Welcoming landmark Environment Bill

The UK leads the world on tackling climate change. We have decarbonised faster than any major economy, reducing our emissions by 38% since 1990. Yet we know we need to go further and faster, which is why Parliament supported the world-leading net zero target.

Now the Government must outline a strategy, concrete policies and a road map on how we are going to get there. Climate change and decline of our nature is the most serious threat we face. Unchecked, it will lead to more extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, damage precious natural habitats, and cause sea levels to rise. The response must therefore be similarly comprehensive, and action must be taken across our whole economy.

I am confident that we can do this. Why? Because there is comprehensive concern and support for action. We are an imaginative, creative, innovative nation and have what it takes to rise to this challenge. It’s an opportunity to grow our economy more sustainably. What’s good for nature is good for human health and wellbeing.

Every week I have meetings with people from a wide range of organisations – all fully invested in seeing us succeed in meeting our net zero target. In every meeting, there is agreement on what the challenge is and why we need to take action and the conversation moves onto the how and when they can play their part.

If we are to harness this enthusiasm and expertise, we will first and foremost need to provide more information about the Government’s plans. Not everyone will read the 277-page Committee on Climate Change (CCC) net zero report, or even the 630-page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the impacts of 1.5 degrees of global warming, or the daily announcements on action to reach net zero coming from different government departments.

It’s hard for businesses, public sector organisations or individuals to find impartial, accurate information about how they can make an impact by making changes. In going for net zero, we need to bring people with us, and that means empowering them to make different choices. The Government can provide that information by sharing its data and expertise on, for example, the smartest way to get to work or school, what local British food is in season and sustainably grown, and the suppliers of the cleanest forms of electricity and heating.

This should be provided in one place, where any individual, councillor, business or student can find out all they need to know to reduce their carbon footprint. Information for business and public sector organisations about how to access support to innovate too.

We have world leading universities and tech companies and I would like the Government to set up an Eco Tech Innovation Fund so we can harness this expertise to create user friendly and accessible apps and websites that seamlessly compile impartial and accurate data and explain what people can do and how they can access support.

Businesses also have an important role to play. It has been great to see businesses come forward with their own net zero targets, such as the water industry which has committed to carbon neutrality by 2030. To give hope to the citizens who are so worried about climate change this information should also be captured so people can see what all sectors of our society are doing. To level up the expectation on all businesses to take action, the Government should require goods for sale to include climate impact on their labelling. The requirement could cover items of food, electronic goods, and so on. It would help consumers make smarter choices when shopping and get companies measuring the carbon footprint of individual products. This will add a cost to business and that is why we must create a level playing field by insisting it is provided. We don’t want to see businesses doing the right thing undercut by those that don’t.

Information is power and will enable every workplace and home to make smarter choices. All this activity needs central coordination and I would like the government to introduce a new ‘net zero test’ for every Budget and Spending Review, to ensure all new government spending and investment is aligned with the target or at least isn’t harming decarbonisation efforts. The Government could ask the independent Office for Budgetary Responsibility (OBR) to scrutinise whether the test was being met.

All the businesses I speak with want some clarity and certainty about what the government wants them to do, so they can start pricing in the changes they will need to make. Many see this as an opportunity not only to do the right thing but to innovate and reach new markets. Government departments and their arm’s length bodies should lead by example by making their buildings more energy efficient and switching to low emission transport. This will save money as well as carbon.

The climate change movement fails when it fails to bring people with it. As we saw in France, we have to make it clear why action to tackle climate change matters and ensure people aren’t left behind as we transition to new cleaner industries. It can’t just be about distant international summits with acronyms that few people understand. When the UK hosts the international UN climate summit in Glasgow next year, it must ensure that every sector of society, everyone is involved in the conversation. With an issue as big as climate change, we need everyone’s collective brainpower to find the right solutions and we must have everyone on board if we hope to implement them.

Post Brexit we need a unifying national purpose and I believe this is it. By enabling comprehensive action across the whole of society, with everyone involved, we can now start rebuilding a truly United Kingdom. One we can all be proud of.

