Hornsey & Wood Green Labour has an active climate change & environment group, and I let them know what I’ve been up to in Parliament at their regular meetings. Here’s my latest report:
“Thanks to Labour’s efforts to keep this issue at the top of the agenda, and despite the vast majority of Conservatives abstaining, Parliament declared a “climate emergency” this month.
In my speech I focussed on transport, the single highest emitting sector of the UK economy yet performing the worst in reducing emissions. Due to the number of MPs wanting to speak and the time restrictions in place by the time I was called, I was only able to speak for a couple of minutes – but I’ve included my full speech notes at the end of this report.
Parliament’s declaration can’t just be empty words. It needs to be the catalyst for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible, properly funding environmental protection and legislating to move towards a zero-waste economy. It also needs to kickstart a green industrial revolution based on Labour’s ambitious pledges – a seven-fold increase in offshore wind, a doubling of onshore wind and a near tripling of solar power that would enable us to power 19.5 million homes and generate over 400,000 jobs.
My other activities this month include signing a cross party letter to the Environment Secretary Michael Gove calling for much stronger Government action on plastics. Whilst the focus on single use plastic and recycling is welcome, we are not going to stem the plastic tide or make serious progress until we address all forms of plastic pollution at source through strong legislation.
I’ve laid a number of Parliamentary Questions on the subject this month, including asking the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, whether he plans to bring forward legislative proposals to restrict the use of (a) polystyrene and (b) PVC in plastic packaging; what recent discussions he has had with representatives of supermarket chains on the reduction of single-use plastics for product packaging and what recent discussions he has had with businesses on the use of detectable black pigment in plastics to facilitate the recycling of plastic.
Idling engines and the impact on public health
I’ve also been pursuing the issuing of idling engines, a real problem for air pollution with idling cars generating even more fumes than moving vehicles, often outside schools and busy shopping areas. I asked the Secretary of State for Transport if his Department would run a public information campaign to raise awareness of the effect of engine idling on public health and what steps his Department is taking to discourage the practice. The responses have been disappointingly non-committal:
“The Department is supporting Local Authorities to introduce measures such as Clean Air Zones, which involve public information campaigns on the dangers of air pollution. Idling policy is currently under review and the Department aims to make it possible for Local Authorities to tackle idling more effectively and build on their existing powers.
“Air pollution is an important challenge and Government is involved in a wide range of actions tackling it. Local Authorities are often best placed to run such campaigns, as they are able to focus on areas where idling is a particular problem. Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly offering automatic stop-start systems which help save fuel and CO2 emissions.”
I will be taking this up further by writing to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to urge a public health campaign run by Public Health England.
I’ve been contacted by a number of constituents this month following the suggestion by Extinction Rebellion activists and others of holding citizens’ assemblies to tackle the climate and environment emergency. I think they’re an interesting idea. For too long people have felt shut out of the climate debate and powerless to enact the change that is needed to avoid catastrophe for our planet. I believe it’s really important the public are involved in these discussions about both the threat we face and the changes that need to be made, so I hope this proposal can be given further consideration.
Climate, Nature and Growth EDM
I’ve signed this Early Day Motion 2382: “That this House welcomes the publication of the UN’s first global assessment of the state of the world’s nature for nearly 15 years; notes its conclusions that 75 per cent of all land and almost half of all marine and water ecosystems have now been seriously altered by humans, and that one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, significantly more than at any other time in human history; further notes that the UN identifies the growth of the global economy, and specifically the growth of material consumption in affluent nations, as one of the major driving forces behind these trends, because of how it affects land use in particular, and that it proposes moving away from endless consumption and GDP as a key measure of economic success; welcomes the growing cross party political consensus on the need for honesty about the magnitude of the environmental challenges faced by the UK; considers that an economy predicated on ever increasing growth is incompatible with the scale of response needed to the emergency facing our global climate and our natural world; further considers that humans and nature would flourish in economies designed around wellbeing as opposed to infinite consumption; and therefore calls on the Government to urgently show global leadership in developing and advocating alternatives to GDP and in the transition to economies that, rather than being divisive and degenerative by default, are distributive and regenerative by design”.
Climate emergency in the media
I write a regular column for the Muswell Hill Flyer and in the latest June/July edition I’ve focussed on climate issues. I’ve included the text at the bottom of this report.
The Time Is Now lobby of Parliament
Finally, I’m expecting a huge turnout from Hornsey & Wood Green on the Time Is Now climate change lobby of Parliament on 26 June. The numbers expected to attend the lobby nationally have proved too large for Parliament to process through security and accommodate and the national organisers of the Time is Now lobby have arranged a meeting point for people travelling from London on the other side of Westminster Bridge – as per this map https://www.thetimeisnowmap.co.uk/resources/map.pdf.
Member of Parliament for Hornsey & Wood Green
My speech notes for the Climate Emergency Debate
- Transport is the most emitting sector of the UK economy (responsible for 27% of greenhouse gas emissions, a figure that increases to a staggering 40% if you include our share of international shipping and aviation).
- Yet it is also the worst-performing sector when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.
- If we are to truly recognise the scale of the climate emergency we face, transport has to be at the heart of this green revolution.
- Positive work is going on. In my own constituency of Hornsey & Wood Green, Haringey Council are one of the first local authorities in the country to roll out electric vehicle charging points led by their Cabinet Member for the Environment Cllr Kirstin Hearn.
