Climate Change, the Environment and Global Development

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 5:50 pm on 10th July 2019.

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Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North 5:50 pm, 10th July 2019

It is a pleasure to close this debate on behalf of the Opposition. We have heard excellent contributions from across the House. It has been heartening to hear the common theme that tackling the climate emergency is of the highest priority. Indeed, the Minister said that the will to act has never been stronger. It was very heartening to hear that. However, there will be a lot of changes on the Treasury Bench over the next couple of weeks, and we hope that those who really care about this will continue to make sure that it is pushed to the very top of the agenda. We can afford nothing else.

There were excellent contributions from colleagues across the House, and I want to reflect on a few of them. Sir Oliver Heald put forward an excellent manifesto on behalf of electric vehicles. His speech was very well made. Indeed, he made my heart leap, as a Nottinghamian, when he talked about electrification of the midland main line. I know that my hon. Friend Vernon Coaker would say the same: we think that that is a priority project. When there is a change of Prime Minister, I will again, humbly but very sincerely, ask Ministers to prioritise that project. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman might join me in that, because the current approach is fundamentally wrong.

Chris Law prioritised talking about economic benefits. That is important, because there is a danger that we discuss this issue in too many negative terms and it turns people off. We need to grasp that opportunity. I very much agree with what he said about making it a priority for each Department to report on its individual target. It is that kind of aggregate action that will make an impact.

Gillian Keegan began by talking in very sobering terms about mass extinction and loss of species. Again, if that does not act as a call to action to us, I really do not know what will. I did slightly depart from her argument when she talked about not being swept away by major promises on a grand scale. Pragmatism can indeed be very important in the difficult choices ahead, but I would say that we have to be really ambitious. There will have to be a step change in our approach in order to do this. I do not think that slogans are necessarily any use either, but that is certainly not what Labour Members are endorsing.

My hon. Friend Rachel Reeves talked about citizens’ assemblies. As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on deliberative democracy, I was very interested to hear that. I wonder if she might come and talk to our group about what her Select Committee is up to, because we are very interested in this sort of work. She echoed the comments of the hon. Member for Dundee West in saying that we have an awful lot to gain from a green industrial revolution. In my community, we have had four decades of deindustrialisation. That has absolutely scarred our community, and this is the route back from that. The tens of thousands of skilled, sustainable jobs in these industries are our future, so there is an awful lot to gain.

Stephen Kerr relayed lots of what David Attenborough had said to the Select Committee, which was a stand-still moment for all of us in Parliament. The hon. Gentleman is dead right to say that young people are ahead of us on this issue—a theme I will return to shortly. I echo his comments about the importance of faith. I really feel that faith communities can act as conveners within our local communities, because these are important places where people come together and are willing to be vulnerable and generous with each other. He talked about the individual actions we are going to take to change our lives, and faith communities have a really strong role to play in that.

John Mc Nally said that when he talks to young people, there is a sense that adults have not done enough. That message has been loudly heard, and we now have to catch up. I was interested in his idea about local climate youth ambassadors. There is a lot of energy among young people. The two things I get asked when I go to my local schools are, “What are you doing about it, Mr Norris?” and, “What more can I do about it?” That would be a good avenue. Finally, Wera Hobhouse talked about the inconvenient truth; I agree. I would be interested to hear the response from those on the Treasury Bench to her strongly made point on fracking.

The shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend Dan Carden, set out clearly the Labour party’s programme for tackling the climate emergency and getting to grips with the root causes, and I want to build on that for a couple of minutes. One element is addressing our aid budget. The new and possibly outgoing Secretary of State for International Development says that he wants to spend more of the 0.7% set aside for aid on tackling the climate emergency. That level of ambition is great, and we all recognise how urgent the emergency is, but it should not be a zero-sum game.

I would like to be very clear that, for the Opposition, tackling the climate emergency must not come at the expense of tackling poverty and inequality abroad. That goes back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling—how do we lift billions out of poverty in a sustainable way? It cannot not be at the expense of aid spending on health, education and sexual violence against women and girls. I am sure the Minister agrees with that, and I would be interested to hear more on that.

UK aid spent on tackling the climate emergency must go towards climate-compatible development and climate justice. It must continue measurably and demonstrably to reduce poverty. It cannot be another excuse to repurpose the aid budget and take some money we would have spent somewhere else and badge it up as aid. That would really miss the point. Will the Government commit to finding additional funds for climate finance, rather than relying on incremental increases from the existing official development assistance budget? Will the Minister restate that all ODA-funded climate spending will directly and measurably help the world’s poorest, in line with current UK law?

Global climate justice also means that we must ensure that our transition in this country towards a better, greener future is not at the expense of the global south. The Opposition reject any new green colonialism, which is becoming too real a risk. We must not export our climate emergency overseas. We must solve the problem, not brush it under the carpet. That fundamental principle of global climate justice must be at the root of all the actions we take.