Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:33 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 5:33 pm, 1st May 2019

The failure to act with sufficient ambition to avert the climate catastrophe will be the greatest moral failure of our time. The industrial world’s destruction of our planet is essentially the story of a single lifetime. The planet has been brought from seeming stability to the brink of catastrophe in my lifetime, so we have to turn things around in our lifetimes, too. It is the most awesome responsibility, but it is also the most amazing opportunity.

When people look back at this moment, it will not be those blockading bridges or going on strike from school that history will judge severely. It will be those who shut their eyes and blocked their ears to the scale of the challenge. I pay tribute to the work of Extinction Rebellion and the youth climate strikes, because they have already made a difference. The sheer number of people in the Chamber today is testament to that.

We need to be serious. Declaring a climate emergency should not be a few words before we move on with business as usual. Business as usual is climate appeasement. We need change. We need the kind of change we have when we face, for example, conflict or war. We need that kind of single-minded mobilisation, because extraordinary things can happen at extraordinary times. Back in 1938 and for the six years that followed, at that wartime moment, we reduced our use of coal by 25%, we reduced our use of private cars by 95% and public transport use went up by 13% because we had a shared sense of emergency. My plea for today is that we do not just use these words about emergency but that we should be serious and act on them.

Conservative Members sometimes challenge me to say that they have done better and to congratulate the Government on their actions, but it is hard to do that when, for example, the Secretary of State refused to answer my question about aviation expansion. The bottom line is that we cannot be serious about a climate emergency and continue with aviation expansion, Heathrow expansion and fracking. The Government have slashed zero-carbon homes, shafted solar power and banned onshore wind, which is wrong. We need to call them out.

At the same time, we also need to say there is an incredibly positive agenda out there for the drafting. There is a positive agenda on a green new deal, and I am proud that a new environmental justice commission was launched yesterday. The commission will be chaired by Edward Miliband, the former Member for South Thanet and me, and it will look at the green new deal, at the mass mobilisation of resources into renewable energy and energy efficiency and at getting transport and agriculture right. We can do that in a way that is driven by workers. We can make sure that no one loses out in the transition and that there is, indeed, a positive story about how we can have a better life for all.

Right now, the statistics are grim. We are one of the most nature-depleted countries on Earth. Fifty-nine scientists said last year that we have lost 60% of the population of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles in my lifetime. That has to change.