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The Climate Emergency

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:24 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 2:24 pm, 17th October 2019

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. When it is still the cheapest of renewable energy technologies, it is shameful that onshore wind is excluded from competing for Government-supported contracts. I hope the Secretary of State is paying full attention to that point.

The United Nations climate action conference will be in Glasgow next year, and I understand that the Prime Minister wants to take a day trip to it for flag-waving purposes. May I advise him to take the train, not the plane, and to take the time to listen, rather than just bluster? He might even come away from it with some ideas to start implementing a plan to help with the problem that the world faces.

Perhaps the Whitehall mandarins could take a leaf out of Scotland’s books and work towards zero-carbon aviation. Scotland is decarbonising Highlands and Islands Airports and working with Norway on electric trains. We all know that transport is the second-biggest dumper of greenhouse gases, because we have all read the IPCC report. The same source tells us that, in fact, road transport is even more of a problem than air transport. Nearly three quarters of transport emissions are road-based, while around a 10th are accounted for by aviation. It is everyday transport that we have to address. Where is the UK Government initiative to copy the Scottish Government in supporting the roll-out of electric charging stations? Where is the parallel commitment to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the next dozen years?

The biggest greenhouse gas pest is electricity and heat production. Where are the incentives for renewable energy production? Not only are there no new incentives, but the old ones were taken away, and the costs of connecting Scotland’s vibrant and growing renewable energy producers to the grid are far too high. When will we see Government action to address those issues?

As the shadow Secretary of State asked, given that there is a climate emergency, to which the UK Government have finally admitted, where is the ban on fracking? This unconventional source of gas is banned in Scotland because there is no good case to be made for it. In some parts of England it is damaging people’s houses, impinging on their lives and possibly damaging their health. Get rid of it—it is a nuisance at best.

The Environment Bill, over which we will cast a jaundiced eye next week, seeks to embed in law the 25-year environment plan that was created under a previous Government. It was unambitious at the time, became rapidly outdated and is now a bit of a joke. Ministers should not withdraw it—we have wasted enough time already—but they should be prepared to make major changes to it during its progress through Parliament, and to accept amendments from others to make it something worth passing. I have a suggestion to offer that the Government and the Secretary of State can do relatively free of charge: why do they not invite the climate protesters into the room, ask them what they would put in the Bill, see whether they can get a bit of support in the House, and then pass something that is actually worth passing?

In closing, we all know that really doing something will not be easy. We know that it will entail changes in lifestyles that we have not yet properly considered. We can call it pain if we really must be dramatic about it, but if we do, we should at least compare it to the pain that comes from doing nothing. If not enough is done, some of the people who park their comfortable bahookies on these Benches might find themselves representing constituencies that start to disappear. Frankly, I do not expect the Government to make any real moves in the near future—if Brexit has taught us anything, it is that denial and delusion sit comfortably on the Government Benches—but I do hope that somewhere over on that side of the Chamber exists someone who will raise a questioning voice and ask whether it might be a good idea to do something. Who knows—there might even be a Thatcher fan who thinks that some action should be taken in her name. In the name of the wee man, though: it is a climate emergency, not a coffee morning. It is time to start acting like it is important. Talking is always good, but action is even better.