If Boris Johnson had real vision, he could use his majority to carve out a climate legacy
We must work together to transform our way of life by embracing a greener economy, dramatically curbing carbon emissions, investing in renewable energies and improving public transport, writes Wera Hobhouse MP.
The fires raging in Australia are a stark reminder of the consequences of the climate emergency. A billion animals are dead. Thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes. These consequences are being felt across the country: in Melbourne the Australian Open is in chaos as competitors find themselves unable to play as a result of the polluted air.
It is easy to pretend that here in the UK we won’t be impacted by extreme weather, but this is simply not true. Just this week we’ve seen the arrival of Storm Brendan. And this follows hot the on the heels of floods, that devastated thousands of homes over the Christmas period.
This crisis is unfolding before our eyes, and we must do all we can to ensure that scenes like this do not become our new ‘normal’.
As the impact of climate change is increasingly being felt both here and further afield, it’s only right that MPs will today debate this issue. Those of us on the opposition benches have a responsibility to be crystal clear in our message: we cannot tolerate further delay when it comes to the climate emergency.
It is infuriating that we are in the hands of a government that is so unambitious when it comes to protecting our planet for future generations. If countries like Norway and Finland are looking to achieve net zero by 2035, why isn’t the UK also rising to this challenge? We may not be as close to this goal as Finland and Norway, but the Liberal Democrats have a clear and realistic plan to achieve net zero by 2045 – and this current government should be at least matching our ambition.
The Tories have won the last election and have earned themselves a majority in the House of Commons. If Boris Johnson had real vision, he could use this majority to carve out a climate legacy.
We could be working together to transform our way of life by embracing a greener economy, dramatically curbing carbon emissions, investing in renewable energies and improving public transport. This would get cars off the road and reduce the need for internal flights, even more important given that Johnson’s government is considering cutting airline tax, giving high polluting airlines a tax break.
All of these actions would be huge steps forward when it comes to future-proofing our planet. They would be welcomed by people on all sides of the political divides which define our country today.
Despite Johnson’s pursuit of a destructive Brexit, we must continue to be bold in working with other nations to tackle issues like the climate emergency. As a G7 nation, the UK can play a leading role in protecting our planet for future generations. By doing our bit, we will not only reduce global carbon emissions, helping to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, but we also will be leading by example - demonstrating the huge potential of a green economic revolution. As the host nation for COP26, we have an opportunity to bring real change, and it’s an opportunity that Johnson’s government should be grasping with both hands.
Sadly, it looks like Boris Johnson is determined to go the other way, cosying up to climate-change deniers, like President Trump, and stripping out commitments to maintain European minimum environmental standards from the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
As Liberal Democrat spokesperson for the Climate Emergency and the Environment, my absolute priority is to call out these failings – challenging Johnson’s Government to do better. And I have no doubt that it will be the voices calling for real change that will win through in the end.
We must be resolute: radical measures are required to ensure the climate emergency doesn’t get even worse. The world needs climate action now. This is no longer about the future. It’s about the present.
Wera Hobhouse is a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Bath and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Environment and Climate Change.