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The Climate Emergency

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment and Climate Change), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport) 3:40 pm, 17th October 2019

The climate emergency is real, and we must act now to get to net zero as soon as possible. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is warning of huge dangers to the planet, while our own Committee on Climate Change is reminding the Government that they are not even reaching their old target, while our young people are worrying about their future, and while climate protesters have been on our streets for the past two weeks, what is the Government’s response to the crisis? Nothing. There was no mention in the Queen’s Speech of how to get to net zero—not a line.

Unless we have a clear, decisive plan to decarbonise our energy, our heating, our travel, our food production and all our industries—including decarbonising capitalism—the planet will warm up to unsustainable levels. We will create huge global inequalities, displacement and possibly wars. We cannot just do business as usual. We need to act locally, nationally and internationally, and we need to act now.

But the Government have no plan. The energy White Paper was promised for more than a year, but it has now been dropped altogether—there was no mention of it in the Queen’s Speech. There was only a warm-up of the Environment Bill, which lacks ambition, urgency and, most of all, measures to create a proper regulator to ensure that our environment is properly protected. What an utter failure from this Tory Government, and what a wake-up call to all climate change campaigners not to rely on this Tory Government for climate action.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have a proper, ambitious and realistic plan to cut most of our carbon emissions by 2030 and get to net zero by 2045. The power of the future is electricity from renewable energy, from which we can make hydrogen and other net-zero fuels. There will be no place for fossil fuels in our energy future. The Liberal Democrats would ban fracking now. Our target is to make 80% of our electricity from renewables by 2030. By 2030, we cannot be heating our homes with natural gas. Providing warm homes for all at a price that everybody can afford will be a big challenge. The priority for our Liberal Democrat Government will be to make all homes highly energy-efficient and to put an end to fuel poverty.

We will create a just transition commission to advise on how to deliver a net-zero economy that works for everyone, and just transition funds to support development in the regions and communities most affected by the transition. Surface transport is still the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and volume has hardly fallen since 1990. Electricity is likely to be the power for cars, with hydrogen for heavier vehicles. There will be no sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. We must ensure that the electric grid can deliver the additional power needed.

There are other sectors in which we do not yet have the solutions to get to net zero, such as by taking fossil fuels out of some industrial processes, aviation and agriculture. Where we cannot avoid carbon emissions completely, negative emissions technologies need to be in place. Nature has its own way to absorb emissions. We must re-wild our environment, and most of all we must plant millions of new trees. Our plan is to plant 60 million every year, which would be the biggest replanting project ever.

The Liberal Democrats are ready to face the climate emergency. We understand that getting to net zero is a challenge, but with the right political will and with a plan, we can tackle the climate crisis. We need climate action now. I ask the Government to publish their plan for getting to net zero as soon as possible.