I am proud that on 1 May 2019, the UK Parliament declared an environment and climate emergency, thanks to the opposition motion put forward by the Labour Party. The UK Parliament was the first in the world to declare a climate emergency, and while there is much work to be done to put this declaration into action, I believe it has helped cement this issue in the political consciousness of the country.
In May 2019, the Committee on Climate Change advised that the UK should set a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, ending the UK’s contribution to global warming within 30 years. It states that damaging climate impacts are already being felt today and the UK can and should act as a leader in the global response to climate change. In June 2019, the Government legislated to change the UK’s 2050 emissions reduction target from 80% to at least 100%, setting a legally binding 2050 target for reaching net zero.
The Government’s poor response to the Committee on Climate Change 2019 progress report shows they cannot be trusted to bring about the scale and speed of change that is needed to tackle the climate emergency. The report found that UK action to curb emissions was lagging behind what is needed to meet our legally-binding climate targets, and since June 2018 the Government had delivered only 1 of 25 critical policies needed to get emissions reductions back on track! The Government’s poor response said their priority would be building on its Clean Growth Strategy to provide firm policy and a co-ordinated approach across all sectors. Unfortunately, the Government’s “plan for a plan” (as it was named by the Committee) is not good enough at this stage. To have any hope of keeping global temperature rise to a manageable level we need immediate and radical action.
In the Labour Party
Labour has stated that at the heart of the environment and climate emergency is the issue of justice, as we must ensure that it is not those who are least to blame for climate change bearing the burden and paying the highest cost.
Labour has committed to leading a Green Industrial Revolution, our strategy seeks to re-centre the economy around green jobs and innovative new technologies to combat the climate emergency. Tackling the underlying drivers of environmental degradation will require a fundamental re-balancing of economic power. We need economic, social and environmental transformation to be made by and for the many who will suffer the consequences of climate change, rather than the few who have reaped the greatest benefits from it. Equality, justice, and international solidarity are at the heart of our plans for a Green Industrial Revolution.
Recent research has shown the human sacrifice of air pollution – it is estimated that between 28,000 and 36,000 people die as a result of air pollution every year in the UK. I support the Greater Manchester Clean Air Plan, and earlier this year I challenged the Government to commit public funds to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority to ensure that we can address the toxic air in our city. There are currently 126,000 children living in areas of Manchester with unsafe levels of air pollution. I asked the Chancellor to commit to providing wider resources needed to protect our children from toxic air, further investment is needed to tackle the scale of the problem and protect the health of the most vulnerable.
I have concerns that the Government will not provide the resources necessary to enable our city to make the Clean Air Plan a reality and not bring in legislation to tackle clean air nationally, (especially as the High Court has previously ruled the Government’s air quality plans as unlawful). It is exciting news this week that Manchester City Council has formed a Climate Change Sub Group Scrutiny Committee – with a promise to take the climate crisis into account in all of its decision-making and aims to become carbon neutral by 2038. I support this commitment, and will continue to pressure the Government at a national level, to commit funding and legislation to ensure the environment in our city (and our country) is liveable.
In the press
My recent article in the Huffington Post explored the intersection between personal faith and collective action against climate change. As a Muslim, I believe we are stewards over the environment, and humankind must walk gently upon the earth, keeping in balance with nature.
We can all draw courage from our values and we can all make an impact, working with those of faith and those without, to collectively stop and reverse the human impacts of climate change.
Thanks to all constituents who have contacted me about this very important issue, I know it is something many are passionate about. I will continue to push at every opportunity for the greater action that we need to tackle the climate emergency.