My focus would not just be on problems, but on solutions
I want the Environmental Audit Committee to push the agenda for action on climate change, writes Philip Dunne MP
We face a pressing climate emergency. The public quite rightly expects the Government to address the challenges we face right now. This is a huge agenda and one of the defining policy areas of this Parliament.
Measures to reduce consumption of fossil fuels, to cut emissions, and protect the natural world will impact on how we live our lives – how we travel (public and private transport); how we live and work in buildings (heat and energy use); how much and what we consume (food, clothing, consumer and industrial goods); and how we use our land and oceans (sustainable farming, fishing and forestation).
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) scrutinises performance against this whole agenda, since it looks across government, rather than shadowing an individual department, and beyond to the environmental impact of public and private sectors.
“Aside from our previous chair, I have the best attendance record on the committee since joining”
This is why I am standing for chair of the EAC. I profoundly believe we have an obligation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
My interest stems from representing the Ludlow constituency since 2005, unarguably one of the most beautiful in England, comprising 600 square miles of farmland and forestry, half in the Shropshire Hills AONB.
I am species champion in Parliament for the rare wood white butterfly. My constituency hosts one of England’s last breeding grounds for freshwater pearl mussels, and one of few southern breeding sites for curlew. Last year I helped successfully fend off a large development of part of the Mortimer Forest near Ludlow. Shropshire is one of the three leading English counties generating renewable energy. I helped deliver a community hydro-electric generation scheme in Ludlow.
I joined the EAC as a member two years ago, my first act on ceasing to be a minister (in defence and then health). Aside from Mary Creagh – who was an excellent chair in the last Parliament – I have the best attendance record on the committee since joining.
I have sought to shine a light on issues profoundly impacting our environment, but not so visible to the public. I also led the EAC investigation into hand car washes, which pollute watercourses, and revealed modern slavery in our midst.
I raised adaptation for climate change through better NHS preparedness for heatwaves, more transparency to encourage green finance and greening of UK export finance, in improving biodiversity, air, water and soil quality.
The coming task is significant. I would work collaboratively with colleagues to encourage individual interests of members. A focus would not just be on problems, but also on solutions – seeing how British innovators in the technologies of tomorrow can build on existing UK world-leading strengths in finance, green energy and engineering.
We have a huge opportunity to showcase our international leadership at COP26 in Glasgow in November. I hope the EAC can push the agenda for the Government, local authorities, and local communities to lead the way internationally to commit to action on climate change and help the UK become one of the first countries to reach net-zero emissions.
Philip Dunne is Conservative MP for Ludlow