The Labour Party has a long history of taking action to protect the environment. However, the climate crisis and environmental sustainability is likely to be the biggest issue we’ll face in our lifetimes, and we need to take urgent and radical action to protect our planet, before it’s too late.
I’ve been privileged to visit schools and listen and learn from the young people who are thinking seriously about what steps we can take as a society to protect their futures. I’ve also proudly joined the School Strikes for Climate Action in Brighton and Hove, spoken at climate strike rallies and met activists from Extinction Rebellion, who have raised the awareness of these issues massively in recent months.
I also led a debate in Parliament recently on electric vehicles, calling for the Government to bring forward the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles to 2032 – you can read more here: http://bit.ly/2OFU4Pv.
You might have heard too that my Labour Party colleagues managed to force the Government to declare a Climate Emergency, and we’ve also produced a dedicated manifesto for the environment, which you can find here: https://www.labour.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/The-Green-Transformation-.pdf. I really believe that tackling the climate crisis is a positive in so many ways if we get it right, and our policies are designed to harness those opportunities. We’ve pledged to:
- Ensure that 60 per cent of the UK’s energy comes from low-carbon or renewable sources within twelve years of coming to power
- Remove the barriers to onshore wind put in place by the Conservative government, and stop the Conservatives’ chopping and changing of energy policy, investing in wind, solar and other renewable projects to support the creation of a thriving renewables industry with good, long term jobs across the UK
- Introduce a new Clean Air Act to deal with the Conservative legacy of illegal air quality
- Upgrade 4 million homes to Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C in our first term, investing £2.3bn per year to provide financial support for households to insulate their homes
- Position the UK at the forefront of the development, manufacture and use of ultra-low emission vehicles, supporting the creation of clean modes of transport through investment in low emission vehicles
- Reconfigure funds for farming and fishing to support sustainable practices, smaller traders, local economies and community benefits
- Embed and enhance in policy the responsibility for farmers to conserve, enhance and create safe habitats for birds, insects and other wild animals, and encourage the growth of wildflowers
- Protect habitats and species in the ‘blue belts’ of the seas and oceans surrounding the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, and consult on the creation of National Marine Parks around the UK
- Set guiding targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, working with food manufacturers and retailers to reduce waste
- Develop a cross-government strategy for ensuring the UN Sustainable Development Goals are implemented and report annually to Parliament on our performance
- Properly commit to supporting climate mitigation and adaptation efforts led by the countries in the Global South, and to supporting countries severely affected to cope with associated loss and damage
- Create a National Transformation Fund that will invest £250 billion over ten years to help place our economy on a low carbon, sustainable footing
Let me make it clear from the start that I am in complete agreement that we are facing a crisis. With our global carbon footprint ever-increasing, our natural environment is under threat. The weather we have had last summer, the floods in Pakistan and the plethora of climate emergencies occurring all over the world only go to illustrate the real-time and worsening changes our choices are having on the global climate.
As you know, this does not just affect what we see around us, but it threatens the stability of our public health. The RCP notes the most important chemical pollutants in our outdoor air are particulates – primarily from traffic, especially diesel engines – and nitrogen oxides which are generated by vehicles, among a range of sources. In addition to the impact on health, nitrogen oxides can affect biodiversity in sensitive habitats. And this impact is accelerating.
The impact of dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution on the health of millions of people across the country, including those most vulnerable in our communities, worries me greatly. People living in the most deprived areas with the most toxic air suffer disproportionately greater ill health. I believe inaction has allowed catastrophic levels of air pollution to build up nationwide. In 2016, a report by the Royal College of Physicians found that 40,000 deaths are attributable to air pollution in the UK every year. It saddens me to see such little change on this issue 10 years after the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, the first person to have air pollution marked as the cause of death.
What worries me, even more, is that the current Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party do not take the climate crisis seriously at all, and even verges on climate-denying with some of her government’s statements. The current plans by the Government are wholly inadequate and are removing climate policy, not putting it in place.
However, Labour is deeply committed to this issue. Labour nor I will shrink away from the hard task ahead like the Conservatives, but instead, tackle it face-on in the serious and committed manner a crisis like this requires. We will lead this country’s green transition to protect our planet for future generations, unlock new and exciting industries and create secure jobs in our new green economy.
Green policy must be designed effectively so we can ease the inevitable disruptive change that comes with this transition, ensuring people and places are protected and supported through it. This should include a truly nationwide charging network for electric vehicles (EVs), new gigafactories leveraging private sector investment and creating thousands of British jobs, as well as interest-free loans for new and used EVs to those on low and middle incomes. We need clear and consistent climate leadership, but we are not getting it.
Whilst fighting hard to bring about the national scale changes we need, on a local level I am keen to work with the two other MPs that represent Brighton, Lloyd Russel-Moyle and Caroline Lucas, the council and other key stakeholders to ensure that we are doing all we can as a community to contribute to the necessary changes required to help meet our targets, including recycling rates and sustainable transport.
I’ve been doing my best to walk the talk on all this too – I haven’t had a car for a number of years now and I make sure I choose renewable energy suppliers. And I’ve switched to 100% electric for my home which comes from ultra-low carbon sources. I’m still saving for solar for my roof!