Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:55 am on 11th September 2020.

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Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Home Office) 10:55 am, 11th September 2020

The solution is to enable a thousand flowers to bloom. We want local organisations to be able to provide solutions, as well as the Government, who, at the moment, are woefully lacking in their climate action. We need both those things to happen, and the Bill is one part of that solution.

Many societies have clear purposes relating to environmental sustainability, including community energy schemes, e-car sharing co-ops, low-impact farming co-ops and low-impact community-led housing. Just to return to the housing issue, let me say that I was lucky enough to visit Berlin when I was shadow Housing Minister to see the quantity and very different nature of housing there. It is difficult to make comparisons, because there are large cultural differences between Germany and the UK. The English system is more centralised, top-down and market-orientated, with a lightly regulated private rented sector, whereas Germany has a federal system that supports local autonomy. It also has a much more public-facing housing policy, and it is much more rules-based. As we know, in Germany there is a preference for renting, but there is a huge quantity of housing co-ops there, particularly in the big cities. I believe that in the UK 0.5% of our homes are co-operative-owned, whereas the figure in Germany is about 10%. We can look to increase the number of our co-ops and of empowered residents who have more control over what happens in the buildings in which they live.

It is vital that we unlock green finance for our co-ops to invest in long-term sustainable projects, and this Bill would be an important step to help communities and investors to create a more sustainable living environment. Primary legislation is much-needed to provide societies with the legal tools that would enable co-operatives to thrive. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North said in her excellent speech, covid is a significant fork in the road when it comes to tackling climate change. I urge Members across the House to support the Bill, so that it can be discussed further and amended in Committee, and to empower our local communities to take action and save our climate.