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The Climate Emergency

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:37 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 2:37 pm, 17th October 2019

It is a great pleasure to follow Deidre Brock.

I very much welcome the Secretary of State’s speech and the Government’s proposed Bills, especially the Environment Bill. It is high time that we pulled everything together to get the environment right. I wish to make a plea—the Secretary of State referred to this in answer to a question—relating to the agriculture Bill, on which we have done a great deal of work. Can we make sure that the food we produce, animal welfare and environmental qualities all work together? We should work those things not only into the agriculture Bill, but into the Environment Bill.

As far as the fishing Bill is concerned, we can not only gain more access to waters and fish, but do things a bit more like the Norwegians, who shut down overfished areas overnight and open up other areas if there is plenty of fish there. There are many benefits to managing our own waters. The common fisheries policy was very cumbersome, as was the common agricultural policy.

I welcome the idea of the Prime Minister’s chairing a cross-Cabinet committee to deliver on and help with climate change. The air quality debates and inquiries that we have done with four Committees show that we all have to work across Departments and local government—everywhere—to create better air quality, especially in 43 hotspots throughout the country. It is essential that we take action, not only with our vehicles, but in everything we do, including by improving air quality for all our citizens.

In my role as Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, I want to find practical solutions that continue to decarbonise our economy and protect the environment by using more renewable energy, but without harming businesses or reducing standards. Since 2010, the Conservative party has invested more than £52 billion in renewable energy. As a result, we now have enough solar power for 2 million homes and a world-leading offshore wind sector generating more offshore wind than the rest of the world combined, though one would not have thought so, listening to the Opposition.

I commend the Government for listening to the EFRA Committee and including climate change in the remit of the new Office for Environmental Protection, but it must be answerable to Parliament, it must be independent and it must not just be about judicial review, which is very often about process, not the targets we need to meet.

I welcome the announcement today that the Prime Minister is to chair a new Cabinet committee dedicated to climate change in order to cut emissions across Government. When we conducted our joint air quality inquiry, we did so across four departmental Select Committees to show the Government that action across Government was needed to cut those emissions. I do not want to go into too much detail on the environment Bill today, but let me repeat that the new OEP must be strong and independent.

We need more investment in home insulation and energy efficiency schemes so that we can use less energy in the first place. As one of the wealthiest developed nations, the UK must continue to lead from the front and to demonstrate best practice for clean growth in the world.