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A Green Industrial Revolution

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:42 pm on 15th January 2020.

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Photo of Clive Lewis Clive Lewis Shadow Minister (Treasury) 4:42 pm, 15th January 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention; he makes an important point. I hope that in the coming weeks, months and years we all remember each other’s common humanity. It is important that we hold on to that.

Let us understand the backcloth to this debate: Australia is currently on fire; 2,000 homes have been destroyed; 27 people have lost their lives; and half a billion animals have been incinerated. An area larger than either Hungary or Portugal has been razed to the ground. Meanwhile, to its north, the rains that never reached Australia are flooding Indonesia. This pattern is being repeated across the globe.

We are already in an era of wild weather: seasons appear at the wrong times; food harvests are diminished; pollinating and insect-mating seasons are being disrupted; and, without our noticing, the seas have been warming and storms increasing at an alarming rate. This is the beginning of climate disruption. We have talked about it for a long time. It is now here. We are at a stage that cannot easily be reversed, but that can be stopped from heading into runaway breakdown. The key is what we do within the current decade, which is what makes the Queen’s Speech so important.

If the Prime Minister understood the emergency, the Queen’s Speech would have included measures such as: introducing UK carbon budgets to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% a year; removing planning permission for new buildings connected to the gas grid; reinstating Britain’s zero-carbon homes standard; putting in place a national fuel poverty, home energy efficiency programme; raising the UK tree planting targets to 3 billion within a decade; transferring the roads budget into new public transport networks; and, because building resilience into every part of our economy from infrastructure to food security is now critical, making a huge investment in flood prevention programmes and everything else that goes with that.

Later this year, the UK will host the COP26 gathering of nations still struggling to set up a robust framework to avoid climate breakdown. It is an opportunity for Britain to lead rather than just to host. Are there any measures in this Queen’s Speech to show how we will do this? No, of course there are not. Has anyone actually told the PM that one cannot just turn up to COP and go, “Bing, bang, boom, bong, phwoar, climate crisis!”? We have to stand on our record, and this Government do not have one. Members do not have to take my word for it. In its latest assessment, the Committee on Climate Change said that the UK is not

“on track to meet the fourth carbon budget. To meet future carbon budgets and the 100% target for 2050 it will require the government to apply more challenging measures.”

To you and me, Madam Deputy Speaker, that means pull your finger out because: the world is burning; biodiversity is collapsing; the oceans are warming; the ice caps are melting; and the world is watching us here in the UK this year.

Ultimately, I fear that nothing we say in this place will change the mind of this Government. The entirety of this Government’s mandate has been founded on one thing, which is to get Brexit done—it pains me to say that. When we understand that this is a hard right political project, we will understand that this Government have no intention of facing up to the climate crisis. Brexit has always been about trade deals that do not give a damn about climate, inequality or the global south. It is about deregulation that lets corporations raping our planet do so with ever more impunity. That is what Brexit is actually about, and that is why the Queen’s Speech has failed even the most basic of tests.

Ultimately, little we say in here will make a difference with this Government. The only way that millions of people in this country will see any real change is to build a climate mass movement, the likes of which the world has not yet seen, to force them to act. Greta Thunberg, the youth climate strikers and the global climate movement have shown us all the way. It is now time for us in this place to join them, to build a movement and show that our democracy is capable of changing course and building a better and more sustainable future.