First published in the Falmouth Wave November 2019 edition

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Welcoming the new Environment Bill

The case for tackling biodiversity loss, climate change and environmental risks to public health is clear. The accelerating impact of climate change in this country and around the world is of profound public concern, as is the damage to nature with species loss, habitat erosion and the disappearance of cherished wildlife.

The Government has already taken action to address climate change by setting a target to reach net zero emissions, leading the way amongst major economies as the first to do so. This week the Government brought forward the Environment Bill. This is part of the government response to the clear and scientific case, and growing public demand, for a step-change in environmental protection and recovery.

The Environment Bill helps to manage the impact of human activity on the environment, creating a more sustainable and resilient economy, and enhancing well-being and quality of life.  It will engage and empower citizens, local government and businesses to deliver environmental outcomes and create a positive legacy for future generations. The Environment Bill has been prepared through consultations with the public on numerous measures in the Bill, including: environmental governance; the clean air strategy; biodiversity net gain; trees; conservation covenants; extended producer responsibility for packaging; recycling; deposit return schemes and water.

These joined up measures will help us manage the environmental challenges we are facing together. It will transform our environmental governance by creating a new system which is built on international best practice and tailored specifically to a UK context.  The new system will be clear and accessible, providing certainty to businesses and citizens.  The Bill legally obliges policy-makers to have due regard to the environmental principles policy statement when choosing policy options, for example, by considering the policies which cause the least environmental harm. A new statutory cycle of target setting, monitoring, planning and reporting will help deliver significant, long term environmental improvement and ensure government can be held to account for its actions.

Statutory Environmental Improvement Plans (EIPs; the first being the 25 Year Environment Plan) and a new framework for setting long term legally binding targets will be integral to this cycle. We will set new legally binding targets in four priority areas of the natural environment: air quality; waste and resource efficiency; water and nature. The EIPs and legally binding targets will be reviewed on a five-yearly basis and together they will drive action to improve significantly the natural environment and provide much-needed certainty for businesses and stakeholders. In order to strengthen environmental accountability, the Environment Bill will establish a new public body – the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) – as our own independent, domestic watchdog. Through its scrutiny and advice functions, the OEP will monitor progress in improving the natural environment in accordance with the government’s domestic environmental improvement plans and targets. It will be able to provide government with written advice on any proposed changes to environmental law.

First published in the West Briton 16/10/19

Ending domestic abuse

Last week in Parliament I joined the debate on a new Bill that aims to make significant changes in the law and access to services so that preventable suffering and harm caused by domestic abuse and violence ends.

I don’t doubt the collective determination in the House of Commons to stop women and men being killed by their intimate partners or family members.

This Bill starts in the right place. To prevent these deaths and suffering we have to change our culture about relationships. Too many children are growing up in homes (about 1 in 5) where they are witnessing coercive controlling behaviour, abuse and even violence.

This is what love looks like to these children and it’s little wonder that many will go on to be either victims or perpetrators themselves. So ensuring healthy relationships education is given to all children and that many more professionals that come into contact with children are properly trained in domestic abuse and violence, is essential.

So too is access to services to support these children so the cycle can be broken. This will require cross government working and the spending review provides the opportunity for each department to secure the necessary funding to enable this.

In the debate, I highlighted people that I feel are too often ignored when this issue is debated, that is older people and those with disabilities. Age U.K. produced a good report for this debate and it backs up what I have seen in Cornwall. At a recent meeting with the excellent Women’s Centre, we discussed “The 2018 Safer Cornwall Domestic Violence needs assessment update”. It highlighted the underreporting and lack of services for older people and disabled people, living in our remote rural communities.

The report concludes that for people over 81, over half of domestic abuse reported and a fifth of all “violence with injury” offences were committed by the victim’s grown up children. Two of the four homicides committed in the last five years were committed by family members. Clearly more work needs to be done to identify vulnerable adults and support struggling families.

For many years, starting when I was a Director of Age Concern England, I have worked hard to raise the issue of financial and economic abuse of older people by family members and intimate partners. I am delighted that for the first time this type of abuse is included within the legal definition of domestic violence and abuse.

But it’s not just family members committing abuse but trusted, non-paid carers. People who deliberately befriend elderly or vulnerable people so they can abuse them, often economic abuse.

