Last week, I was proud to stand with local students and pupils at the Youth Strike for Climate rally in Sheffield. I spoke about the Tories’ abysmal record on climate change over the last ten years, which has seen them push ahead with fracking, remove support for renewables, cut subsidies for green vehicles, and scrap plans to make homes carbon-neutral.
The Tories’ lack of seriousness on environmental issues has again been highlighted by their shambolic handling of the COP 26 global climate change conference. The former head of the summit, Claire O’Neill, revealed that Boris Johnson admitted he “doesn’t get” climate change and she rightly criticised the Prime Minister for a “huge lack of leadership and engagement” over the UK’s hosting of the COP 26.
After sacking Claire O’Neill, Johnson took the shocking decision to appoint Alok Sharma as her replacement. Sharma has generally voted against measures to prevent climate change and received a donation of £15,000 from Offshore Group Newcastle, which makes platforms for oil, gas and wind energy companies.
The Tories have also faced legal challenge after legal challenge for their failure to get to grips with the problem of air pollution. Air quality in the UK is national scandal, affecting millions of people all across the country.
Due to government inaction on this issue, asthma deaths in England and Wales have risen by a quarter over the last decade and, in Sheffield, poor air quality causes 500 people to die prematurely each year. In 71% of UK towns and cities, children are breathing unsafe levels of air pollution that can leave them with lasting health problems.
The inspirational young people who are taking part in the Youth Strike are right to demand that the government takes action now on these issues, and I was particularly struck by the words of a local school pupil, Molly.
For too long climate change has been viewed as tomorrow’s problem – an issue that will affect future generations. But, as Molly told the crowd, children across the world are already being forced to flee their homes as climate change brings fires, floods, and other natural disasters to their doors.
Because of Extinction Rebellion, the Youth Strike, and other campaigners, people are waking up to the fact that we’re living through a climate crisis. It now falls on those in power to take the action required to safeguard the future of our planet.