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.