Summer Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Minister (Treasury) 4:07 pm, 25th July 2019

It is always a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Lyn Brown. I was very disturbed to hear about the testimony that she mentioned, but equally I am pleased that she has voiced it in this House. I am sure that everyone heard it and was appalled by the details.

I rise to speak today because the House declared a climate emergency on 1 May. If anything, that emergency has become ever more evident over recent days. While we have been in this House, outside in our country the temperatures reached a record-breaking 39°. I pay tribute to all those emergency services who have been helping people to deal with the heatwave. They have been active in Paris as well, which has just itself reached a new record of 41°. In the Netherlands and Belgium, national records for temperature have already been broken this year.

In fact, over the last 19 years, five new records have been broken for summer temperature in Europe, going back to 1500. Think about that: the five hottest summers in Europe since 1500 have occurred just in the past 19 years. But my constituents tell me that what we have experienced here in Europe is as nothing compared with the experience of many of their families in the global south. Two years ago, people living in the Punjab had to put up with temperatures of 52°. Farmers in Jamaica have been experiencing drought after drought after drought, and children living in Bangladesh are becoming more malnourished as extreme weather event follows extreme weather event.

Just yesterday, three scientific studies were published that showed that the temperature changes we are currently experiencing are happening faster and more intensively than at any point over the past 2,000 years. What has been our response? Well, Parliament is about to adjourn. I agree with my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick that we will still be working, but Parliament will not be sitting. In any case, since 1 May it has felt like business as usual.

I have talked to lots of children and young people in my constituency about the climate crisis. In fact, many of them have come to speak to me during mass lobbies on the topic in this place. I know how concerned many of them are about the crisis; in fact, many of them at local schools have been producing posters with their views about the environmental crisis. I find it heartbreaking to see their images of the climate breakdown—of what they think it will be like if we do not act—but I am inspired by their passion and determination to do something about it.

Those children and young people, and their parents, have been asking me to ask questions in this place on their behalf. Those questions include things like: why are we still building homes in this country that are not zero carbon? Why we are spending only 2% of our transport budget on cycling and walking? Why is part of our aid budget still going towards supporting fossil fuel-based technologies in the global south? Why have we seen feed-in tariffs abolished and a block on onshore wind? Why are we denying our country the benefits of the 400,000 extra jobs that would come from a green new deal?

When we return to Parliament, I hope it will not be to the chaos of an impending no-deal Brexit, but even more fundamentally it must not be a return to business as usual. When we come back at the beginning of September, it must be to a legislative programme that meets the aspirations of those children and young people and their parents, that faces up to the climate crisis, and that actually embodies the meaning of the term emergency: a situation that demands an immediate response.