Spearheading action to reduce climate change

Last week, policymakers and climate experts from around the world gathered in Katowice, Poland, for pivotal talks on ambitious global action. 

In October, world leading scientists delivered a stark warning of the potentially devastating impacts of climate change on our health, prosperity and energy security. 

We are in this together, which is why the UK spearheaded action in Poland to establish a ‘rulebook’ for curbing climate change. 

This rulebook creates a level playing field for every country to play their part. Greater transparency will ensure scrutiny of progress toward targets and increase sharing of best practice. We must spread collective action using our combined wealth of knowledge to find the most effective and innovative ways of tackling climate change. 

The UK has a solid track record, since 1990 we have cut emissions by more than 40%, while growing our economy by more than two-thirds. During our first-ever Green GB Week, more than 30 UK-based businesses committed significant action to tackle climate change, from investing hundreds of millions in new solar panels to converting fleets of trucks to biofuels.  

But it’s not all about economics. There is a moral imperative too, as the effects of climate change already dominate our lives. It will be the poorest and most vulnerable people who will inevitably feel the effects hardest. 

That is why three years ago, the UK and other developed countries committed to mobilising $100 billion a year by 2020 to help these countries cope with the increasing risk of droughts and floods and provide access to clean energy. We know that every pound spent reducing CO2 today pays for itself between five and 20 times over in offsetting climate impacts. 

UK climate finance has, to date, supported 47 million people across the globe cope with the effects of climate change and provided 17 million people with improved access to clean energy.  

Investing this money overseas keeps us secure too. In the UK’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, climate change was recognised as leading to and exacerbating instability overseas through crop failure, droughts and climate-change related migration.  

I am often asked – does leaving the EU mean the UK will row back on its ambitious climate action? Let me say it once again: absolutely not. 

The UK has always been ahead of the curve in setting climate ambition, and this year marks the 10th anniversary of the UK’s landmark domestic Climate Change Act passing into law with near-unanimous cross-party support, setting an ambitious legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. 

Our ambition will not be hindered by leaving the EU. In fact, when the Government asked the independent Committee on Climate Change for advice on setting a net zero target in response to the October report, we were the first major developed country to take such action. 

Last week’s global agreements were a hopeful end to the Parliamentary year. Wishing you a very happy Christmas. 

First published in the West Briton 20/12/18

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Celebrating our renewable energy achievements

The glorious weather of this year’s summer seems a distant memory as we wrap ourselves up against the chilly winter weather. The changes we are seeing in our weather are a poignant reminder of how our climate is changing. 

Storms of a different nature have been in the news recently as we remember the global financial crisis.  2008 will be looked back on with interest for many years to come. Not only was Barack Obama elected as the first black USA President and China hosted the Beijing Olympic Games but something remarkable also happened in our Parliament. 

The UK’s landmark domestic Climate Change Act passed into law with near unanimous cross-party support, setting an ambitious legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050. A radical political consensus on climate action was achieved, and has been preserved ever since. 

A recent report from the London School of Economics presents a clear case that this ground-breaking act has been instrumental in advancing climate action globally over the past decade – and has provided a framework through which the UK has led the world in reducing emissions, while continuing to strengthen our economy. 

But we must never be complacent. The case for climate action is unequivocal and we must continue not only to drive emissions reduction at home, but overseas too. 

As a key part of our Industrial Strategy, we are investing more than £2.5bn to support low carbon innovation through our Clean Growth Strategy ensuring that the UK continues to lead the way in cutting emissions while creating well paid jobs. 

Our low carbon sector now supports almost 400,000 jobs across the country, and the sector is still growing. These businesses include Kensa, the UK’s most popular ground source heat pumps brand, and Carley’s Organic, which produces chutneys, mustards and pickles in a dedicated organic eco-factory. I am proud that both businesses are based in my constituency. 

By 2030, the UK’s clean economy has the potential to support up to two million jobs whilst generating £170bn of annual exports. 

Creating electricity from the hots rocks beneath Cornwall is something I have been supporting for a long time and I am excited that the first commercial drilling is due to take place in United Downs this autumn. This innovation could contribute significant amounts of carbon free energy and more well paid jobs. 

Cornwall already hosts a wealth of renewable energy resources including wind, solar, geothermal and marine.  Cornwall now contributes more than 768 MW of sustainable energy generation to the UK energy mix, with approximately 25 per cent in local ownership, including 8 MW of Council-owned solar panels and more than 1MW owned by community groups supported by England’s first community energy revolving fund with £2.5 million council funds. 

