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The Climate Emergency

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Morgan Stephen Morgan Shadow Minister for Local Government (Communities) 4:32 pm, 17th October 2019

Madam Deputy Speaker,

“There is no planet B.”

These are not my words; they are the words of eight-year-old Poppy from Portsmouth. We owe it to Poppy and others across our country to ensure the planet we pass on is fit for the future. We see our children take to the streets, giving up their school attendance for politicians’ attention. However, the perception that this is a problem for future generations could not be further from the truth. It is affecting people now, and none more so than the people of Portsmouth. As the British Heart Foundation has warned, harmful pollutants in my city are breaching World Health Organisation limits, meaning that due to the poor air quality the 11,000 people with a heart condition living in Portsmouth South are at far greater risk. It is no wonder that the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has described this illegal air pollution crisis as a “public health emergency”.

It is not just air pollution that must be addressed. As a coastal community, people in my city disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change. The report by the IPCC said that if we do not act to stop a temperature increase of more than 2° C, we will see severe coastal flooding. In my city, the local authority is engaged in a programme of building the largest sea defence scheme this nation has ever seen. Without it, nearly 9,000 residential properties, 800 commercial buildings and millions of pounds-worth of essential infrastructure run the risk of ruin.

But it is not all doom and gloom. On 1 May, Labour forced the Government to agree to the UK Parliament becoming the first in the world to declare a climate emergency. With that trailblazing motion, pressure was rightly applied to force the Government to bring forward urgent proposals. Last year, Labour published plans for a green transformation, in which we set out how we would decarbonise our economy. That has been followed by exciting policy announcements, such as the promise to build 37 new wind farms and a fleet of 30,000 electric vehicles for hire.

The mildly technical nature and distant-sounding threat of climate change may not be enough to invoke people to come out fighting from their beds, but pretty much all of us would do so to protect our loved ones, homes and livelihoods, and to build a better planet. The Government owe it to young people such as Poppy from Portsmouth to tackle this priority once and for all.