We must divest from fossil fuels, starting in Parliament
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We must divest from fossil fuels, starting in Parliament

January 17, 2020

Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker, may I
welcome you back and congratulate you on your re-election and an I also
congratulate the the new member for Sheffield Hallam on not just an
extraordinary election result but also a terrific maiden speech – what she said
specifically on the moorlands and the threats to them from man’s actions.
Madam Deputy Speaker almost 15 years ago we were told by Lord Stern and others that
we had to act to address climate change we had to act urgently. Former Vice
President Gore called it right when he said we faced an inconvenient truth, now
not a week goes by when there is not a catastrophe caused by climate change
somewhere across the world. The floods in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, the floods too in Jakarta, Indonesia was caused by storm Idai in Mozambique. And most recently we
have seen the devastation of communities in ecological destruction caused by the
fires in Australia, Alaska and many other parts of the world. The underlying
climate trends are even more alarming. Perhaps most concerning of all was the
report this week published by the in the Periodical of the Advances in
Atmospheric Sciences by a team from Penn State University. It concluded that the
heat in the world’s oceans have reached a new record level in 2019 which
suggests the irrefutable and accelerating heating of the planet. The
world’s oceans are the truest barometer of the climate emergency as they absorb
more than 90 percent of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases caused by human
activity and the analysis reports that the past five years have been the five
warmest years recorded in the ocean and past ten years are also the top ten
years on records but it’s not just academics making the cause for urgent
action back in September the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney put it
simply, he said and I quote, firms that align their business models to the
transition to a net zero world will be rewarded handsomely – those that fail to
adapt will cease to exist. So clearly it is no longer business as usual. Just read
what Larry Fink the chief exec of Blackrock fund management said in his
letter to investors yesterday. Managing 7 trillion of assets he said
the climate risk must be placed at the heart of all investment decisions.
I have to say this is encouraging and I hope he can be trusted.
I was simply asked that he and other fellow fund managers look at the
leadership shown by the Rockefeller Foundation over five years ago and when
they stated they would divest immediately from fossil fuel companies. But Parliament needs to do the same and it needs to act and show leadership with
its own pension fund. What is incontrovertible and irrefutable
is still being challenged by the deniers, that is why policy is so vital and that
is why the world’s first Climate Change Act brought in of course by the Labour
Government in 2008 was so important. It provided a true vision of what could be –
that we could address both the risk of climate change at the same time as
recognising the huge economic opportunity that it presents and that is
why the report from the Independent Committee on Climate Change is so
concerning. It states that the UK is off track to meet both its fourth carbon
budget and its fifth carbon budget of 2028 to 2032 and alarmingly more recent
statistics shows that it’s so off track by an ever-widening margin,
the concern should be ever greater. So when we reflect on the past 15 years the
period since the Stern report we realised just how great
the challenge is and what little time we have, as Craig Bennett the chief executive of the Friends of the Earth has
warned the aim of Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is, and I quote, too
slow to address the catastrophic climate change. Now whilst I accept in
commend so much that the Government may be putting forward, I really am so
worried that it lacks true ambition. The points it puts across about air quality
and setting targets is to be commended, however we need to invest
in measuring those and enforcing to ensure that they are actually adhered to.
But overall the Queen’s speech the Government shows I would say a lack of
true ambition whether it be on energy generation and infrastructure, we look at
the opportunity presented by the Swansea tidal lagoon which where Britain could
really lead and this technology if only the Government was to get behind
it and then as we’ve heard from across the House the opportunity of onshore
wind farms were so many countries have have invested heavily such as in France
and Germany but where we essentially have a virtual ban on it and would see,
or the government would prefer to see fracking. Of course we have seen huge
investment in offshore wind farms and that is to be commended but where the
Labour Party was proposing in its manifesto to
build 37 new offshore wind farms with 51% public ownership there was a
deafening silence from the other side. And in solar of course we have seen
installations fall by 90 percent since 2015. But not just
generation we have to look at how we tackle consumption and of course with
house building there was this wonderful opportunity to build much better homes
standards such as ‘passive house’ being introduced and that is what would have
happened had the Labour
Government been returned in 2010. Building high density homes with low energy consumption ensuring there
was local transport to serve them good public transport provided through
hydrogen or electrification that would meet these high-density
communities that Labour was planning. But just turning to the automotive industry
and something an area that I am so passionate about I do respect and
recognise the work the government has done with the Faraday challenge and the
introduction of the UK battery Industrialisation Centre just outside
Coventry is to be very welcomed and the work being done by Warwick Manufacturing
Group which I have seen for myself is global leading. But the industry needs to
see leadership from Government. It needs to see the framework to encourage
business investment to ensure that we manage a true transition as quickly as
possible from the internal combustion engine to alternative fuel
products and that is so important for companies like Jaguar Land Rover and
Aston Martin in my constituency. But here again the CCC has criticised
and saying that the government has not gone far enough and not fast enough to
address the opportunity here and we talk about how we can make those products
more affordable and they will fall in price in due course but that market
needs to be driven by Government leadership and of course part of that
leadership is about providing the infrastructure and where we see the
paucity and supply and investment in electric vehicle charging points where
just to put it in context in France there were twenty four thousand EV charging points introduced – public charging points
introduced – in the last year and that compares to a UK figure of just six and
a half thousand. That is why we are lagging behind and that is why the consumer is
not being switched to alternative fuel products. And in transport we need to see
more electric buses when we see hydrogen fuel cell technology being encouraged
and you look at cities like Berlin where hydrogen powered buses are so much more
than normal and elsewhere there is a huge opportunity to encourage consumers
to switch to electric bicycles and there are such great products being introduced
across the market. You compare the market uptake here in the UK versus Germany –
last year there was sixty three and a half thousand units electric bikes
bought in the UK compared to almost a million in Germany. How is it we’re
ever going to get consumers to switch unless we put in place the incentives to
encourage consumers to buy them and likewise the infrastructure such as the
Kenilworth to Leamington cycle route which I was campaigning for and pleased
to see the local authority finally support. Madam Deputy Speaker there is
much to be done in this this area and it is all about our ambition and what the
Government chooses to do but addressing the climate emergency is not
an option, it is an urgent necessity and we should be thankful for the students
the young people who’ve been campaigning widely outside our schools and in
our town centres and likewise to organisations such as extinction
rebellion. How on earth can a body a group that is so
peaceful in its actions be considered to be a terrorist organisation when all
they’re trying to do is raise this issue and make sure that the government acts
with the urgency that is demanded by society. And may I suggest that we adopt
the same lexicon as we talked about when we speak of the financial crisis
when we speak of debt and of the deficit we should be talking about environmental
debt and of environmental deficit and at the same time while recognising how much
we are costing the earth we should be setting legally enforceable targets that
all Government policies we hold to full scrutiny and an environmental audit here
by Parliament. And finally may I just say that it is crucial that we lead by
example whether the fleet of vehicles run by Government or whether it be
through our pension fund we have to show that we are serious about addressing the
climate emergency and therefore I believe we must divest from fossil fuels
in the parliamentary pension fund.

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