I asked the Home Office Minister to launch a call for evidence to ascertain the prevalence of this abuse and consider including it within the definition of abuse within the Bill. Professional carers are regulated by the Care Quality Commission.

I am grateful for to the many victims and survivors who have worked with me to help bring in this Bill forward.

First published in the West Briton 10/10/19.

Raising the issue of climate change

The UK leads the world on tackling climate change. We have decarbonised faster than any major economy, reducing our emissions by 38% since 1990. Yet we know we need to go further and faster, which is why Parliament supported the world-leading net zero target. Now the Government must outline a strategy, concrete policies and a road map on how we are going to get there.

Climate change and decline of our nature is the most serious threat we face. Unchecked, it will lead to more extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, damage precious natural habitats, and cause sea levels to rise. The impacts could be irreversible. The response must therefore be similarly comprehensive and action must be taken across our whole economy.

I am confident that we can do this. Why? Because there is comprehensive concern and support for action. We are an imaginative, creative, innovative nation and have what it takes to rise to this challenge. It’s an opportunity to grow our economy more sustainably. Every week I have meetings with people from a wide range of organisations fully invested in seeing us succeed in meeting our net zero target.

In every meeting, there is agreement on what the challenge is and the conversation moves onto the how and when they can play their part. If we are to harness this enthusiasm, we will first and foremost need to provide more information.

Not everyone will read the 277 page Committee on Climate Change (CCC) net zero report – or even the 630 page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on the impacts of 1.5 degrees of global warming – or the daily announcements coming from different government departments. It’s hard for businesses or individuals to find accurate information about how they can make an impact by making changes. In going for net zero, we need to bring people with us, and that means empowering them to make different choices.

The Government can provide that information by sharing its data and expertise on, for example, the smartest way to get to work or school, what local British food is in season and sustainably grown, and the suppliers of the cleanest forms of electricity and heating.

This should be provided in one place, where any individual, council, business or student can find out all they need to know to reduce their carbon footprint. Opportunities for business to access support to innovate.

We have world leading universities and tech companies and I would like the Government to set up a Eco Tech Innovation Fund so we can harness this expertise to create user friendly and accessible  apps and websites that seamlessly compile impartial and accurate data and explain what people can do and how they can access support.

Information is power and will enable every work place and home to make smarter choices.

I would like to see a new role created in the Cabinet Office that coordinates all Government policy and plans to reach net zero. Government should lead by example and each department has a role to play from making their buildings more energy efficient to switching to low emission transport.

Businesses also have an important role to play. It has been great to see businesses come forward with their own net zero targets, such as the water industry which has committed to carbon neutrality by 2030.

The climate change movement fails when it fails to bring people with it. As we saw in France, we have to make it clear why action to tackle climate change matters and ensure people aren’t left behind as we transition to new cleaner industries.

It can’t just be about distant international summits with acronyms that few people understand. When the UK hosts the international UN climate summit in Glasgow next year, it must ensure that every sector of society, everyone is involved in the conversation. With an issue as big as climate change, we need everyone’s collective brainpower to find the right solutions and we must have everyone on board if we hope to implement them.

First published in the House magazine 09/10/19.

MP calls for ‘Climate Impact Labelling’ on all goods

As the Extinction Rebellion protest continued across the road, Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton led a debate in Westminster Hall this morning on the government’s 2050 net zero emissions target.

London police have made more than 300 arrests as climate-change protesters, labelled “uncooperative crusties” by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, continued two weeks of civil disobedience to push for more to be done to protect the environment.

On Monday, the Extinction Rebellion group took action in several countries including Britain, Germany, Austria, Australia, France and New Zealand as they lobby politicians to go further in cutting carbon emissions.

The protests are the latest stage in a global campaign for tougher and swifter steps against climate change coordinated by the group, which rose to prominence in April when it snarled traffic in central London for 11 days.

London police said 319 arrests had been made by the end of Monday. Speaking at an event on Monday evening Johnson said: “I am afraid that the security people didn’t want me to come along tonight because they said the road was full of uncooperative crusties,”

The Extinction Rebellion group wants Britain to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025 rather than the government’s 2050 target.

