Environment and Climate Change

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 1st May 2019.

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Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West 6:31 pm, 1st May 2019

The IPCC said we had until 2030 to avoid a 1.5° rise in global temperatures. We must get to net zero carbon by 2030 at the latest, not by the Government’s target of 2050. How do we get there? What must be done? First, we need to repurpose the Treasury and economic policy. In the short term, all Government spending, priorities and programmes should be assessed against our climate goals. The next spending review needs to be a climate emergency spending review. Too little of Government spending is on climate change priorities. By contrast, 25% of the EU’s budget for 2021-27 will be climate related.

We must underpin an industrial retooling of our whole country and our productive output for the 21st century. Many of my colleagues call that the green new deal—a reimagining of FDR’s great rebuilding of America—but I call it a Marshall plan for the environment. We must work alongside our European partners to build a new, clean, fossil-free Europe.

The UK also needs to account for its exported carbon. The Government claim to have achieved the world’s sharpest decline in emissions, but what about the embedded emissions in our all products? The sustainability research institute at the University of Leeds has developed a model to reallocate those emissions from industries to the final consumers of products. This model, developed by John Barrett and Anne Owen, is a world leader in terms of working out the UK’s carbon footprint. Will the Secretary of State meet them and adopt this model?

Finally, we need a new climate economics. The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate concludes that the choice between tackling climate change and boosting economic growth is a false choice. Instead, it says that economic growth and reducing emissions are mutually beneficial. Fitoussi, Stiglitz and Sen, three of the best economists in the world, have done substantial work for the French Government to measure societal wellbeing in ways that go beyond traditional measures such as an economy’s GDP. The UK Government need to look at measures that supersede gross domestic product and focus on solving our climate emergency.