Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:36 pm on 2nd May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Stone of Blackheath Lord Stone of Blackheath Labour 1:36 pm, 2nd May 2019

My Lords, global warming needs urgent action, but it must be conducted simultaneously both horizontally across parties and internationally, as we have heard, and by us all acting at several vertical levels to form a unity of purpose. Extinction Rebellion is waking up people at all four levels. At level 1, individuals now see themselves needing to change their behaviour. At level 2, small enterprises, NGOs and charities are innovating and co-operating. At level 3, huge corporations now see that they must change direction. At level 4, we in government must respond with urgency today at national and international level. I will speak on actions at these four levels. Unless we act at all levels in harmony, we will fail and become extinct as a species.

At the level of the individual, noble Lords will know that I am a practitioner and advocate of mindfulness and yoga. I practise these, and want others to join, not just for health but to change the way I think and act. When one is at the normal, everyday, lower level of consciousness—at one’s amygdala—where we have a “fight or flight” response, one thinks only of me and my family, and now and next week. When one is able to experience mindfully a higher consciousness, one starts to think of the wider good of all beings, and the longer perspective of all time. People are waking up to the realisation that we need to think and act in this long term, selfless, compassionate way. I met yesterday with the Adot foundation, which says that “giving is receiving”. Its mission is to spread the use of its website, adot.com, which shows that experiencing something greater than one’s habitual self is life enhancing and can save the planet.

I will cite one example at the next level, where small projects need our support to grow and work together. The IPCC says that the barriers to reforestation are lack of political will, finance and stability. It knows that massive tree planting can help save the planet. A registered UK charity, TreeSisters, is already planting 200,000 trees a month. It is calling for reforestation to be embedded in every individual financial transaction. Last year, consumers in the UK made 26 billion transactions. If each transaction over, say, £25, had contained an embedded forest restoration charge of, say, 50p, we would be well on our way to planting the trillion trees for which the planet has space. An independent, ethical lifestyle media company MyGreenPod, is already doing this, adding 50p to every financial transaction on its online marketplace, which sells only products that are good for people and the planet. We as government should set out a way of helping all businesses in the UK collect and donate this surcharge, thereby being a light to all nations.

At the third level, many huge corporations are aware of the issue and have been trying to help for years. As a retailer, I worked for an enlightened company that was conscious of the use of resources and the need to save waste. For those reasons, we used no fancy packaging, no costly window displays and no advertising. We used energy-saving lighting and established the Volcani institute of agriculture in Israel that invented drip irrigation, the Weizmann Institute of Science that pioneered solar energy, and the Shenkar college of textile technology and design that created clothing that lasted for years rather than months. But this is now an emergency. Most businesses today are not designed in the context of the developing climate emergency—hence we must urgently redesign entire industries and businesses.

Last week there was an urgent letter written to the Times, signed by prominent people from huge organisations, including friends and colleagues whom I know to be serious on this point. They included Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, Sir Tim Smit from the Eden Project, Jake Hayman, of Ten Years’ Time and the son of our former Lord Speaker, Bevis Watts of Triodos Bank and Gail Bradbrook of Extinction Rebellion. They suggested that businesses should make a declaration that we face a climate change emergency and organise a session at a full board meeting to consider the case for urgent action. They are going to encourage the senior management teams, of which we are part, to do likewise.

Fourthly and finally, to tie all this together we in government must act. There are organisations waiting for new Bills to come from the Government, and they will go into businesses and help them change. The Global Conscious Movement—GCM—is such a grass-roots global consultancy established to utilise the talents, energy and creativity of young professionals to teach big companies the principles and practices of sustainable business. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Rooker for this debate. I hope that this House can persuade Her Majesty’s Government to see the urgency and act forcefully and speedily to address this crisis, so that my grandchildren, Ziva, Asher, Elian and one yet to be named, like the grandchildren of the noble Lord, Lord Deben, will be reading Hansard in 30 years’ time and thanking us for having saved the planet.