Climate Justice — [Sir Charles Walker in the Chair.]

Part of Innovation in Hospital Design – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 4th February 2020.

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Photo of Nadia Whittome Nadia Whittome Labour, Nottingham East 2:30 pm, 4th February 2020

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I thank her for that, and for her many years of work in Westminster on climate justice.

In the light of all this, it comes as little surprise that on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Claire O’Neill, the former president of the UN climate summit in Glasgow, said that the Prime Minister has admitted to her that he does not even understand climate change. Will the Minister lay out what major changes—not promises, consultations or strategies, but tangible changes—have taken place or been set in motion since the House passed Labour’s climate and environment emergency last May?

Does the Minister agree that it is imperative that the UK gets our own house in order, and is seen to be making substantial progress on decarbonisation, climate change, adaption and habitat restoration, ahead of hosting COP26? Will he outline investments and actions in the pipeline between now and November—specifically, investments in infrastructure to create the green, clean jobs of the future? Will he clarify whether the Prime Minister is indeed entirely ignorant about climate change, as claimed by his former colleague? Lastly, is there a reason why the climate sub-committee has not met since it was first announced, and on what dates is it scheduled to meet?

There is a huge opportunity in Glasgow later this year, but decisions must be made and acted upon that keep fossil fuels in the ground, transform our food systems, decarbonise our production and consumption, restore ecosystems, and completely change our economies at a scale that matches the enormity of the crisis at hand.

Many Members will be alarmed by reports from the former president of the UN climate summit that the Government are

“miles off track” in setting a positive agenda for COP26, and that promises of action

“are not close to being met”.

What does the Minister have to say in response to assertions that preparations for COP26 are

“mired in chaos and confusion”?—[Official Report, 3 February 2020;
Vol. 671, c. 34.]

In the light of those significant concerns, will the Minister agree to provide the House next month with a substantive briefing update on preparations for COP26?

The question of how to support the countries most affected by the impacts of climate change has been a long-running debate at COPs over the years and is an important factor in achieving climate justice. After a year that has seen the likes of Hurricane Dorian and Cyclone Idai inflict extreme losses on disadvantaged communities across the developing world, addressing the issue of climate finance can no longer be delayed. Will the Minister outline for us the UK’s position on climate finance for poorer nations? How does he propose to involve disadvantaged groups in the planning and policy-making process, so that those individuals have a say in their own future?

It is imperative that developing countries receive the support they need to adapt to the impacts of climate change and reduce their own emissions. Developing countries should not be forced to choose between schools and medicine and coping with climate breakdown. Will the Government commit to working with others at COP26 to develop new sources of climate finance, such as a polluters’ tax, so as to not rely on the overseas aid budget alone?

With the addition of paragraph 51 to the COP21 decision accompanying the Paris agreement, developing nations reluctantly agreed that loss and damage could not be used to claim compensation from richer nations. Will the Minister outline the Government’s position on paragraph 51 and say whether he supports calls by the US to further exclude countries not signed up to the Paris agreement from any liability for the impacts of climate change?

Action to tackle climate change is increasingly being viewed through the lens of human rights, internationally and legally. As has been seen in some key strategic cases, the human rights basis for litigation on climate change has increasingly resonated with judges. New lawsuits have been able to draw on advancements in attribution science to establish a critical causal link between a particular source of emissions and climate-related damage, so the message to the world’s biggest polluters is clear: “Your time is up.” The communities most impacted by the reckless and short-termist actions of Governments and major polluters are, with increasing frequency, having their day in court. Will the Government take a human rights-based approach to climate change ahead of COP26, supporting those most impacted by, and most vulnerable to, the impacts of climate breakdown?

People of my generation are here to claim our right to a stable planet. We are here to shake decision makers out of their comfort zones, because the kind of action needed to address the urgency and scale of the climate and ecological crisis can take place only outside of those comfort zones. If the Government are sincere about the scale and urgency of the problem, we will not continue to hear about endless plans, pledges and consultations, but will see concrete actions in the here and now. COP26 is a historic opportunity that simply cannot be botched, yet sadly everything we have seen and heard points to this whole process being recklessly mismanaged under the stewardship of this Prime Minister. I will end with some advice from the outgoing president of the UN climate summit:

“My advice to anybody to whom Boris is making promises—whether it is voters, world leaders, ministers, employees or indeed, to family members—is to get it in writing, get a lawyer to look at it and make sure the money is in the bank.”

That is what all of us in this room must resolve to do.