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The Climate Emergency

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 4:15 pm, 17th October 2019

Like my right hon. Friend Richard Benyon, I went outside to meet Extinction Rebellion. It was not very difficult to find somebody who was intelligent and with whom I could have a meaningful conversation, which has to contrast with some of the others we have seen in the press, who have defaced buildings and chained themselves to tube carriages. As a result of that meeting I was given a tree, which I took back to my constituency. I have worked with the local climate action group in one village, who are helping me to find somewhere to plant the tree, and I think that is an important thing to be able to say. I also bring a request to the House from somebody who was at the climate action group meeting that I attended—that this House has a meat-free day. Now that I have passed on the request, I hope the idea will be picked up.

One of the things that we often forget about climate change is that it needs to be tackled at an international level. We have heard about the amount of money that the Government have made available to help countries overseas to tackle the issue, but I am also a delegate at the Council of Europe, which has shown me the value of cross-party co-operation. I have been involved in debates there on climate change with Members of the Opposition, including Lord Prescott. Let us not forget that Lord Prescott was involved in producing the Kyoto climate agreement—right at the beginning of the process. He and I have spent many a long time talking about and supporting the Paris agreement and the agreements made in Marrakesh, all of which are important for tackling climate change at a global level.

Allow me to mention technology in the context of the national infrastructure strategy. If we are going to judge the impact of things such as roads, it is important that we do so with reference to tomorrow’s technology or the technology that will exist at the time such infrastructure is built, rather than today’s technology. Driverless electric cars are not part of tomorrow’s technology; they are part of today’s. Driverless cars are being made at the Culham Science Centre in my constituency and are running around Oxford now, as we speak. In fact, some are about to make a journey from Oxford to London and back again as part of the demonstration of that project.

The last point I will mention is that at the Council of Europe we heard about New Zealand admitting climate refugees, and that is something that we should bear in mind.