I have been contacted by a number of constituents in response to Greta Thunberg's visit to Parliament and the call for the Government to declare an environment and climate emergency.
I wanted to confirm, first of all, that I have signed the Early Day Motion that calls on the Government to declare a climate emergency and to release the necessary funding, including to local authorities, to enact a Green New Deal that would rapidly decarbonise the entire UK economy (EDM 2177).
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges that our generation faces and the Government must do all it can to tackle it. Our own county of Norfolk is under threat from the impact of climate change with rising sea levels. The potential impact on our county could be catastrophic with a large area of North and East Norfolk close to sea level. However, the consequences for places like Bangladesh are much worse with the potential for millions to lose their homes.
I do not think that the action taken by the Government to date has been substantial enough and I am determined that Britain lives up to its environmental obligations. During the coalition, the Liberal Democrats championed green energy in Government, investing in renewable energy and overseeing the trebling of renewable electricity generation. Since then, it has been bitterly disappointing to see the Conservatives rolling back the green agenda – cutting funding for renewable energy and selling off the Green Investment Bank.
I welcome the efforts of Greta Thunberg and others in delivering the message about the urgency of tackling climate change, capturing the imagination of people across the globe about the urgency of this crisis. Frustratingly, I was unable to see Greta Thunberg speak in Parliament because I was at the same time chairing a session of the Science and Technology Select Committee, appropriately on the technologies required for clean growth. This was part of an inquiry that the Committee is holding into the technologies needed to meet Clean Growth emissions reduction targets.
We already knew that reaching net-zero emissions was critical for the planet’s future health. A recent report by the Committee on Climate Change demonstrates that the UK can cost-effectively reach this target by 2050. This now requires a step-change in ambition from the Government, and policies to match.
The UK has led the way on climate change, but progress so far has been concentrated in only a few sectors of the economy and there is a risk of momentum slipping due to this Government's limited ambition. The Government will now need to ensure that existing technologies are adopted across the economy, and that future technologies are supported with large-scale trials. The public also have a role to play in adopting climate-friendly behaviours wherever they can.
I was pleased that Parliament approved the motion to declare an environment and climate emergency and I will continue to call on the Government to take urgent action to tackle climate change.