2019-04-26 Climate Change

On Wednesday morning I walked across College Green to Parliament. It is the most direct route from my flat, but I haven’t been able to do it since last autumn because the whole area has been filled with the tents and scaffolding where the world’s television cameras have camped out to interview MPs about Brexit. Now all that remains are big brown patches where the grass has been worn through or died from lack of sun. The media circus has moved on. That’s not because Brexit is dealt with, of course – far from it. It’s because it is NOT currently being dealt with that there is so little left to say and so few people who still want to hear it. Whether people want us to leave the EU now without a deal, or want us to remain, or want us to try to get a good deal to leave, almost everyone is united in wanting a resolution, and wanting it now. I cannot see any purpose in dragging things out without any decision until October. It would be a travesty if after more than 3 years we still can’t achieve a decision, one way or the other.

But, along with the absence of Brexit pundits, there was an almost total absence of Brexit from Parliament itself this week. The Prime Minister was not to be seen. Back-bench Conservatives have spent more time talking about the future of their party than the future of the country. There were no votes on anything the entire 3 days. This really is a government that has completely run out of energy and ideas.

What we did do was to focus – throughout Tuesday and for much of Wednesday – on Climate Change. And of course, when future generations look back on this time and on what political decisions were taken, they will have very little interest in Brexit. What they will be acutely aware of, because it will affect them more than it affects us, is whether we actually did anything to stop Climate Change in the very brief time left to us before it was too late.

I felt honoured, along with other MPs, officials and specially invited young people who managed to squeeze into the room, to hear Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl who has mobilised young people around the world. She is remarkably well-informed and clear in what she says. Her message is fairly simple – it is no longer any good to say the right things, we have got to do them, and we have got to do them now.

Politicians’ tools are words, but a Government can translate those words into laws and regulations which actually make things happen. A governing party must be judged by what it achieves, not by what it says. When the governing party says it cares about Climate Change, but then pulls the rug out from under council plans to put solar panels on council house roofs by changing the tariffs; when it talks about waste and recycling but then refuses to support food waste collection in Ipswich; when it boasts about the reduction in coal being burnt but then continues to support fracking – then Greta Thunberg and other protesters are right to be angry.

It is natural to blame politicians for not dealing with these big issues, but we care about your views. If you want our planet to continue to be a beautiful home for myriads of different creatures – including us – then contact your MP and tell them so. Demand that they show their support for better buildings, more reliable public transport, more effective recycling, and more investment in renewable energy. Talk to your friends and relatives. There are still far too many people who think we can continue to consume the Earth’s resources without any future consequences. Most younger people do get it – after all, it is they who will have to live with those consequences. So my message to younger readers is “Talk to your Gran and Grandad, your Uncles and Aunts, make sure they understand that if we don’t all take better care of our World it is you and their other children who will suffer.”

The point is, that if we act now, decisively, we can still turn things around without having to live like hermits. If we bury our heads in the sand and continue as we are, the creature comforts we take for granted now will be of very little comfort when the droughts come and the crops fail.

Declaring an Environment and Climate Emergency with Rebecca Long-Bailey
Labour declaring an environment and climate emergency