Most of us are starting to change what we can day to day to minimise the harm we inflict on the planet and tackle climate change, whether it’s stopping using plastic carrier bags and disposable coffee cups, doing more recycling, using less water, driving less, or cutting down on our food waste.
Hundreds of Southwark people have contacted me about this and I’ve been so encouraged by the thousands of young people who’ve taken to the streets over the past few months to protest and demand government action on the climate crisis.
Southwark Council were one of the first councils to declare a climate emergency and this month they hosted their first Climate Change Summit, bringing together local residents, NGOs like Greenpeace and central government officials to develop a plan to ensure by 2030 Southwark achieves ‘carbon neutrality’ which means we are removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as we’re putting in.
But the good work of individuals, charities and Southwark Council will never be enough. It needs government action.
The science shows that unless governments back up local work and take strong action on climate change within the next 12 years, it will be too late.
The consequences of unchecked climate change would be catastrophic. It's already a reality for millions of people around the world – with more wildfires, longer droughts and intense tropical storms. And it is the poorest and most vulnerable people who are always hit hardest. Climate change is forcing increasing numbers of people to abandon their homes and farms and become climate refugees. Last year, climate change displaced 16.1 million people. It is estimated that, by 2050, between 150 to 200 million people are at risk of being forced to leave their homes because of droughts, rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions.
Our government urgently needs to play its part in leading action against climate change. Everything the Government and Parliament does must be judged by whether we are making progress on reducing harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
Labour has been leading the fight against climate change in Parliament. In May this year we voted to make the UK Parliament the first in the world to declare an “environment and climate emergency”.
But in the 2 months since then the Government has not taken any decisive action.
The UK is still not on track to meet our targets to cut our use of harmful coal and gas by 2030.
The Government must use all their powers to achieve this – by increasing the use of clean energy sources such as wind and solar power, stopping big supermarkets using low grade and single use plastics, investing in buses, walking and cycling to cut car use and by making bus travel free for under 25s.
The children leading the climate change school strikes have made a powerful case. They are right to be worried about the kind of planet they will inherit.
We stand in solidarity with them. Their action is a wake up call to the Government and to all of us as MPs. We can see the science. It is our responsibility now to act.