During the height of lockdown in April, global carbon emissions fell by 17 per cent. By June, they were back to within 5 per cent of last year’s levels with the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere reaching a record high. Our world cannot sustain “business as normal” so it is deeply frustrating that instead of a clear plan to rapidly decarbonise our economy through a green recovery to this terrible crisis, the Government has their head in the sand.
We’ve seen during Covid-19 how the Government can intervene dramatically when they want to, why isn’t the climate emergency given the same priority? Not only are Ministers set to miss the 2050 target that Parliament legislated for just over a year ago, they are not even on track to meet the less ambitious one that preceded it. With an ambitious plan and action to achieve it, we could (and should) enhance 2030 emissions reduction targets and demonstrate real leadership as the host of the COP26 conference in Glasgow next year.
I’ve had lots of emails from constituents this month about the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill and I took part in a zoom chat about it with local members of Extinction Rebellion. It’s a Presentation Bill, which means there’ll be no debate or vote in Parliament, but instead it’s a way of seeking to draw attention to an issue that requires a change in the law. Only 12 supporters can be named on the Bill and protocol means that’s usually back benchers rather than shadow Ministers like me. However, I believe it’s a vital and important step in supporting the move to a more sustainable society and I hope it will eventually come to Parliament for debate.
This month in Parliament, I’ve spoken out about the need for the Government to guarantee there will be no weakening of our environmental standards in pursuit of trade deals. Watch my intervention here.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics & Sustainability in Fashion, I also launched our new report at a virtual event. Coronavirus has exposed the deep inequalities and unsustainability in the garment industry and we must seize this moment by pushing the government to be a global leader, helping to build a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry, boosting fabric recycling and bringing manufacturing jobs back to the UK. You can read the full report here.
Finally, the Environment Bill completed its committee stage last week and will be returning to the Commons. It’s sadly weak in a number of areas including on air pollution, despite polluted air contributing to 40,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. We need enforceable targets to bring harmful levels down, yet the Government voted down Labour’s proposals earlier this year when we sought to include a target in the Bill to meet the WHO guidelines on fine particulate matter by 2030. We’ll keep seeking to strengthen the Bill when it comes back to the House.