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

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend, and what he says just exemplifies what we need to do as politicians to make their voices heard. We cannot just have empty voices in this place—we need to take action.

On 26 June, most of us here met up with “The Time Is Now” mass lobby. Thousands of people from nearly every constituency in the UK came to Westminster to meet us. Like others, I was inspired by constituents of mine who had travelled here to meet up with each other and with MPs. I sincerely hope that our constituents went away feeling that they were being listened to and that their message and concerns had been made clear. What united the firefighters, schoolchildren, doctors, church groups and many others who came to Parliament? It was, quite simply, that they care. They care about our warming climate and they care that our natural world is in decline.

In Scotland, we have already been leading the way with our public rejection of fracking, our strides forward in investigating alternative energy sources and our consultancy on climate change, and our programme of change within the Scottish Government is working really well. We are consulting and we speak to people; we do not just take it for granted that people are not listening.

In Scotland, the purity of our water and land is integral to the quality produce we sell and trade to other countries. As a publicly owned body, Scottish Water is a company that brings many admiring looks from elsewhere in the UK and globally; I was delighted to attend an event this morning, where we heard how it, too, is looking to own its own water system. The people at this morning’s meeting looked on at us enviously, thinking, “Why can people not run a utility properly? It is all part of us and it is all part of a community. Why should we not own these things?” I take this opportunity to congratulate the staff of Scottish Water, who protect the reputation that we enjoy.

But that is not enough. Nothing happens in isolation. Around the globe, toxic air affects many towns and cities; plastic-strewn rivers and seas are commonplace; sea levels are rising; and millions are being displaced. Closer to home, as the Environmental Audit Committee has heard, some of our best-loved species, such as hedgehogs, puffins and red squirrels, are now hard to find or threatened by climate change and/or invasive species in their natural habitat. Although biodiversity is declining across the planet, the UK as a whole is one of the worst offenders, ranking 189th out of 218 countries for biodiversity intactness. We are well below our neighbours Germany and France, and only slightly above the USA. Our joint bid with Italy to host the next major climate summit in 2020 will be another opportunity for Scotland and the rest of the UK to show global leadership. The next step will be to put in place the policies that get us to net zero as soon as possible.

Let me finish—and I will finish; I know the hon. Member for Stirling appreciates some good humour—by taking this opportunity to wish the ethical stock exchange in Edinburgh the very best wishes on a successful future venture. It is an idea whose time has come. Investors who care about our common world can be reassured that due diligence is being carried out on the companies to be listed. Project Heather, the group setting up the new exchange in George Street, adds some “magic dust” to the uniqueness of the stock exchange, because it, too, wants to make a difference to the world we live in, now and for the long term. The stock exchange promises to list only companies that have a positive impact on society and the environment. I hope that some, or all, of Scotland’s famous investment trusts, as well as, for example, the National Trust and church organisations, take the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and invest in the courageous step taken by the people leading the company. The stock exchange will meet the ever growing demand for ethical investments, and offer a clear pathway and peace of mind for investors.

Ideas such as the ethical stock exchange can clearly demonstrate that companies have a capital and a social conscience. For example, the famous ice cream producer Mackie’s has produced an all-electric ice cream van. This is probably the best day to talk about ice cream, although it might be the worst day to talk about ice cream, because everything is so dry. That ethical step shows how a company is looking to the future and giving out a message. The most important message is that Mackie’s is aware of what is going on the world. I think kids who are going to buy an ice cream will flock to that van. Perhaps that is an advert for the company— I do not know, but I certainly hope it is.