Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Labour, Warwick and Leamington 5:45 pm, 1st May 2019

I have requested a climate change debate a couple of times in the past couple of months, so I am delighted that we are having this one today.

I was delighted to attend the session with Greta Thunberg a week ago. Many of us who were there will recall that she kept repeating the line, “Are you listening? Can you hear me?” She was right to be sceptical. Some of us remember the Al Gore film and book from 2006 and the Stern report from the same year. Sadly, the six key messages from that report are as valid today as they were then.

The world’s first Climate Change Act was introduced by the then Labour Government, with whom I am proud to associate myself. Their commitment not only to reducing CO2 but to having 100% zero-carbon homes by 2016 was a terrific ambition. It was picked up by the coalition Government in their 2011 Budget, but has sadly since fallen by the wayside, as has been mentioned.

It is claimed that there has been a 37% reduction of our territorial CO2 emissions, but in reality, once aviation, shipping and imports are taken into account, there has been only a 10% reduction. That is why the climate change strikes by young people and the Extinction Rebellion action has been so important: they have brought us all together to discuss this important topic.

As Greta Thunberg said, climate change is the easiest and most difficult challenge faced by humanity. But is it really that hard? It is clear that system change is urgently required, whether that is through changes to the sustainable building code, building at higher densities in our communities, or changes to the planning process, all supported by better infrastructure and public transport. We should be looking at existing properties and how a wholesale programme plan for “pay as you save” home energy insulation could be installed throughout the country. This is the sort of thinking that we need, alongside favouring onshore wind turbines and uprating our power grids to ensure that we can all use electric vehicles, whether cars or cycles. Look at Germany, where 900,000 electric bikes were purchased last year, as against 64,000 in the UK. Staying in Germany, Munich set itself the ambition to be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2025 and is on target to achieve that.

As a county councillor in Warwickshire, I was proud to propose that we made all of our pension fund fossil-free. Sadly, that proposal was not accepted, but I wish all authorities would consider that step, because it is the sort of wholesale systemic change that we need. Likewise, I proposed a Warwickshire energy plan to introduce renewable energy for all citizens in Warwickshire. Yes, the challenges are systemic and behavioural, but we can address them. We just need the political will.