At a time when Extinction Rebellion, the Youth Strikes, and climate activists around the world are rightly pushing for urgent action to tackle climate change, the Government has just overruled its own Planning Inspectorate and approved four new gas-powered turbines.
In Parliament, I spoke against the Government’s decision, which will undermine our ability to meet crucial climate targets, which you can see here. The inspectorate specifically said that these turbines should be blocked because of their impact on climate change as, just last week, Ofgem confirmed that the rate of decarbonisation in the UK slowed last year, when it needs to be accelerating.
I have campaigned consistently on the environment to push for a ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids, back initiatives to protect biodiversity, press for sustainable food production and supply, promote small businesses in our area, support local campaigns against plastic use, and call on the CEOs of all major supermarkets to cut back on their use of plastic.
The Tories are simply not taking the climate crisis seriously. They have pushed ahead with fracking, removed support for renewables, cut subsidies for green vehicles, and scrapped plans to make homes carbon-neutral.
They have highlighted several nature-based measures to mitigate climate change. They say they are committed to planting 11 million trees by 2022 and increasing woodland cover in England from 10% to 12% by 2060. However, as Rewilding Britain has stated, these efforts are nowhere near enough. Indeed, in the debate on the petition to the Government and Parliament on restoring nature in October 2019, the Environment Minister admitted that the Government’s target for planting trees was a long way from being ambitious enough.
In contrast, Labour has set out a range of ambitious but achievable policies to tackle the climate crisis. In Government, we’ll provide funding to support the switch to electric vehicles, build new wind farms, tackle the scourge of plastic waste, insulate homes, introduce a new Clean Air Act, and invest in public transport. This Green Industrial Revolution will restructure our economy to protect the environment and create hundreds of thousands of high-skilled, unionised green jobs.
As a society we need to do much more to step up to the challenge of the climate crisis. Whereas the Tories are removing support from renewables, Labour is putting bold and credible plans in place to rapidly decarbonise our economy and safeguard the future of our planet.
Under the ‘People’s Power Plan’, Labour will, if in power, deploy clean power at the scale and pace needed to deal with the climate emergency. By 2030, Labour’s new wind farms will produce energy equivalent to 38 coal power stations and provide electricity for 57 million households.
Labour has also announced policies that will help us shift away from cars driven by fossil fuels to electric cars. The next Labour Government will make £3 billion available to invest in new electric car technology and provide funding to help individuals and businesses to replace old polluting vehicles with electric alternatives.
We need projects such as massive re-forestation across the country where around 2.5 billion trees would be planted over the next two decades to boost our biodiversity and capture and store carbon as they grow. This would need to be part of a wider range of progressive changes in land use practices. For example, I also support a review of driven grouse shooting, in light of the evidence of the impact that draining, drying and burning land to prepare it for shooting has on peat moors that would otherwise absorb and capture carbon dioxide. We should also look at our marine environment and the opportunities of planting seagrass and kelp forests, which can sequester 35 times more carbon than equivalent tree planting in the Amazon.
Plastics are also one of today’s biggest environmental challenges. It is predicted that by 2050 our oceans and rivers will contain more plastic than fish. It is heart-breaking to see pictures of the pollution and the maiming and killing of wildlife caused by plastic in our waters. We have to clean up our rivers and oceans but we also have to take action to stop the use of plastic.
If no action is taken, the Centre for International Environmental Law predicts that plastics will contribute to 13% of global carbon emissions. In the UK, we currently recycle around 40% of the plastic packaging we use, however, it is clear that we can go much further. The Government has announced that the Environment Bill with include powers to enable a deposit return scheme for some drinks containers and to enact extended producer responsibility schemes, where producers are required to pay the total cost of disposal for their products. It is disappointing that we will have to wait until 2023 for these schemes and that a 75% recycling rate will not be met before 2030.
More locally, following Sheffield declaring a climate emergency, Labour have made the climate a top priority for the city and have committed to bring forward the carbon neutral target from 2050 to 2030, based on research that is currently being undertaken. I also welcome plans to commission a Citizens Assembly to consider the necessary actions to implement this change. You can read more here.
It was fantastic to see so many people across the country take part in the Youth Climate Strike earlier this month and I was really glad to meet with inspiring young people at the rally in Sheffield.
Through their actions and words, the young people who are leading the strike are ensuring that climate change stays at the top of the political agenda, where it needs to be. The climate crisis is one of the biggest challenges we face and I’m proud that Labour is leading the way in Parliament and in Sheffield.
Words now need to be backed up by radical action, which is why I’ve fought to stop fracking coming to Sheffield and back plans for an ambitious ultralow emissions zone in our city. I’ve also led calls to invest in renewables and to make our transport greener.
Responding quickly and effectively to the climate crisis is a mammoth task that will require determined action from an interventionist Government.
Only Labour have the policies, vision, and political will to meet that challenge.