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The climate catastrophe is escalating – action must be rapid, wide-ranging and radical

3 min read

Labour will secure the future of our planet while safeguarding jobs and livelihoods, writes Mary Creagh MP

Fires in the Arctic. Snow in the Sahara. Devastating storms from Mozambique to the Caribbean. This is what climate breakdown looks like.

The 10 hottest years in the UK have all occurred since 2002. July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth yet was followed by flood-inducing downpours in the UK.

More than a million species are at risk of extinction and we are losing wildlife at a rate not seen since the time of dinosaurs.

The causes are well known. Runaway greenhouse gas emissions from our factories, farms, homes and cars have pushed the planet to the brink, and we have just 11 years, scientists warn, to change course.

Earth Overshoot Day, the point at which humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year, happened on 29 July this year. We are well into our ecological overdraft just three-quarters of the way through the year.

The good news is that people are beginning to rise to this challenge. Spearheaded by inspiring activists like Greta Thunberg, a wave of protest has shown that people recognise the dangers our environment faces and are demanding action from their elected representatives.

Action must be rapid, wide-ranging and radical. We will need greener cars, greener diets, greener energy, greener finance and a much greener government.

We need to ban new petrol and diesel car sales much earlier than the Government’s 2040 target and include aviation and shipping emissions in our carbon accounts.

Homes will need to be heated not by gas but by alternatives like hydrogen, heat pumps and district heating systems. The next Labour government will need to reverse this Government’s disastrous 90% cut to home insulation if we are to have more energy efficient homes where fewer people die of the cold.

We also need healthy diets that don’t cost the earth. That means producing and eating less meat and dairy, and more local, seasonal fruit and vegetables. We must invest in the one proven, scalable technology for carbon capture and storage – trees – and at least double our planting rate to 20,000 hectares a year.

Fast fashion and consumer electronics will need to get on board, changing their business model from ‘use-and-throw’ to ‘use-repair-use’, to match the public demand for retailers who put sustainability before profit.

The Government’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 is welcome, but there is no policy work to achieve it. Yet Boris Johnson failed to mention the environment in his first speech as leader. Brexit consumes the Government’s agenda, blocking the progress we need for the UK to get back on track to meet our climate targets and reach net zero.

If the UK is to host the UN’s major climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow next year we will need action not warm words. Reversing the freeze on onshore wind projects, ending taxpayers’ money being used to subsidise fossil fuel projects overseas, and investing in charging infrastructure for low carbon electric vehicles would be a start.

Labour is ready to deliver for people and the planet. We passed the world-leading Climate Change Act in 2008. We called on the Government to declare a climate and environment emergency. We will ban fracking and kickstart a Green New Deal creating 400,000 new jobs in every nation and region of the UK. We will secure the future of our planet while safeguarding jobs and livelihoods.

We will deliver net zero and tackle the climate emergency. And we will leave no one behind. For Labour, social justice and environmental justice have always gone hand in hand.

Mary Creagh is Labour MP for Wakefield and chair of the Environmental Audit Committee

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Read the most recent article written by Mary Creagh - A new approach to funding social enterprises could level up every part of the UK