Climate Change, the Environment and Global Development

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 4:58 pm on 10th July 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 4:58 pm, 10th July 2019

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Now is the time to unite the generations and the nation itself to tackle the challenge that lies before us. Yes, we have filled columns and columns in Hansard discussing Brexit—it is the national obsession at the moment—but the issues in this debate transcend any of the matters relating to Brexit, which will very soon, I hope, be a chapter in the story of our nation. This is about the future of our planet, and young people absolutely get that.

It is essential that we build a cross-party consensus by dealing with the issues as they arise on an evidence-led basis. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its most recent overview of climate science:

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”

I repeat: it is vital that we have an honest conversation between ourselves as political representatives and the people we represent in our deliberations in the House.

The Committee on Climate Change has said there is currently no Government strategy to engage the public in the transition to a low carbon economy and adds that that will need to change. That warning—that very strong nudge—needs to be accepted by us all on the Government Benches. There needs to be a shared determination to address the need for a national conversation. My constituents, of all ages, reach out to me to discuss climate change because it concerns them. Sir David Attenborough yesterday mentioned how a 90-second, two-minute clip in one of his documentary series on the damage that plastics were doing to the ecology of the oceans of the world had galvanised a whole body of opinion not just in this country but across world.

That feeling was reflected in a meeting I attend the Sunday before last with the green team at Stirling Methodist church. They wanted to talk to me about their ideas and suggestions, which they wanted to share more widely, for how people could choose to act and even the mental attitude they could adopt to establish our own net zero carbon target. I could not help but think about that when I was listening to my hon. Friend Gillian Keegan. In addition to sending a first-class Member of Parliament to this House, her constituents have done the planet a power of good by reducing the number of times she flies from 200 to something a little bit more manageable.

We have an individual responsibility in terms of our own lifestyles. In that meeting with the Methodists, we shared together as Christians our sense of having a covenant responsibility to be keenly aware of our responsibility as stewards of the earth. We all agree that we owed it to each other, to our children and to our children’s children to bring about a wider conversation in Stirling and beyond about what these new net zero targets would mean for our lifestyle expectations and how we behaved as individuals, not least in terms of diet. We must be under no illusions as to the real change that will be required of our country and of us as individuals if we are to meet the challenge we have set ourselves of net zero by 2050.

I will make a short list of some of the areas where we need action this day—to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill—and I will start with single-use plastics. Pragmatically speaking, we need to address this issue. There will always be a place for plastics, even single-use plastics—for medical purposes, food hygiene and other specific purposes—but we must adopt the default position that plastic should not be used as a single-use material. I intervened earlier on Chris Law to highlight a report that appeared in the Scottish press a few days ago and which mentioned that Scottish households alone were spending £600 million just on the packaging of the goods they were buying, which they were then either recycling or otherwise disposing of.