Chi Onwurah MP: Talking about climate change isn’t enough, we need real action
Government must take real action on tackling climate change, rather than just talking about it, Shadow Industrial Strategy Minister Chi Onwurah has said.
Speaking at the Institution for Engineering and Technology’s fringe event at Labour Party Conference, the shadow minister stressed the role of the sector in addressing “the existential challenge that was created by the first industrial revolution.”
Chi Onwurah MP, who is also a fellow at the IET, said: “Climate change activists have done an amazing job of getting it to the top of the political agenda. Talking about it isn’t enough, we need real action”.
“Last year when Rebecca Long-Bailey announced net zero economy target, she was laughed at – thought of as not something on the agenda - thought to be unrealistic”.
Her comments came after Labour delegates backed a motion to set a fixed date of 2030 to achieve net zero, a move which she described as “really exciting”.
“Our industrial strategy is mission based.
“What better mission is there than to deliver a sustainable planet, a sustainable economy?”.
But Matthew Knight, Head of Business Development, Siemens plc and Member, IET Energy Panel, said he was cautious about setting hard targets.
“It’s great that conference adopted at 2030 target today, personally I think that is in the realms of fantasy, but it is good to have a stretch target,” he said.
“We have to decarbonise as fast as we can – starting now and starting big. As engineers we can bring the technology, but we need the finance.
“The point of decarbonisation is that all the numbers are big, giga-scale.”
He added: “We need to do things at the billions of scale. As an engineer, it takes time to get to billions.
“Engineering is a numerate discipline. We need strong political ambition. We need strong political courage.”
Meanwhile, Margaret Wood MBE, Founder and Chair of the ICW UK and a member of the IET Manufacturing Panel, also stressed the importance of increased funding for investment in research and development.
She said: “We have got to encourage government to spend more on R&D and solve some of these issues as we go forward. It’s not going to happen overnight.”
But the panel also called for more action to be taken to improve diversity in the sector, with Mr Knight saying the situation was a “scandal”.
Chi Onwurah MP said we have to “move to a world where we don’t gender stereotype”.
It is an issue that IET have produced work on, with Public Affairs Manager Robert Beahan outlining their attempt to “change perceptions” about the gendered nature of toys and how it impacts future diversity in the industry.
He also spoke of the IET’s Young Woman Engineer of the Year Award, that has been going for forty years.
“These young girls then go into schools, we need to do a lot more of that.”