Catherine West MP
Catherine West MP

As evidence of the ecological emergency can be seen tragically across the world, my inbox has been filled with emails from concerned constituents, and last weekend I also spent time chatting to people attending the Carnival for Climate Justice in Finsbury Park.

The stakes are extremely high for COP26 in November. The fate of hundreds of millions across the world will be decided at this summit and it is crucial that our government plays a leading role.

However, I fear that the government’s reputation is in shatters. Despite the fact the summit is taking place within its borders, the government is considering giving approval for a vast new oil field in the North Sea. This is in addition to its previous plans to open a new coal mine in West Cumbria. Alok Sharma, President of COP26, has come under fire for travelling to more than 30 countries in seven months. Similarly, the Prime Minister decided to travel to the G7 Summit via a private jet than use public transport. The Tories cannot be trusted over the climate; how can the Prime Minister urge other countries to go green when he is full of hubris and hypocrisy?

Here are some of the things I’ve been doing since your last newsletter:

IPCC Report on Climate Change

This month, IPCC published their long-awaited reporton the current climate crisis. The report is the starkest reminder yet that the climate crisis is here right now and is the biggest long-term threat we face. It confirms that the extreme weather events of recent months, that have seen devastation across the world and many residents locally suffer from flooding, are only going to become more frequent.  We need urgent action both to drive down emissions in this decisive decade and to adapt to the changes to our climate that are already baked in.

Unfortunately, I do not believe for one second that this Tory government is serious about tackling the climate crisis. We need radical and major change that will impact everything we do from our food, transport, clothes, to the way we heat our homes. The Government’s £4 billion climate crisis budget is not enough to tackle this global issue.

In a recent article for the Telegraph, Allegra Stratton, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson for COP26, suggested that the British public should not rinse their plates before putting them in the dishwasher, replace plastic shower gel bottles with a bar or cardboard packaging; freezing half a loaf of bread rather than throwing the other half away; or walking to the shops instead of driving. These comments are frankly farcical.We need to see global leadership from our government with wide-scale radical policy reform, not dishwashing and household tips. The planet is on fire and we are living in a climate and ecological emergency. If the Government’s best answer is rinsing dishes, we are in serious trouble. A study in 2017 found that 71% of all emissions came from 100 companies alone.

A Labour Government’s Green New Deal would create 400,000 green jobs, with £30bn in planned investment brought forward in manufacturing and low-carbon industries. We’d provide leadership on the international stage to ensure a global effort to tackle the climate and nature crisis and limit global heating to 1.5 degrees.

Flash flooding

The recent flash flooding has been devastating for some residents and businesses locally, and if you’ve been affected and are struggling to access the support you need please do get in touch with my office.

Further afield, I have been heartbroken by the devastating scenes in parts of Germany and other areas in western Europe, with flooding laying waste to towns and villages and taking many lives. As Labour’s shadow Europe Minister, I wrote to the German Ambassador to the UK to formally pass on our condolences. We must see the events in Germany as a wake-up call to climate change, with further freak weather events likely if we do not act now to halt the rise in global temperatures.

Cleaning Up Fashion

As Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ethics & Sustainability in Fashion, I am pleased to have published our Cleaning up Fashion report which you can read here.This report outlines the escalating concerns and issues impacting the supply chain as well as the unsustainable consequences of the overproduction of garments. In the lead up to COP26, it is vital that we ensure a just transition for businesses and employees which will allow the industry to grow and innovate sustainably.

I wanted to end with sharing some recommendations of recent books and podcasts raising these important issues:

Reasons to be Cheerful with Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd– this is a fantastic podcast where Ed and Geoff talk to policymakers, experts, campaigners, and thinkers who are shaping the policies and ideas to tackle the biggest problems facing the world today. This includes some special episodes about COP26 – from its history, the stakes at risk and required climate policy – well worth a listen!

Manchester Green New Deal Podcast– this series focuses on the latest development in Manchester’s and the North’s climate movement

The Guardian’s Today in Focus–  a brilliant episode on the IPPC report and what can be done to prevent further global climate disasters

Climate Justice: A Man-Made Problem with a Feminist Solution, by Mary Robinson – recounts some of the women she has met around the world and their experiences of climate resilience, community, and ingenuity.

A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future, by David Attenborough – discussing his travels and how we can preserve our precious ecosystem for generations to come

The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future, by David Wallace-Wells – for anyone wanting to understand the scientific data around the climate and how exactly it will impact all aspects of our lives

Some of my recent Written Parliamentary Questions

  • To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, what assessment he has made of the effect on the environment of the Prime Minister’s use of a private jet to travel from London to Cornwall on 9 June 2021 ahead of the G7 Summit. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, if he will make an assessment of the compatibility of the proposal for a new coal mine to be built in Cumbria with the UK’s upcoming role as President of the COP26 summit. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, whether he has made an assessment of the environmental impact of the proposal to build a coal mine in Cumbria. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he has taken to reduce the cost of public transport to encourage members of the public to drive and fly less. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if he will make it his policy to introduce a fully funded re-training programme to support people to re-train in new jobs in response to the transition to a green economy. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will make it his policy to increase the number of charging points for electric cars to help meet the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation of 150,000 such points to be introduced by 2025. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will make it his policy to introduce recycling centres specifically designed to recycle materials from electric cars. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what his policy is on introducing grants to members of the public to assist with the (a) purchase and (b) maintenance of electric cars. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, how many people employed by his Department are (a) responsible for and (b) engaged in developing climate change policies for his Department. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with reference to the Government’s recent announcement on the COP26 initiative to protect the world’s forests, what steps he has taken to strengthen measures to protect forests in the UK. Response here
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Tree Preservation Orders; and whether the Government has plans to bring forward additional legislative proposals to improve the protection of trees and woods in urban areas. Responsehere
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, what support his Department is providing to local authorities to support the Government’s net zero target. Response here
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