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International Sustainability: Natural Resources and Biodiversity - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:25 pm on 4th November 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 5:25 pm, 4th November 2019

I entirely agree with everything the noble Lord just said. I think your Lordships’ are likely to hear me refer often to the importance of strong local economies in which a large amount of the food on the plate comes from not very far away. That is true around the world. We are talking about the aid effort here. What we want to do is support people and help them develop and work on their local systems.

The noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Cameron, mentioned the issue of population. I often hear the question, “Why are we not talking about population?” The IPCC says we have 11 years to turn our planet around. The human ecological footprint is a product of the equation of the number of people on the planet multiplied by their consumption levels. The number of people on the planet will not change very significantly in the next 12 years. What we have to change is the consumption levels, particularly those of societies such as Britain: we are using our share of the resources of three planets every year, yet we have only one. However, if we were to talk about international aid going to women’s rights to control their own bodies and have access to contraceptives, abortion, economic opportunities and education, perhaps we could find some points of agreement.

I am aware that I have taken quite a bit of time. The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, made a really important point that I want to come back to, because I think it should be highlighted and be the takeaway message from this debate. She asked the Minister whether we should first do no harm with our aid. That is a very important question and it should surely be answered only in the affirmative. We cannot afford the harm of funding new fossil fuel infrastructure, or of funding, supporting or encouraging types of agriculture that trash the planet and fail to provide food security. We cannot afford to support the growing of crops to be fed to animals in industrial agriculture. That is food waste, and I think this House would generally agree that food waste is a bad thing. The simple question I would like to leave with the Minister is this: whatever role she may play after the election, could she work on ensuring we have an aid policy that first does no harm?