Thank you to everyone who has emailed me regarding climate change and the recent action taken by Extinction Rebellion. I completely agree about the urgency required to tackle climate change and am glad that both the Labour Party and Lewisham Council have declared a climate emergency in recent weeks.
As you may be aware, yesterday in the Commons there was an urgent question and a statement on this. We were also pleased to welcome Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who kickstarted the school strike for climate change movement, to Parliament. My frontbench colleagues praised the recent action taken by Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikers to ensure that climate change sits at the top of the political agenda. We have also called on the Government to join us in declaring a climate emergency.
With regards to Extinction Rebellion’s specific demands, Labour is certainly open to exploring how we can make the UK carbon neutral as quickly as possible and whether citizens’ assemblies could help us to find solutions. Labour-controlled Oxford City Council is the first place in the country to trial the latter.
More widely, I would like to see the Government match Labour’s commitment to a green industrial revolution. Tackling global warming will require transformative changes to our society and our economy, and I raised this recently in Parliament: https://twitter.com/vickyfoxcroft/status/1108050294338961410
I also attended the recent Commons debate on the UK’s progress toward Net-Zero Carbon Emissions. Unfortunately I was there in my capacity as an opposition whip and was unable to contribute, but I agree with many of the points articulated by my colleagues – we have little time left for delay and the Government must show that they are serious about tackling what is fast becoming a climate catastrophe. For example, enshrining in law net zero carbon emissions by 2050, or meeting Labour’s pledge to create 400,000 green jobs across the country and boosting investment in green industries.
I am deeply concerned that the Government is not taking strong enough action and is actively disincentivising the use of renewable energy. For example, the Government has already cut support for small-scale solar by around 65% in recent years. This has led to a collapse in new solar installations and the loss of 12,000 jobs in the UK’s solar industry. I am concerned that closure of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme will be another blow to an already hard-hit sector. In fact, it could leave solar as almost the only form of unsubsidised energy in the UK. I have written to Ministers in the past to express my dismay about the plan to close the FIT scheme, but unfortunately the Government did not address my concerns about cuts to solar subsidies.
Rather than confronting the solar industry with a cliff-edge situation, I believe we should be investing in renewable energy projects and supporting the creation of a thriving renewables industry with good, long-term jobs across the country.
I remain frustrated by the Government’s inaction on climate change and I am glad that Labour’s manifesto at the last election included strong commitments around renewable energy. I will continue to support our shadow frontbench in pushing the Government take climate change seriously. I appreciate that much more must be done to meet the Paris agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which ought to be seen as the bare minimum at this stage.
I hope this response helps to reassure you that my Labour colleagues and I are taking climate change very seriously. We expect to have an opposition day debate on this next week, which will give us another important opportunity to hold the Government to account.
Locally, I held a coffee morning to discuss climate change towards the end of last year and you may be interested to know that some of the attendees went on to form this group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/274035326574499/about/
I hope to organise similar events in the future.