There are 200 community groups around the country already generating their own energy to the benefit of the local community. A great example in Truro & Falmouth is Transition Ladock and Grampound Road which was awarded £500,000 to install low carbon technologies in the community. 

The power sector too has been truly transformed in the last 10 years thanks to the direction of travel established in the Climate Change Act.  Five years ago, dirty coal accounted for 40 per cent of our electricity, now this figure stands at 7 per cent, and through our Powering Past Coal Alliance will be eliminated altogether. 

In the place of coal an unprecedented level of investment in renewables means that we now have the biggest installed offshore wind capacity in the world. Indeed, official statistics show that 2017 was a record-breaking year for renewables – with over 50 per cent of electricity produced from low carbon sources – an impressive 29 per cent coming from renewables. 

Between 1990 and 2017, the UK reduced its emissions by more than 40 per cent while growing the economy by more than two thirds – the best performance in the G7 on a per person basis proving that economies can be grown in a clean, green way. 

Long term government planning is the key to our ongoing success. Too often, governments are constrained by spending targets or the threat of upcoming general elections, and it was precisely this short termism which the Climate Change Act overcomes. 

Business, community and public bodies all have a role to play but so does each and every one of us. Small changes in our daily routine can add up to significant benefits for our environment. Climate Vision, a local organisation, has produced ten pledges – actions we can all make to our lifestyles to reduce our environmental impact. 

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently published a special report that assessed the impacts of 1.5°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels and related emissions pathways, following the higher level of ambition set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Government has asked the UK Committee on Climate Change to provide new advice on how soon we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero. 

The Latin “conservare” means to preserve, and, as a Conservative, I am working hard to leave our environment in better shape than we found it. This is a huge challenge requiring us all to play our part and take collective action but I am confident we can meet this challenge head on and deliver. It only will be benefit but future generations too. 

First published in the Falmouth Wave November edition. Similar article published in the West Britain 18/10/18

Supporting our great Cornish food and drink industry

I’ve enjoyed welcoming friends and family to stay over the summer, particularly sharing the gorgeous food and drink made in Cornwall. Of course, our local seafood is second to none and it’s great to see Harbour Lights nominated for another prestigious award.  

I personally appreciate everything farmers do to feed us, keep our soils rich, our rivers clean, to provide habitats for wildlife and to help in the fight against climate change and broader environmental degradation. And I want to see farmers better rewarded for these vital public services. 

I know that farmers would not be in a position to provide these public goods, indeed we would not have the countryside we all cherish, without successful, productive, profitable farm businesses. 

More than that, without successful farm businesses and high-quality food production we won’t be able in the future to maintain the balance and health of our whole society and economy.  

Our community depends on profitable agricultural businesses to thrive. While our coastline draws tourists from far and wide, so do our landscapes that depend on farmers for their maintenance and upkeep. Our hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and pubs depend on high quality local produce and a healthy local food economy to be at their best. 

That’s why I have been spending time listening to our local food producers as the Government consults on the future, outside of the EU, of the Common Agricultural Payments Scheme. I believe that if we get policy right for those who produce our food we can ensure sustainable and balanced growth across the United Kingdom, we can ensure the investment is there in the future, not just to make the countryside and the country as a whole flourish. We can enhance our environment, provide rewarding employment for future generations, improve the physical health and well-being of the population and leave the environment in a better state for our children and grandchildren.  

In the past, the concerns of farmers and food producers were given insufficient weight in the design and implementation of UK Government policy. 

This was defended by some on the basis that the major policy decisions governing farming and food production were taken at European levels through the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Since UK ministers and civil servants had little room to shape, let alone, reform the CAP’s operation there was, it was argued, little justification for expending energy thinking hard about food policy. 

This failure was all the more lamentable because the food and drink industry is Britain’s biggest manufacturing sector. It’s also Britain’s fastest-growing, with our export growth over the last few months having been driven by massive increases in food and drink sales. 

So we can now have, a strategy that is designed to integrate the concerns of everyone involved in food and drink production – from farm to fork – to develop the right policies for the future. That food strategy is at the heart of the broader Industrial Strategy.  

The Food and Drink Sector Council is an industry-led board composed of businesses from every part of the food chain. From primary producers to retailers. Among the Council’s priorities are sustainability, productivity, nutrition, exports, workforce and skills, innovation, logistics and packaging. 

Drawing on the real world experience the people on the Council will be working closely with Government in shaping future policy. Along with the Government’s 25-year plan for the environment, I believe that we have a real opportunity to grow more of our own food and leave the environment in better shape for future generations. 

