View from the House

1st May 2019

This Friday in the Royal Town I will be meeting my friends at Eco Sutton, Tony Whitehead & John Heywood, which set me thinking about the Extinction Rebellion activists which paralysed Britain’s capital city for well over a week, albeit in a (largely) peaceful manner.

This issue of climate change has never been more topical and today the consequences of global warming are widely recognised as one of the major threats to humanity, to global prosperity, and to all that we hold dear. I know from my post bag how strongly my constituents feel about this issue.

There have been many comments on whether the actions of Extinction Rebellion – whose aim is to bring about change to avert the ‘climate breakdown and ecological collapse that threaten our existence’ – were the most effective way to bring people around to their view.

However, I happen to sympathise. Indeed, during my time as Secretary of State for International Development I oversaw the establishment of a new Government-wide International Climate Fund, which had the aim to support the most vulnerable, encourage green growth and protect the world’s forests – to make a real difference to people’s lives. Between 2011/12 and 2017/18 this fund has supported 47 million people to cope with the effects of climate change, provided 17 million people to improved access to clean energy and reduced or avoided 10.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Extinction Rebellion proposed 3 key steps as a solution to the climate crisis: The Government must reveal the scale of the crisis; the UK must enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025; and form a Citizens' Assembly to oversee the changes that will be needed.

However, with the Government’s ambition to be the greenest Government ever, Extinction Rebellion have overlooked some successful Government policies. The UK has played a leading role in the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Change Act 2008 introduced the long-term emissions reduction target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. And so far, the UK has cut emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds, making us the best performing G7 nation on a per person basis. Added to this the Government has invested more than £52 billion in renewable energy in the UK since 2010 and the historic commitment has been made to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025.

To date, the UK Government has followed the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advice from 2016, that it was too early to set a UK net zero target but believes that this legislation will happen at some point in the future to provide legal certainty on where the UK is heading. Nevertheless, the UK is still set to become the first G7 country to reach net-zero carbon emissions.