- But national progress is painfully slow. The emissions scandal should have been a turning point for the auto industry to speed up innovation on battery storage and electric vehicles. The technology has existed for years but the status quo of energy companies has made government and industry complacent.
- Yet even at full-pelt on electric vehicles and decarbonising the grid to feed them clean power, we won’t hit climate targets to stay within the 1.5°C window: in addition, we will need 20-60% traffic reduction.
- That means a huge modal shift towards public transport, cycling and walking.
- I welcome the work of London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan with the brave introduction of the world’s first 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London, which went live earlier this month. Two million Londoners – including more than 400,000 children – are living in areas which exceed legal limits for air pollution and thousands of Londoners die early each year because of the toxic air. I spoke at an event last month alongside the mum of Ella Kissi-Debrah, who tragically died from asthma believed to have been linked to illegal levels of pollution.
- I know that it’s difficult for some car users, particularly those who have older vehicles that they use for their work, and it’s crucial that these measures are introduced alongside massive investment in our public transport – particularly our bus network.
- Here in London we have an excellent public transport network and the Mayor’s wider package of air quality measures includes more work to clean up Transport for London’s buses, but outside of major cities bus networks have been decimated under this Government, forcing people back into their cars.
- A full double decker bus could take up to 75 cars off the road, yet outside London usage has fallen by 10 per cent as fares have soared and thousands of routes have been slashed or withdrawn. That’s why I warmly welcome Labour’s commitment to reverse the devastating Tory bus cuts of the last nine years and create a Bus Transformation Fund that would invest £1.3 billion a year into bus services. I’ve also urged the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, to pledge an increase in funding for local authorities so that they can put more clean buses on our roads.
- Cycling and walking need to be supported and invested in for those who can. When I was a council leader, we became the first London local authority to introduce 20mph limits on all roads managed by the borough to make our streets safer and more pleasant for cyclists and pedestrians.
- Yet Britain lags far behind our European friends and neighbours when it comes to investment in active travel. We have one of the lowest cycling rates in the EU and the Government’s strategy to change that, published back in 2017, was pathetically lacking in ambition – offering almost no funding and no meaningful policies or targets. It is bitterly disappointing but not surprisingly that consequently it has had little impact.
- Finally, the European Union has set the gold standard on environmental protections and the wisdom of a Swedish school girl Greta Thunberg has led many to wake up to the scale and urgency of the climate crisis we face.
- It goes without saying that leaving Europe is reckless in environmental terms. Leaving European environmental protections to put our future in the hands of a Conservative Government that has sold off the Green Investment Bank, banned onshore wind, devastated our solar industry, prioritised cars over public transport, failed to reduce transport emissions and had to be dragged through the courts every step of the way to get any action on air quality would be reckless in the extreme.
My column for the June issue of the Muswell Hill Flyer: This is a climate emergency – we must act now
When the UK became the first Parliament in the world to declare “an environment and climate emergency” last month, I felt a glimmer of hope that the urgency of the situation is finally getting through.
It has certainly seemed in recent months like a ripple has turned into a wave. Sir David Attenborough’s powerful documentary warning of “irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies”, Extinction Rebellion’s peaceful disruption in central London and Greta Thunberg’s #ClimateStrike that started with one girl standing outside the Swedish Parliament demanding action and spread across the world. When I met some of the young people from Hornsey & Wood Green who’d joined the #ClimateStrike protests, they inspired me with their passion for change and frustration at our generation’s failure to protect the next generation’s future.
There’s a lot already happening locally. Haringey Council recently declared its own climate emergency and has committed to working towards making Haringey carbon neutral by 2030. It’s an ambitious target but it needs to be if we’re to limit global temperature rises to less than 1.5 degrees.
Local residents are doing their bit too. I took part in an excellent public meeting on “Haringey in a time of climate emergency” which explored what residents can do to defend our environment and joined local campaigners in Muswell Hill calling on HSBC to stop funding fossil fuels. I’m a strong supporter of Crouch End’s thriving “plastic free community”, working to reduce plastic use and eliminate the avoidable single-use plastics that cause so much harm. It’s one of over 400 across the UK and I’ve tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling on the Government to support the creation of even more.
But this Government now needs to step up and lead by example. I’m concerned that the vast majority of Conservatives abstained rather than actively support Labour’s call to declare a climate emergency and their record in office has seen a worrying fall in green investment and a lack of backing for renewable energy sources from onshore wind to the solar industry.
That we face a climate and environmental emergency is undeniable. Parliament’s declaration can’t be just words, it needs to kickstart a green industrial revolution that propels us towards a zero-carbon future. For starters I’d like to see a seven-fold increase in offshore wind, a doubling of onshore wind and a near tripling of solar power, to enable us to power 19.5 million homes and generate over 400,000 jobs. I also believe we should make all new homes zero-carbon and decarbonise our transport system. It’s the most emitting sector of the UK economy, something I highlighted in the recent Parliamentary debate, but progress has been shamefully slow.
Join me at The Time Is Now mass lobby of Parliament on 26 June https://www.theclimatecoalition.org/thetimeisnow. I’m expecting a huge turnout from Hornsey & Wood Green and look forward to meeting you all to demand more action from our elected leaders.
I had the honour of listening to Greta Thunberg when she visited Parliament recently. As she wisely said, we can no longer shirk responsibility, we must follow the science – and we must do it now. If we don’t, this “ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.”