When the UK became the first Parliament in the world to declare “an environment and climate emergency” last month, I felt a glimmer of hope that the urgency of the situation is finally getting through.
It has certainly seemed in recent months like a ripple has turned into a wave. Sir David Attenborough’s powerful documentary warning of “irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies”, Extinction Rebellion’s peaceful disruption in central London and Greta Thunberg’s #ClimateStrike that started with one girl standing outside the Swedish Parliament demanding action and spread across the world. When I met some of the young people from Hornsey & Wood Green who’d joined the #ClimateStrike protests, they inspired me with their passion for change and frustration at our generation’s failure to protect the next generation’s future.
There’s a lot already happening locally. Haringey Council recently declared its own climate emergency and has committed to working towards making Haringey carbon neutral by 2030. It’s an ambitious target but it needs to be if we’re to limit global temperature rises to less than 1.5 degrees.
Local residents are doing their bit too. I took part in an excellent public meeting on “Haringey in a time of climate emergency” which explored what residents can do to defend our environment and joined local campaigners in Muswell Hill calling on HSBC to stop funding fossil fuels. I’m a strong supporter of Crouch End’s thriving “plastic free community”, working to reduce plastic use and eliminate the avoidable single-use plastics that cause so much harm. It’s one of over 400 across the UK and I’ve tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling on the Government to support the creation of even more.
But this Government now needs to step up and lead by example. I’m concerned that the vast majority of Conservatives abstained rather than actively support Labour’s call to declare a climate emergency and their record in office has seen a worrying fall in green investment and a lack of backing for renewable energy sources from onshore wind to the solar industry.
That we face a climate and environmental emergency is undeniable. Parliament’s declaration can’t be just words, it needs to kickstart a green industrial revolution that propels us towards a zero-carbon future. For starters I’d like to see a seven-fold increase in offshore wind, a doubling of onshore wind and a near tripling of solar power, to enable us to power 19.5 million homes and generate over 400,000 jobs. I also believe we should make all new homes zero-carbon and decarbonise our transport system. It’s the most emitting sector of the UK economy, something I highlighted in the recent Parliamentary debate, but progress has been shamefully slow.
I had the honour of listening to Greta Thunberg when she visited Parliament recently. As she wisely said, we can no longer shirk responsibility, we must follow the science – and we must do it now. If we don’t, this “ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind.”
Catherine West MP
Labour MP for Hornsey & Wood Green