Climate Change, the Environment and Global Development

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 5:25 pm on 10th July 2019.

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Photo of John McNally John McNally Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment) 5:25 pm, 10th July 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Stephen Kerr. We were talking about batteries earlier, and before the hon. Gentleman made his speech my hearing aid battery was working; it has now run out. [Laughter.]

There has never been a truer saying than “Out of the mouths of babes”. As the effects of global warming and pollution become alarmingly evident, wise young voices in our communities are calling for us to take urgent action to take care of our common home, all united by the same concerns and by the threats that we ourselves—we human beings—are posing to our planet. Children in Scotland and across the globe believe that adults in power have not been doing enough to address environmental issues. Some positive steps to cut down on plastics and attempts to reduce carbon emissions are seen as too little, too late.

The young Swedish national Greta Thunberg went on strike, refusing to go to school until Sweden’s general election in September, to draw attention to the climate crisis. Her protest has captured the imagination of her country, which has recently been plagued with wildfires during its hottest summer since records began. Greta has made her message global; she even came to Westminster to spread the word in the UK. She has shown us that the actions of just one person can make a difference.

I have visited schools in my area, including St Bernadette’s RC Primary School and Denny High School, and the local Baptist church. I have furnished the schools with Greta’s book and had fantastic conversations with the children about deforestation in the Amazon rain forests, the loss of orangutans and the use of palm oil in providing us with probably cheap food. They were so aware—they knew everything that was going on. They even had a mural of Greta up in the classroom. It was so impressive. Greta’s message was not lost. Those children care, and many of us in this House—most of us, I think —care and are taking some action.

Over the years, I have fought to highlight issues of pollution. I have made a stand against fracking to protect the purity and the worldwide reputation of Scotland’s water and land. Like others, I have voiced my anger at the plastic pollution all around us, from nurdles found in our waterways to the plastics that make up our clothes and are present in toiletries and cosmetics. I thank the local charities and voluntary groups I work with to keep up the pressure and raise the profile of the detestable waste that those products cause in our natural world.

As the hon. Member for Stirling and others mentioned, the natural historian Sir David Attenborough has apologised to younger generations for the damage that we have done to their planet. We are so fortunate and privileged to have that great man speaking out and, we surely hope, being listened to by the decision makers. On the sustainable development goals, he said:

“Over the next two years there will be United Nations decisions on climate change, sustainable development and a new deal for nature. Together these will form our species’
plan for a route through the Anthropocene.”

This crucial time presents an opportunity to reach an agreement on the political will and the resources needed to address the crisis together and to make certain that no one is left behind.