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Time 'running out' to stop climate change making Earth 'inhospitable', Michael Gove warns

3 min read

Time is "running out" to undo the "catastrophic" damage humans have caused to the planet and halt climate change, Environment Secretary Michael Gove is set to warn.

In what could be his final speech as Environment Secretary, Mr Gove will say that severe weather and undrinkable water - as well as oceans "with more plastic than fish" - await humanity if it fails to improve its stewardship of the planet.

And he will urge fellow Conservatives to heed the message of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that people do not have a "freehold" on Earth.

Speaking at Kew Gardens on Tuesday, Mr Gove will say it is "imperative" that the Government takes action on the environment.

The Cabinet minister will warn: "There is a political need to act - because we cannot leave this planet to the next generation more polluted, more dangerous, denuded of its natural riches and increasingly inhospitable to all life.

"There is an economic need to act - because unless we restore our natural capital then we will have depleted soils incapable of yielding harvests or sustaining livestock, we will have oceans with more plastic than fish, we will have dried up or contaminated water sources and we will have severe weather events endangering lives and livelihoods.

"And there is a moral need to act - because, as Margaret Thatcher reminded us, we do not have a freehold on this planet, it is not ours to dispose of as we wish, we are partners in the great chain of evolution with the rest of nature and endowed as we are with reason we therefore have the responsibility to steward and protect."

And he will say: "Time is running out to make the difference we need; to repair the damage we as a species have done to the planet we have plundered.

"Nature is in retreat - we have seen a catastrophic loss of biodiversity across the globe as a result of man's actions."


The Environment Secretary will point to rising sea levels and ocean temperatures around the world, with the climate already on track to "keep heating up for decades to come".

But he will insist that the UK is already "showing leadership" ahead of a "crucial" round of United Nations-hosted international summits on the issue pencilled in for next year.

Mr Gove will add: "The summits - to agree new deals for our ocean, for nature and for the climate - offer the chance for nations to unite around environmental action. It is an opportunity the world must not miss."

The stark warning from the Environment Secretary - who could be moved from his post under the next Prime Minister - comes after Theresa May passed legislation meaning that the UK is now legally bound to end it's contribution to climate change by 2050.

But the move followed a row with the Treasury, which warned the outgoing PM about its price-tag - while a cross-party group of MPs last week said ministers had "no chance" of hitting the target without action on the Government's "failing" energy efficiency policy.

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