Whilst Brexit continues to dominate politics we are currently in the midst of a climate emergency, and I believe that only through collective action and strong policymaking can we begin to tackle this issue. Two thirds of the British public now recognise that we a currently facing a climate emergency and that we must act now.
Sadly, the continued use of fossil fuels is one of the largest factors driving climate change and causing weather patterns, climates and natural environments to change quicker than people or wildlife can adapt. Indeed, pollution from fossil fuels is causing significant damage to the planet and our own health. The World Health Organisation has found air pollution to be the leading environmental cause of premature deaths with an estimated 7 million fatalities annually caused by the effects of air pollution. Air pollution is not the only issue though, shockingly, an estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic a year finds its way into the ocean, seriously harming oceanic ecosystems and causing around 100,000 marine animals and 1 million sea birds to die from plastic every year.
The government has said that it is determined to meet its climate change targets, yet we can see that they are in fact doing the opposite. Concerningly, the government has withdrawn its support for new onshore wind farms and for solar energy subsides whilst taxing renewable forms of energy. These are the energy sources that we should be embracing if we want to truly tackle climate change.
I strongly believe that the government should be investing much more in renewable energy sources to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint, rather than relentlessly supporting fracking, a process of drilling down into the earth to release gas which has caused 36 small earthquakes alone in Lancashire.
I am gravely concerned that the government’s policy to force through fracking could release CO2 equivalent to the lifetime emissions of nearly 300 million cars. Indeed shockingly, the government’s ambitions to exploit the UK’s shale gas reserves would result in releasing over seven billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, this is equivalent to 20 times our country’s entire annual emissions in 2017.
In Parliament I have repeatedly called for the government to take urgent action to reduce climate change. In March I spoke for the Official Opposition in the House of Commons and called for the government to listen to the voices of communities across our country and ban fracking and instead invest in new renewables. In April I spoke in the House of Commons and commented that if the government was really committed to tackling climate change, it would be investing in energy sources such as tidal energy and solar, which would also help growth in the North East.
In March you may have seen that I was on the Sunday Politics show and declared that the UK must completely abandon the use of fossil fuels and spoke against the plans to open Opencast mines in Durham.
The inspiring activism that we have seen outside of Parliament and across the country over the last few weeks must serve as a massive wake up call for the government. Children and students have gone on strike, and only just last month. the Extinction Rebellion protestors brought parts of London to a standstill. I fully supported the march against climate change in Durham and was pleased that two constituents came to Parliament to speak with my office about their concerns over climate change. I also hosted a meeting of Labour’s Planning Commission on climate change and the urgent action needed to build and re-develop communities sustainably.
On the 1st May MPs approved a motion to declare an environment and climate emergency and I was pleased that in February Durham County Council declared a climate emergency, in which it set targets of reducing carbon emissions by 60% before 2030 and being carbon neutral by 2050.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges faced by the world to date, and if left unchecked, we all face the consequences. I believe Parliament must be at the forefront of tacking climate change through innovative and sustainable policies that seek to end our dependence on fossil fuels and protect biodiversity. I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that Parliament upholds it commitments to tackling climate change and that our future is sustainable.