First published in the West Briton 30/08/18 and Falmouth Packet 05/09/18

Working to reduce plastic pollution and provide security for tenants

Thank you to everyone who responded to the recent government consultation exploring how changes to the tax system, or charges, could be used to reduce the amount of single-use plastics we waste by reducing unnecessary production, increasing re-use, and improving recycling.

Last week, I met with the Treasury Minister responsible for this important policy area to discuss ideas developed with local people. I was assured that the government will consider all options for using the tax system to address single-use plastic waste and to drive innovation, and will use the evidence gathered to inform that process. The government wants to look broadly across the whole supply chain, from production and retail to consumption and disposal, in order to gain the best possible understanding before deciding on the best course of action.

Since being elected I have worked with Surfers Against Sewage on their campaign to prevent plastic entering our precious natural environment, especially the sea. In Parliament I support their work and am pleased that we introduced the 5p single-use plastic bag tax that has seen a dramatic reduction in their use. The use of microbeads in everyday products has been banned too. Thanks to many local initiatives to reduce single use plastic, particularly the work in schools with young people, positive change is happening.

Last week I was also delighted to welcome new moves to enable people to have longer and more secure tenancies. The Secretary of State for Communities proposed the introduction of a minimum 3-year tenancy term, with a 6-month break clause, to help renters put down roots, and give landlords longer term financial security.  According to government data, people stay in their rented homes for an average of nearly 4 years. But despite this, 81% of rental contracts are assured shorthold tenancies with a minimum fixed term of just 6 or 12 months.

Local people tell me that this can leave them feeling insecure, unable to challenge poor property standards for fear of tenancies being terminated, and unable to plan for their future or contribute to their wider community. Although tenants and landlords can already agree longer terms between themselves, the majority choose not to do so. Under the proposed longer term agreement, tenants would be able to leave before the end of the minimum term, but would have greater protection if they wanted to stay in a property for an extended period of time.  Being able to call your rental property your home is vital to putting down roots and building stronger communities.  Landlords play a vital role in providing homes to many local people and the proposals ensure that longer tenancies help them avoid costly periods while they search for new tenants and offers them flexibility to regain their properties when their circumstances change.  The government understands that some landlords worry about the time it can take to gain possession of their property in the courts. The consultation runs until 26 August 2018.

First published in the West Briton 12/07/18

Protecting our Natural Pollinators

We all have an important role to play in supporting pollinators. It is only through the actions of everyone that we can help pollinators thrive across our countryside and urban environment. Through these actions we can help ensure that this generation will be the first to leave the environment in a better place than we found it.

We are developing an ambitious 25 year plan for the environment. This will provide the long-term direction for protecting and enhancing our environment in an integrated way. Providing support to the 1500 species of insect pollinators plays an essential role in helping our environment and contributing to food production. I want to ensure that we produce more food locally and support our farmers to do so.

We have come a long way over the last two years since the National Pollinator Strategy was first launched. Rebuilding the strength of our pollinators is a subject close to my heart. Since my childhood in Cornwall, I have been fascinated by bees and insects and was training as a beekeeper until I was elected as your local MP. I used my position in Parliament to work with colleagues, Buglife and Friends of the Earth to successfully campaign for the National Pollinator Strategy. The strategy is all about partnership working. Much progress has been made in implementing the comprehensive strategy but more needs to be done.

Cornwall Council is a large land owner and has huge influence over our natural environment through its planning policies and stewardship of public amenities such as road sides. Government Ministries, like Defence, have significant land holdings in Cornwall too. In addition to farmers, many local people are keen gardeners and local schools are doing excellent work from creating gardens to growing vegetables. Parish Councils are increasingly responsible for local parks and gardens. Each public body, farmer or gardener has a role to play in growing year round flowering plants that create the food for our pollinators. I am delighted that both Truro City and Falmouth town councils will be working with UrbanBuzz to enable more habitat creation for pollinators.

We continue to support pollinators in an international arena. In particular welcoming the recent (UN led) IPBES assessment on pollinators and will continue to highlight the best practice action taken by the UK; encouraging others to follow our lead. At the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP13) in Cancun, Mexico, December 2016, 13 countries signed a declaration indicating their willingness to take action nationally and internationally on pollinators. The signatories are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Peru, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Of these, the UK and France already have National Pollinator Strategies through which many actions are promoted and encouraged that will improve conditions for wild and managed pollinators in farmed and urban areas. The other 11 countries are interested or actively developing national pollinator strategies. This declaration will help them learn from each other and shape the strategies.

