrow and in the coming days and weeks—and, crucially, over the next decade—will determine the course of history.

What have we already seen? What is coming to us if we do not act? We have seen the melting of global ice stores, shifting seasons and migration patterns, extreme weather—we have certainly seen that already in the UK—and droughts, not only in developing countries but across the world. We have also seen wildfires, as my hon. Friend Holly Lynch said, and the degradation of our coral reefs, many of which have been lost forever. We see rising food prices hitting the poorest hardest, and we see deforestation not just by humans but by invasive species that thrive in warmer temperatures. That is our backdrop. The question today is not whether we should act; it is, what on earth can we do to act quickly enough to reverse some of the damage we have already done and prevent the damage that we could inflict in the future?

This is fundamentally an issue of global justice. Climate change is already hitting the poorest hardest, and as we help them to rebuild and develop their communities, we must avoid prescribing for them the old models of growth that have led us to this situation. Instead, we must promote new, sustainable development models. That is why we on this side of the House are committed to stopping aid spending on fossil fuels, and I hope that the Government will meet us in that commitment.

I want to speak briefly about protests. To those who joke and laugh at the millions of schoolchildren and street protesters taking part in climate strikes, and who brand them truants or virtue signallers, I say this: “You are on the wrong side of history, and we will act without you.” Let them look at this debate today and see how well subscribed it is. The protesters have clearly got our attention.

So what comes next? We must support today’s motion and become the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency, but we must also have radical change in our economy after that. In our energy system, our transport, our agriculture, our waste processing and everything in between, we must put forward the following test: is this short-term gain going to result in long-term consequences for our climate? Would fracking pass that test? Of course it would not. These questions must also be asked by international Governments and by our local government. I am proud that Labour colleagues going into the local elections have committed to making Nottingham carbon zero by 2028. That is on the ballot paper in our local elections. The Government should help to meet that energy target by electrifying our trains. It is absolutely absurd that we are buying new trains that will be carbon emitters.

The question we have to ask ourselves is, do we want to be the generation that had the greatest knowledge of what we are doing to our world but chose to do nothing? Surely not. We have been debating this issue for nearly four hours and I have not heard a dissenting voice, so it looks as though we are going to declare the emergency today, but tomorrow we have to act.