The warning lights are on red – we ignore climate change at our peril
Climate change is an immediate and present problem – not a long-term one that can be kicked down the road until we have time to deal with it, writes Darren Jones
On 8 October, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) launched its latest evidenced-based report. The headline was shocking: we have 12 years left to save the planet as we know it.
It sounds like the stuff of Hollywood. But it’s not. It’s real. And it’s happening faster than we originally thought.
As a concerned Member of Parliament, I kept an eye out for a ministerial statement or a debate in the House of Commons on the findings of the report. Our Parliament is supposed to be at the centre of the national and international conversation, so we were bound to have a debate, I thought.
Remarkably, the Government didn’t table any time at all to discuss the IPCC report. There was no written statement on what it thought about it, what we were doing about it and – increasingly importantly – how we were using British diplomatic power to persuade other countries to stick with the Paris Accord seeking to limit global temperature growth to 1.5OC.
Amazed at the lack of debate in the House of Commons on this enormously significant issue, I applied for an adjournment debate in the “shuffle”. I didn’t win the Parliamentary raffle.
I applied to the Backbench Business Committee – the committee of backbench MPs who are empowered to allocate certain slots in the diary for backbench business.
I went along and made my case, albeit in the full knowledge that the Government hasn’t actually given the Backbench Business Committee any time on the floor of the House of Commons for its own business. Instead, I asked for 90 minutes in the second chamber: Westminster Hall. I’m grateful to the committee for granting me the time.
And much like buses, one of my applications to the adjournment shuffle came through at the same time. I now have the graveyard slot of 10pm on Monday 12 November for an adjournment debate on the intensification of concentrated animal feeding operations (food production being a vital component of the climate change debate) followed by my 9:30am slot in Westminster Hall the following morning on extreme weather and climate change.
Putting my frustration with the Government to one side, it’s clear that we need to rapidly move the climate change debate up the agenda. Brexit is an immediate challenge facing the country, and our economy a medium-term one. But 12 years is only (potentially) two general election cycles. Climate change is an immediate problem, not a long-term one that can be kicked down the road until we have time to deal with it.
The IPCC was clear: urgent changes are needed to cut the risk of extreme heat, drought, flood and poverty. How we live our lives and how we produce our food is at the heart of these changes. And the Met Office’s recent report has evidenced that the extreme weather we’ve seen these past few years is due to climate change and could get worse.
All of the warning lights are on red. Yet we seem to be ignoring them, while politicians around the world are pulling away from the Paris Accord.
We have to do everything we can to get this right, and I hope my two short debates – alongside my Science & Technology Select Committee inquiry into climate change – will help push us in the right direction.
Darren Jones is the Labour MP for Bristol North West and a member of the Science & Technology and European Scrutiny Select Committees
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