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Australian Bushfires

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:20 pm on 9th January 2020.

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Photo of Fabian Hamilton Fabian Hamilton Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (Defence) 12:20 pm, 9th January 2020

Like all colleagues, let me welcome you to your place, Madam Deputy Speaker, following your unopposed election as Deputy Speaker. I also thank the Minister for advance sight of her statement. I am grateful for her assurance that support is being given to any British nationals and tourists who have been affected, and that support has also been offered to the Australian authorities. However, like her, my thoughts are with our Australian cousins who have lost their homes, jobs, communities and, in some tragic cases, their lives as a result of the fires. Like her, I applaud the astonishing efforts of the Australian firefighters and other emergency services who have been trying to tackle this crisis, and I applaud too all those ordinary Australians who have so movingly and selflessly risked their own lives to save koala bears and other creatures whose populations have suffered such devastation as their natural habitat has been devoured by the flames. I understand that to date up to 1 billion animals may have perished.

What we have seen in recent weeks has been nothing short of a catastrophe, for not just Australia but the whole world, and I wholeheartedly share the Minister’s words of sympathy and solidarity with our close friends for what they are going through at the moment. But when the fires are finally extinguished, it would be remiss of us if we did not discuss the underlying causes of these unprecedented events; 2019 was the second hottest year on record, and the past five years fill the top five positions as the hottest years on record. Any group of individuals who can look at those figures and continue to deny that global warming and climate change are real issues are equivalent to those people who still insist that the world is flat. Yet, sadly, such individuals include the current President of the United States, Donald Trump; the current President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro; and— I say this with great regret, given what his country is currently experiencing—the current Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison. There is something bitterly sad about the fact that those three leaders have all seen raging wildfires in their countries over the past year—in California, in the Amazon and now on the eastern coast of Australia.

So the question we all face is how we address the challenge of climate change, how we keep the Paris agreement on track and how we stop our world reaching the point of no return on global warming, where events such as those we are currently seeing in Australia become the new normal. Facing a challenge of that scale, we have to recognise one thing—that what we do alone in the UK will make not a jot of difference to the global problems we all face.

What we need instead is what my right friend the shadow Foreign Secretary called for a year ago:

“the globalisation of the green new deal”.

The proposition is that we help every country in the world, and indeed use our weight at the UN to oblige every country to use the natural resources at their disposal, whether it be wind power, tidal power or solar power, to move rapidly towards a zero-carbon economy, in the process creating millions of new jobs. Britain led the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. We are in a very good position to lead this green revolution, and I urge the Government to take that lead.