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Interpretation

Part of European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:00 pm on 8th January 2020.

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Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth 6:00 pm, 8th January 2020

It is lovely to see you in the Chair, Sir George.

I rise to speak to my new clause 27, which seeks to ensure that there is no regression from EU standards on the environment; food; the substance of REACH regulations, which seek to protect human health and the environment from the use of chemicals; and animal welfare. It addresses the points that have just been made.

The UK currently enjoys high standards in areas such as habitat protection and product safety. Having developed those standards with our European neighbours, we now benefit from cleaner beaches, safer food and the best chemicals regulation in the world. The Government have committed to legislate to ensure high standards of environmental protection, but they have not yet delivered on that commitment. The 2018 withdrawal agreement contained a legally binding mutual commitment to non-regression in most areas of environmental law, if the transition period did not produce an agreement on the future relationship. That has been removed from the Bill and I wonder whether the Minister can explain why that is the case.

Climate change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. The world is now experiencing a climate emergency, and an urgent and rapid global response is now necessary. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding and the horrendous bush fires we currently see in Australia, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. After more than a century and a half of industrialisation, deforestation and large-scale agriculture, quantities of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have risen to record levels that have not been seen in 3 million years.

We know that as populations, economies and standards of living grow, so does the cumulative level of greenhouse gas emissions. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5° C, finding that limiting global warming to 1.5° C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. The IPCC said we must cut global emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The UK should be leading the way both nationally and internationally. The Government must play their role.