It is a pleasure to speak in this important debate, although I am surprised that the Secretary of State for International Development is not here, given we were told this would be a DFID debate. It was announced as such in last week’s business statement, but then the business was changed again on Monday. I am glad that the debate itself has not been chopped from the Order Paper, but I am not sure why a Minister from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened it. This is a rather chaotic way to deal with such an important issue and a pretty shambolic way to deal with the Prime Minister’s legacy.
It is just two months since Labour secured the support of this House for our becoming the first Parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency. We called then on the Government to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It was a small but important step and a reminder that real change comes from below. What a testament it is to those young activists striking from school and to the extinction rebellion movements that they have changed the tone of debate in this country so irreversibly. What a testament it is to their moral leadership that Secretaries of State and prime ministerial contenders in the Conservative party are now scrambling to demonstrate their green credentials, albeit, I would say, not that convincingly. It is a testament to their activism that a Prime Minister whose first act in office was to shut down the Department for Energy and Climate Change is now trying to make it her last act to create a climate legacy that she desperately hopes she might be remembered for.
That said, sounding the alarm and setting out promises for 30 years away is not enough. Politicians have known about the impact of climate breakdown for decades but have continued to pour billions into fossil fuel industries while offering little more than thoughts and prayers to those in the global south being hit hardest by the consequences.