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Amendment to the Motion

Part of Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019 - Motion to Approve – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 26th June 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 5:30 pm, 26th June 2019

My Lords, in preparation for the debate this afternoon I looked up the Government’s climate change policy page and I got an error message: “Page not found”. That was at midday today—I do not know if it is up and running now—but it says something about the Government’s ability on the issue of climate change.

I wanted to disagree with the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, but I felt it was not fair to keep interrupting him. He says that there will be “no significant impact on business” but of course this will have a significant impact on business. Climate change will be dreadful; we have to make sure that business understands that and that it moves on.

I am told that the reason the Chamber is so cold is because a valve is stuck open. That shows that we cannot always rely on technology, because even the simplest technology can go wrong. My teeth are chattering now, so I shall hurry through my comments.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Deben, on his speech. I particularly liked his being prepared to point out that 2030 was perhaps a better target than 2050. I would go further and say 2025. We cannot afford that length of time.

I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fox, who talked about what could be better and what the Government need to do. I have just challenges for the Government, because over the past weeks, months and years, and again today, I have listened to the Government telling us how great they are on climate change, how they are acting and how much they are spending. Quite honestly, it is a load of tosh, because they are not doing enough.

I support the Labour amendment. It rightly asks for policy, real measurable action and scrutiny. I look forward to a much fuller answer from the Minister after this debate. The Government lack any sense of urgency. As others have pointed out, today could not be a better day. We have thousands of people outside: a mass lobby of Parliament saying that politicians are not doing enough. I feel embarrassed to be in this House as a politician when people are saying that we are not doing enough.

At least 2050, as in this statutory instrument, is a date that we can have as a target. It is unrealistic in how well we will survive, but at least it is a date. As a Green, I find it hard to talk about climate change because I find it quite emotional. When I say “emotional”, I do not mean crying a few tears, I mean absolute boiling fury that we are not dealing with it properly. Somehow the Government do not understand that they must accept the science. The science is saying that we must get a move on, but this Government really are not.

I ask myself why the Government and others in this House have such a problem with accepting the science, which is perfectly clear. I understand that the more we have invested in the current system—and Members of this House have more than most—the harder it is to accept that we need to move on, things have to change and drastic action is the next step for all of us. One infuriating thing is that we did not have to be here, because back in the 1970s and 1980s, when a lot of us began to see the problem, we had the ideas, skills, industry and infrastructure to be a world leader in climate change technology. We could have boomed in that field. Some answers were in technology and the engineering industry, but many were in politics and the political will to do something—to change public awareness and bring the public along with us.

Members opposite will know that in 1989, Margaret Thatcher gave a speech at the UN that included this statement—I never thought I would quote Margaret Thatcher approvingly:

“Of all the challenges faced by the world community in those four years, one has grown clearer than any other in both urgency and importance—I refer to the threat to our global environment”.

That will be 30 years ago in November. She said:

“It is the prospect of irretrievable damage to the atmosphere, to the oceans, to earth itself … It is life itself, incomparably precious, that distinguishes us from the other planets. It is life itself … that we wantonly destroy. It is life itself that we must battle to preserve”.

I wonder who wrote that—it is quite beautiful—and I wonder what has happened to the Conservative Party in the meantime. You are really not measuring up to Margaret Thatcher.