Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:39 pm on 1st May 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Justice), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment and Climate Change) 5:39 pm, 1st May 2019

Let us remind ourselves why we are here: thousands, if not millions, of young schoolchildren protested on the streets, and that is why we are suddenly taking this issue seriously again. I share some of the sentiments expressed by Edward Miliband. I, too, feel a sense of shame, and I think we all should. What have we done since we have known that this climate catastrophe faced us? Since 2001, we have had Al Gore and “An Inconvenient Truth”, but what have we done since? We have not done enough, and that is why we are here today.

It worries me that we are creating a comfortable consensus and a sense of complacency, with the idea that we just need to do a little bit more, and we are done. No; we need to do a lot more. It is about political choices, and this Government have done far too little. Since the Liberal Democrats left government, the Tories have abandoned climate change as an issue. Subsidies for renewables have been slashed, the Green Investment Bank has been privatised, the proposal for zero-carbon homes has been abandoned and a meaningless target of phasing out new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 has been adopted.

I am disappointed that even though I keep asking the Government about ceasing to support fossil fuel industries such as fracking, I do not get a straight answer. That is one of the simplest things that we can do, because fracking is a fossil fuel industry. Not only do we need to phase out the old industries, but we should invest in renewables and not even consider developing new fossil fuel industries. When we talk about consensus, I hope that the Government will be serious and stop supporting the fracking industry. In the same way, I found it very disappointing to hear a Conservative Member say yesterday that he would not have been elected if he had supported onshore wind. What decisions are we making if we say to ourselves, “I won’t be electable if I support onshore wind farms, because people don’t like the look of them.”? We have to take leadership and do the right thing. I do not blame people, but I will blame us, as politicians, if we do not take leadership.

I want to finish by saying something quickly about consensus. I believe we need consensus and buy-in from the people of this country, and I strongly believe in citizens’ assemblies. Through citizens’ assemblies, we can create consensus about the urgency of tackling this issue, what we can do and how we can do it fairly, so that we burden not those who can least afford it, but those who can most afford it, with the costs. I hope that the Government will listen to this debate and urgently take up some of the demands that have been made, particularly what I and other Members have said about fracking. There is a consensus for stopping fracking, and I believe there is a consensus for continuing with onshore wind. Please, Government, listen. We can make a difference.