Climate Change, the Environment and Global Development

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 10th July 2019.

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Photo of Chris Law Chris Law Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development) 4:19 pm, 10th July 2019

The hon. Gentleman makes a valuable point. I lived in the Netherlands in the early ’90s, and deposit return schemes were the norm there. That is 25 years ago. I feel like an old man standing here and talking about this as if introducing them in Scotland was a novelty. We should be sharing all best practice across these islands, as I shall touch on later. The hon. Gentleman and I have no disagreement on that.

I turn to radical lifestyle changes. Only yesterday, Sir David Attenborough said to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee:

“We cannot be radical enough”.

I look forward to hearing about what radical plans there may be. It is imperative to take action, as climate change threatens us all and will result in a world that will be less safe, where resources will be sparse, and where ecological and demographic crises will become unmanageable. Natural disasters, civil unrest, disease, displacement and mass migration caused by climate change could push 100 million more people into poverty throughout the world, so it needs to be tackled globally as well as domestically.

I welcome what the Secretary of State for International Development has himself said:

“There should be no distinction at all between the work that we do on international development and the work that we do on climate and the emergency.”—[Official Report, 6 June 2019;
Vol. 661, c. 256.]

Indeed, the International Development Committee’s recent report on climate change was similarly clear that climate change must be placed at the centre of aid strategy and funding. It urged a minimum spend of £1.76 billion and a halt to funding fossil fuel projects in developing countries unless they can be fundamentally proven to support the transition to zero emissions by 2050.

As one of the UN’s five focus goals for 2019, climate action is an urgent priority that needs to become a central focus of all aspects of DFID’s work, and its funding needs to be protected. With this in mind, I was interested to hear the comments by the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth that, regardless of who the next Prime Minister will be, there would be “absolutely no rowing back” from the UK’s legal commitment to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050. She added that she would like the next Prime Minister to persuade Donald Trump of the business case for acting on climate change. The Minister made two very important and valid points. Any reversal of the 2015 net zero target would be disastrous. I hope that she is correct in her assessment that there is no chance of that happening. I, too, hope that any future Prime Minister will convince President Trump that climate change is both very real and very much an emergency, though I am less optimistic about this given that the leading candidate for that role would not even defend the UK ambassador to the US last night.

I also have grave concerns that Boris Johnson is more likely to mimic inward-looking, “America first” Trump with regard to aid and international development. He has previously called for DFID to be closed and rolled back into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with aid spending to be spent

“in line with Britain’s political, commercial and diplomatic interests.”

He has said:

“We can’t keep spending huge sums of British taxpayers’
money”— let us remember that this is 70p in every £100—

“as though we were some independent Scandinavian NGO...The present system is leading to inevitable waste as money is shoved out of the door in order to meet the 0.7 per cent target.”

That is ridiculous. Of course, as I said in a debate this morning, the UK is not “some independent Scandinavian NGO”—it is one of the largest economies in the world, and it has both a legal and a moral duty to commit to 0.7% on aid spending and securing global development. If we are truly serious about taking the unique opportunity to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities, combat catastrophic climate change and protect our natural environment by 2030, as set out in the sustainable development goals, it is vital to have a well-resourced, stand-alone Department committed to international development and the 0.7% aid target.

We therefore now need detailed plans on how this Government will face up to the challenges of protecting our environment, tackling climate change and securing global development. It is up to this generation, not the next one, to find the answers to these great global challenges. Those plans need to be bold, ambitious and unafraid of criticism. SNP Members would rather see plans come forward that were radical and visionary—that allow for real debate, without which we will ultimately fail everyone in our responsibility to meet the urgent targets that have been set. There is nothing to fear in scrutinising bold proposals in this Chamber and debating whether they are fit for purpose. The real fear is prevarication, lack of planning and piecemeal policies that will fail not only the UK but our partners in the rest of the world.

To support these efforts, regardless of who is Prime Minister, it is imperative that the targets that have already been set are not rolled back or undermined and that the Department for International Development is maintained as a stand-alone Department to lead work in tackling these issues globally. Fundamentally, given the breadth of the debate today, it is essential that there is policy coherence across Departments and that the next Prime Minister understands and is committed to this. We cannot have one Department undoing the good work of another. May I suggest that the Cabinet Office is seriously considered to oversee this?

No one Government has all the answers, and it is important that Governments across these islands share best practice and learn from each other. Of course, I look forward to the time when Scotland is an independent nation, but we will always share our responsibilities as an outward-looking, internationalist nation, and share our world-leading policies on issues like climate change and making the world a better place. To do anything less will only leave the world a more divided and more dangerous place to inhabit, with a much darker future ahead.