Inside The Palace of Westminster, Newton led a busy debate on how the government plan to get to their own self imposed target.

The Truro MP suggested that to “level up the expectation on all businesses to take action the government should require goods for sale to include climate impact on their labelling – the requirement could cover items of food, electronic goods and so on. It would help consumers make smarter choices when shopping and get companies measuring their carbon footprints of individual products” She admitted it would add a  cost to business so that was why it was crucial to make a level playing field by implementing it on all goods.

“Climate change and the decline of our nature is the most serious threat we face” the Truro MP said. “Unchecked, it will lead to more extreme weather events such as floods and droughts, damage precious natural habitats, and cause sea levels to rise. The impacts could be irreversible. The response must therefore be similarly comprehensive and action must be taken across our whole economy.”

She claimed that ‘there is no doubt’ that the UK leads the world in tackling climate change.

She said “We’ve de-carbonised faster than any other major economy, reducing our emissions by 38% since 1990” she told the gathering of MPs from all sides. “But we all know we need to go further and faster”

Newton said that as the UK has committed itself to the zero net carbon target it needed to set out a road map to get there. She said that as the potential consequences of climate change will be felt across society then the reaction to it now must be made in a similar widespread fashion.

Caroline Lucas intervened at one point to promote the Green Party idea of Citizen’s Assemblies and bringing the net zero target forward but Sarah Newton said the Independent Committee on Climate Change set up by the 2008 Act had set 2050 as a realistic target and said a 2030 target is not deliverable.

Newton said there was an appetite within the general public to do their bit but they needed a one stop shop type information centre to guide them to success.

“The Government can provide that information by sharing its data and expertise on, for example, the smartest way to get to work or school, what local British food is in season and sustainably grown, and the suppliers of the cleanest forms of electricity and heating.This should be provided in one place, where any individual, council, business or student can find out all they need to know to reduce their carbon footprint. Opportunities for business to access support to innovate.We have world leading universities and tech companies and I would like the Government to set up an Eco Tech Innovation Fund so we can harness this expertise to create user friendly and accessible apps and websites that seamlessly compile impartial and accurate data and explain what people can do and how they can access support.”

Newton also said she would like to see a new role created in the Cabinet Office that coordinates all Government policy and plans to reach net zero. “Government should lead by example and each department has a role to play from making their buildings more energy efficient to switching to low emission transport” she said. She also suggest each departmental budget gets analysed for its positive or negative impact on the net zero target by the independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR).

In a lively debate, speakers also included St Ives MP Derek Thomas, Luke Pollard, Tim Farron and Melanie Onn.

Kwasi Kwarteng MP was there for the government as Minister for Energy and Clean Growth. He hinted focus would now be on the COP26 conference in Glasgow next year when the UK government hoped to persuade other countries to join the 2050 target.

First published on Cornish Stuff 08/10/19: https://cornishstuff.com/2019/10/08/mp-calls-for-climate-impact-labelling-on-all-goods/

Welcoming new investment into Cornwall

Our local NHS has been allocated up to £450 million to build a new hospital or to upgrade existing hospitals, or a combination of both. This money is in addition to the £135 million committed to upgrading some wards at Treliske and building a new women’s and children’s hospital there too. 

It is for our local NHS Health and Care service leaders, working together, to decide how best to use this funding and to develop plans to deliver safe and excellent services for local people. Funding is available to them right now to undertake this work. I am asking them to consider carefully how we can use some of this funding to upgrade Falmouth hospital. I think it is vitally important that frail elderly people or those with chronic health conditions that need regular treatment, receive care as close to their home, family and friends as possible. 

I am delighted that the Government has decided that this capital investment will be publicly funded and not through Private Finance Initiatives. The last Labour Government saddled so many public services, including local schools, with years and years of debt and ongoing charges that they have little control over.  

While buildings are important, ensuring that we have well trained and well-paid staff is just as important, so I am pleased that the day to day funding that our local NHS receives is growing each year.  Back in 2010 we did not receive our fair share of funding but now our local NHS receives just over the England average per person funding. 