First published in the Wave Magazine July edition

Protecting our Pollinators

We all have an important role to play in supporting pollinators. It is only through the actions of everyone that we can help pollinators thrive across our countryside and urban environment. Through these actions we can help ensure that this generation will be the first to leave the environment in a better place than we found it.

We are developing an ambitious 25 year plan for the environment. This will provide the long-term direction for protecting and enhancing our environment in an integrated way. Providing support to the 1500 species of insect pollinators plays an essential role in helping our environment and contributing to food production. I want to ensure that we produce more food locally and support our farmers to do so. Pollinators play an essential role in ensuring we have a wide range of food to eat. Very little of what we eat has not involved a pollinator.

We have come a long way over the last two years since the National Pollinator Strategy was first launched. Rebuilding the strength of our pollinators is a subject close to my heart. Since my childhood just outside Falmouth, I have been fascinated by bees, butterflies, moths and insects and was training as a beekeeper until I was elected as your local MP. I used my position in Parliament to work with colleagues, Buglife and Friends of the Earth to campaign successfully for the National Pollinator Strategy. The strategy is all about partnership working. Much progress has been made in implementing the comprehensive strategy but more needs to be done.

Cornwall Council is a large land owner and has huge influence over our natural environment through its planning policies and stewardship of public amenities such as road sides. Government Departments, like the Ministry of Defence, have significant land holdings in Cornwall too. In addition to farmers, many local people are keen gardeners and local schools are doing excellent work from creating gardens to growing vegetables. Falmouth town and local parish councils are increasingly responsible for our local parks and gardens. Each public body, farmer or gardener has a role to play in growing year round flowering plants that create the food for our pollinators. I am delighted that Falmouth town council will be working with UrbanBuzz to enable more habitat creation for pollinators.

The UK continues to lead support for pollinators in the international arena, in particular, welcoming the recent UN led IPBES assessment on pollinators. At the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP13) in Cancun, Mexico, December 2016, 13 countries signed a declaration indicating their willingness to take action nationally and internationally on pollinators. The signatories are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Peru, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Uruguay. Of these, only the UK and France already have National Pollinator Strategies but 11 countries are interested or actively developing national pollinator strategies. It’s essential that we work together and learn from each other, thinking globally and acting locally.

First published in the Falmouth Wave on 30/06/18.

Reducing Plastic Pollution

Ministers announced new funding for scientists at the University of Plymouth which will use it to research how particles from tyres, polyester clothing and fishing gear enter the oceans and affect marine life.

The project comes after the Government introduced a ban on miniature plastic beads or ‘microbeads’ in the manufacture of wash-off cosmetic and personal care products where the plastics can be washed down the drain. There are many other sources of small plastic particles – found in places as remote as the Arctic sea ice – including from car tyre friction on roads or through fibres from synthetic clothes released during washing. The 11-month project will build on research already under way, with scientists estimating that tyres contribute 270,000 tonnes of plastics per year while a single wash load of acrylic clothing could release more than 700,000 microfibres into the ocean.

I know that many of my constituents share my view that the impact of plastic pollution on our oceans is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our generation.  I am grateful to Surfers Against Sewage, based in St Agnes, who I have been working with for some time. They keep me updated on the latest research so that I can effectively lobby for change in Government policy. The UK is already leading the way in this area, but we want to go further – and faster. Robust scientific evidence should support our policy proposals, and through this exciting project we will build on work under way to understand better how microplastics end up in the marine environment and what we can do to tackle this in the future.

The project is being led by Professor Richard Thompson, who said: ‘The types of microplastics entering the marine environment are incredibly diverse, but recent estimates in Norway and Sweden have suggested that particles of tyre and debris from the road surface could be a substantial source. With very limited real data available to confirm the impact from these sources, there is a genuine and pressing need to establish the true scale of this issue. By combining this with an assessment of the quantities of microplastic from synthetic textiles, we can develop a more complete picture on the relative importance of various sources. We will be able to use our findings to work with the Government, scientists and industry to try to prevent these particles entering the marine environment in the future.’

It is vital that we all play our part in reducing the chances of plastic getting into our marine environment by decreasing our use of single use plastic and disposing of it carefully if we do.  It is great to see so many people, scientists, industry, businesses and organisations working together to tackle this problem and to see so many local ‘plastic free’ initiatives as well as beach cleans.  It’s difficult to kick the plastic habit but each of us doing something will add up to a big difference.

First published in the West Briton 10/05/18