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Wed, 21 October 2020

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Will Rishi Sunak bail out Boris Johnson and show the environmental ambition we’ve all been waiting for?

Will Rishi Sunak bail out Boris Johnson and show the environmental ambition we’ve all been waiting for?

The time is now for a coherent, long-term strategy to tackling the climate crisis, Anna McMorrin says.

5 min read

We’re not short of ideas on how to forge an alternative path on climate change — but it’s going to need political will from the top to make it happen

Will Rishi Sunak bail out Boris Johnson and show the environmental ambition we’ve all been waiting for?
 
It’s been a monumental few weeks of bluster and empty rhetoric from the Prime Minister on this historic opportunity to put the UK on track for a green recovery. 

The environmental sector, politicians across the political spectrum, businesses, our young people were all left dismayed by the lack of ambition and meaningful action in his meagre vision to ‘build back greener’ from this pandemic.
 
All eyes are now on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s financial update as to whether he’ll bail out the Prime Minister’s recent bargain-basement ‘New Deal’. Will the UK Government finally match words with deeds and ensuring ‘build back better’ does not just become yet another empty slogan?
 
The time is now for a coherent, long-term strategy to tackling the climate crisis and ensure the most ambitious green recovery. But the PR and spin seems to be more about the Chancellor’s personal ambitions than anything else. 

Any commitment must match the economic and climate catastrophe we face. We need to see three clear steps from the Government following the Chancellor’s statement: Firstly, less PR and spin and a clear focus on delivering outcomes to meet the scale of this challenge. Secondly, tough conditions put on future investments to align with the path to zero carbon. And finally, a promise to ensure climate justice is put at the heart of Government. 

‘CATALOGUE OF FAILURES’
 

The year 2020 was meant to be the year of climate action, the year in which we made crucial steps towards tackling the climate emergency if we were to stand any chance of meeting our Paris climate commitments. Instead, we’ve seen a catalogue of failures from UK Government in taking the climate crisis seriously both at home and overseas; Less making in-roads in combatting the climate crisis, more pledges to ‘build, build, build’ roads from the Prime Minister.
 
We know business as usual will not lead us to a safe, sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. The UK government has so far failed to recognise what is good for our planet is good for jobs, livelihoods, health and prosperity and that the health of our economy and our planet can go hand in hand. The failure to harness this opportunity, to accelerate net zero growth or build climate change resilience smacks of complacency at a time when we have just years left to make a meaningful difference to our planet.

Signalling a green, just transition away from a fossil fuel driven economy both at home and abroad is the type of leadership needed to take us out of this fossil fuel age and into a new era.

The recent report from the government’s own Committee on Climate Change reinforces just how woefully short they’ve fallen on the radical climate progress needed – delivering only one of twenty-five emissions-reducing recommendations, failing to scale up renewable energy generation and on track to miss their own air and water quality targets, to name but a few.
 
This government has failed time and time again and the Prime Minister’s new plans are simply stuck in the fossil fuel age. We must stop financing failure and start financing the future.

‘WORLD’S POOREST CARRY THE BURDEN’

And these failures extend far beyond our own shores too.
 
The UK claims to be a ‘climate leader’ yet recent analysis reveals the UK has given £3.9 billion to fossil fuel infrastructure overseas since the Paris Agreement -£568m of which was invested using the international development budget. Or how 90% of the £2bn in energy deals struck at a UK-Africa investment summit earlier this year were for fossil fuels. Just last week, ministers were condemned for pumping at least a further £100m of UK aid for fossil fuels in Africa last year alone.
 
Continuing to invest in fossil fuel infrastructure and UK Export finance flies in the face of the Paris Agreement and undermines any meaningful efforts to tackle the climate crisis. The climate impact is disproportionate. 

It’s often the world’s poorest and most vulnerable who carry the heaviest burden of climate injustice, despite often being least responsible for the climate crisis. When we know climate injustice is perpetuating poverty and inequality in the Global South and that the most vulnerable are direct, human casualties of environmental degradation, it is staggering that the UK continues to invest in these projects which will lock low-income countries into carbon intensive developments for years to come.
 
As hosts of COP26, the UK is uniquely positioned to show global leadership, driving environmental ambitions and strengthening the climate agenda to face the scale of this challenge. Signalling a green, just transition away from a fossil fuel driven economy both at home and abroad is the type of leadership needed to take us out of this fossil fuel age and into a new era.

‘WALK THE WALK’
 
Our younger generations are crying out to put climate action at the heart of what comes next and they will judge us in how far we rise to this global challenge. With the UK leading on a key international summit on a green and sustainable recovery this week, we’re anxiously waiting to see whether the government will walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
 
A better way forward is possible. And we’re certainly not short of ideas on how to forge an alternative path. It just requires political will to make it happen. We must see greater ambition and the means to deliver in the Chancellor’s update. Let’s hope he does the right thing – the next generation is watching.
 
Anna McMorrin MP is Shadow Minister for International Development and Climate Justice

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