Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:22 pm on 2nd May 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 1:22 pm, 2nd May 2019

My Lords, it is with huge pleasure that I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, on bringing forward the debate today and the noble Lord, Lord Deben, on his report, because it is brilliant timing on both their parts. It has been a very happy time for me to listen to the debate; some of the speeches have been incredibly passionate and have saved my having to say some of these things—in fact, I have quite a few scribbles through my notes because others have said what I wanted to say and much more passionately.

It is notable that today we have had the news that the Indonesian Government have decided that they have to move their capital, Jakarta, because some parts of it are sinking at a rate of 10 inches a year. It is the first capital city to move for climate change reasons, which is perhaps an indicator of the way things are going.

For me, the Extinction Rebellion campaign has been a breath of fresh air. It has drawn the climate and ecological emergency to the forefront of political debate. It has moved the debate from whether all this is happening to when we can start to deal with it and thereby preserve humanity and some of our valuable ways of life. That it has been able to cut through all the Brexit noise and force politicians such as us to confront the issues is proof that its tactics are legitimate and highly effective. It joins the ranks of peaceful earth protectors across the world who risk so much in the pursuit of a safe climate and a secure future.

Extinction Rebellion has three simple, core demands. The first is to tell the truth, so that Parliament, having declared a climate and ecological emergency, must work with other institutions and other groups to communicate the need for change. The second is to act now. The Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. The climate change committee’s report has made some valuable headway, but it was written before Extinction Rebellion’s campaign had really got under way. Sixty per cent of people agree with Extinction Rebellion’s aims, which means that the political climate outside these Houses has moved on and that we can be more ambitious. I am afraid that the net-zero aim of 2050 is not only unambitious but shockingly weak and will not take us to the place of safety that we all need. It is a game-changer; it is wonderful that it has happened, but it is not enough. The third demand by Extinction Rebellion is to go beyond politics. The Government must create and be led by the decisions of citizens’ assemblies on climate and ecological issues.

Let me go into those issues a little more deeply. Telling the truth means admitting that the Government’s existing climate legislation is too weak and too slow. It requires the Government to admit that they are planning to miss their legally binding climate budgets and are trying to find ways to water them down already. It means writing the Paris Agreement into UK law and sticking to the targets. It means having an honest conversation with the electorate about what this means and the scale of change that is needed to set us on the right course.

Telling the truth also means using the statistics and data honestly. It means no longer saying that we have outperformed by reducing greenhouse gas emissions while growing the economy, when we know that this has happened partly because we are importing more from other countries and pretending that their emissions do not count. We cannot fiddle the figures any more; the Government cannot cheat any more on this. Luckily, the climate change committee has advised including shipping and aviation emissions in government figures, which I hope will remove the option of Heathrow expansion, but we should also include our imports. There is always a lot of whataboutery in respect of China and other countries, which are perhaps not doing their bit. We have to accept that we are encouraging their emissions by our imports. We should take responsibility for those import emissions; at the moment, we do not.

Telling the truth means being honest with one another and with ourselves that this is a terrifying state of affairs. Anyone who is not afraid for the future of our planet is either uninformed or living in wilful ignorance. Acting now means taking at least the same amount of political will, Civil Service resource and legislative time that has been spent on Brexit and applying that to the climate and ecological emergency. It means a two-year parliamentary Session with a Queen’s Speech focused entirely on climate and ecology, cancelled recesses and endless statutory instruments. It means strong and far-ranging manifesto commitments from all the political parties which are then implemented obsessively for years to come.

We are acting for the future of our planet, for the future of humanity and for the future of our children and grandchildren. We are acting for the needs of nearly 8 billion humans on earth, along with millions of other species with which we share our home.

Acting now also means serious enforcement and legislation. It means massive state intervention in huge market failures, radical taxation and subsidies, nationalisation of certain industries and the creation of a million climate jobs. It means zero-carbon homes, enormous green infrastructure projects and forging happier, healthier lives with a much smaller footprint on the earth. It also means banning fracking and writing off huge fossil fuel reserves—I advise any Peers who have fossil fuel investments to get rid of them now.

I have had my six minutes; I am going to end. Greta Thunberg said that we should be panicking. Personally, I have been panicking for years. A friend of mine once said that my worst character flaw was saying, “I told you so”. I want to say to the House today, “I told you so”. We have to get on and actually make a difference.