As a planet and as a country, we stand at a crossroads. In the month of Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg’s visit to our country, and countless emails and conversations with constituents, we must ask whether we will use those interventions as a much needed wake-up call to take the urgent action we need. Alternatively, will we just make more excuses to create further delay and brush our country’s future under the carpet once more?
We all agree that we need a cross-party approach to this crisis, but looking at this Government’s record I fear that they are leading us down the path of excuse and delay. They have banned onshore wind subsidies, they are axing Labour’s solar panel subsidies, and their attempts to reduce emissions have stalled.
Then we come to the Government’s fracking policy. Fracking is a dangerous, disruptive and disastrous method of fuelling our country. It extracts fossil fuels at the expense of our environment and our communities, and the environmental risks from fracking to former coalfield sites are clear, so in Leigh we have expressed our total opposition to it—it does not have our consent, and the Government should follow Labour’s lead and ban it.
In my constituency, the site of one former colliery is now a renowned 200-hectare country park and nature reserve, where over 230 species of bird have been identified. I suggest that sites such as that have been of greater benefit to our town than any fracking site could ever be. Rather than turning to the energy of old, we should be looking at how we reduce our emissions and help people to make greener choices. That starts with bringing railway stations back to our towns.
All this does not have to be burdensome; it can be full of hope, opportunity and positivity. But we must get on and act—the next generation is watching and judging.