This week the PM has also confirmed that, after we leave the EU, the funding that Cornwall currently receives via a number of EU funding streams will be replaced ‘like for like’ with the Shared Prosperity Fund.  Following the result of the EU Referendum I was determined to ensure that Cornwall would continue to receive the same level of funding as if we had stayed. This designated funding for Cornwall will be £400 to £600 million over seven to ten years. Cornwall will also be able to access all the other public funding steams. 

Decisions about how it will be spent will be made in the Duchy. I am determined that there is much less bureaucratic process, with more transparency and accountability in the design and implementation of the Shared Prosperity Fund than the legacy funding. 

This is exactly what I have been pressing the government for. All Cornwall’s MPs, along with our Local Enterprise Partnership leaders, will be meeting with the Treasury Minister to work through next steps. 

There has been good progress made in developing our local economy with more high-quality education opportunities and better paid fulltime jobs in sustainable businesses. We need to keep up the momentum that has been created and continue with investment into our infrastructure so that the talents and ambitions of people in Cornwall are unleashed and so that we can become one of the most prosperous regions, not the least, by growing our economy sustainably and inclusively. 

First published in the West Briton 02/10/19

Welcoming another £450 million of investment into the local NHS

There is much good news to share this week. Our local NHS has been allocated up to £450 million to build a new hospital or to upgrade existing hospitals, or a combination of both. This money is in addition to the £135 million committed to upgrading some wards at Treliske and building a new women’s and children’s hospital there too.

It is for our local NHS Health and Care service leaders, working with the local community, to work together and decide how best to use this funding, to deliver safe and excellent services for local people. I will be asking them to carefully consider how we can use some of this funding to upgrade Falmouth hospital. I think it is vitally important that frail elderly people or those with chronic health conditions that need regularly treatment, receive care as close to their home and family and friends as possible.

The PM has also confirmed that after we leave the EU, the funding that Cornwall currently receives via a number of EU funding streams will be replaced ‘like for like’ with the Shared Prosperity Fund. Following the result of the EU Referendum I was determined to ensure that Cornwall would continue to receive the same level of funding as if we had stayed. This designated funding for Cornwall will be £400 to £600 million over seven to ten years. Decisions about how it will be spent will be made in the Duchy. Cornwall will also be able to access all the other public funding steams. This is exactly what I have pressing the government for.

There has been good progress made in developing our local economy with more high-quality education opportunities, better paid full time jobs in sustainable businesses. We need to keep up the momentum that has been created and continue with investment into our infrastructure so that the talents and ambitions of people in Cornwall are unleashed. So we can become one of the most prosperous regions not the least, growing our economy sustainably and inclusively.

While we can all point to local infrastructure such as the Eastern Breakwater in the harbour or to the local railway between Falmouth Docks and Truro, some of the EU investment is not so well known. I am determined that there is much more transparency and accountability in the design and implementation of the Shared Prosperity Fund than the legacy funding.

While Falmouth University has benefitted significantly from EU funding, I would like to see a partnership with Exeter Medical School that enables more medical research to happen here. This will benefit local people and make it easier to attract and retain doctors and other health related professionals in the Duchy. With new NHS funding for hospital facilities and the Shared Prosperity Fund confirmed, investment is available to enable this to happen.

While buildings are important, ensuring we have well trained and well-paid staff is just as vital, so I am pleased that the day to day funding our local NHS receives is growing each year. Back in 2010 we did not receive our fair share but now our local NHS receives just over the England average per person funding.

I have always believed that prevention is better than the cure, so I am delighted with the recent announcements setting out significant ambition and investment to protect and enhance our precious natural environment, leaving it in better condition for the next generation. What’s good for the environment is good for our health and wellbeing. While I very much support Cornwall Council’s Forest for Cornwall, it’s not enough. I don’t want you to have to get into a car to experience woodland. I am pleased that the Government has announced the extension of pocket parks funding. Existing parks that need new play equipment and landscaping such as the Beacon could benefit. Other small pockets of land that could be turned onto a natural space can too. I have written to our local town and parish councils to apply for this funding. Please let me know if I can help you and your community turn a scrap of neglected land into a natural oasis.

First published in the Falmouth Packet 02/10/19