Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:25 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (House of Lords) 6:25 pm, 1st May 2019

In the 1970s, as a teenager, I first got involved in political activity through campaigning on the environment and against nuclear power. It is amazing the change that has happened since. Then we were dismissed as cranks and eccentrics; now that thinking is mainstream.

However, understand that the question now is not whether human activity threatens the survival of the planet. It is not even whether we need to do more to curb that activity. The question before us now is whether it is even possible for us to accelerate what we are doing in order to avoid a tipping point, when the damage becomes irreversible and the downward trajectory unstoppable. That point does not come in 2050; it comes in about 10 years’ time. That is why this is an emergency and why the Government need to do more.

Let me give a couple of examples of where the Government should do more. I eat red meat. I should eat less of it—so we all should. However, hon. Members can go into any supermarket in this country and buy a kilo of beef for less than a kilo of green beans. We need the Government to take action with our food producers, using every lever at their disposal, including tax, subsidy and regulation, to make sure that families in this country can eat nutritious food with a low-carbon footprint without putting themselves at an economic disadvantage.

Another example is that I come to this place by train from Edinburgh, but only because the taxpayers pay the fare. If they did not, I would have the same dilemma as everyone else in my constituency, because on any day of the week it is cheaper to fly from Edinburgh to London than to take the train. That is a ludicrous and unsustainable situation. To cure it, we need a radical and rapid expansion of public transport in this country, the like of which will give the Minister nightmares. Not enough is being done; I am sorry to break with the consensual backslapping. Things need to change, and we need the Government to do more.