This Tory government isn’t serious about the climate emergency

Jan 9, 2020 | Articles

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From the Australian bush fires to killer heatwaves, floods and extreme weather – it couldn’t be clearer that we are in the midst of a climate emergency. Already, many of the world’s poorest people – who have done the least to cause this crisis – are being hit first and worst by the impacts. Scientists are warning us that time is running out to act. What we do in the next few years will be decisive for future generations and the planet.

In response to the crisis, we’ve seen a remarkable movement rise up across the world – giving us hope. Greta Thunberg, the youth climate strikers and Extinction Rebellion are calling for urgent action. I’m proud to stand alongside the climate movement because they are right – we need bold action and we need it now. The Conservatives’ recent decision to blacklist legitimate climate organisations like Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace as terrorist organisations is a travesty. It should only drive us to ramp up the climate protest movement.

Climate change

Boris Johnson’s government caps off ten years of Tory failure to tackle the climate crisis. During the General Election, Johnson didn’t even turn up to Channel 4’s climate debate, choosing instead to send his dad. The climate emergency only saw 10 mentions in the entire Conservative manifesto. Just like his predecessors, he’s not serious about tackling the climate emergency.

Whether it’s supporting fracking, Heathrow expansion or fossil fuels subsidies, Johnson will continue to promote policies that benefit some of the worst polluters at the expense of the rest of the planet. As the Conservatives continue to put profit before people, we need our elected Labour representatives to speak up and get out on the front-lines of the climate struggle.

I was elected on a radical climate manifesto which proposed a Green Industrial Revolution to create hundreds of thousands of green jobs and secure a just transition to a low carbon economy. I’ll continue to make the case for our inspiring environmental policies, which have the backing of scientists, trade-unionists and a strong base of public support. It’s essential that we keep the climate crisis at the top of the news agenda in the coming years.

We need to clean up our air, end fuel poverty and protect animals and wildlife. The world can’t wait five years for a Labour government, so we have to find ways of putting pressure on the Conservatives now. Winning power locally, building protest movements and winning people over to a radical alternative all have a part to play in this process.

Above all, we need to make sure people understand that climate change is a class issue. Tackling climate change means tackling inequality on a global scale. The richest 10% produce 50% of global carbon emissions. With America reneging on its international climate commitments, it’s important we uphold our international obligation to bring emissions down.

But we also face massive environmental inequalities right here at home. Across Lambeth, just 43% of homes are well-insulated. This is reflected in the fact that nearly 1 in 10 people live in fuel poverty and struggle to pay their energy bills. In 2020, people shouldn’t have to choose between eating or heating their home. Retrofitting homes to decent environmental standards would bring household heating costs down and reduce fuel consumption.

Since 2010, air pollution has been at illegal levels across London. In 2018, Brixton Road (just up from my constituency office) breached annual air pollution limits before the end of January. As many of us travel to work, make the school run or pop out to the shops, we breathe in abnormally high levels of air pollution. It’s vital we work hard to clean up our air so that children are no longer having their lives cut short because of toxic levels of pollution.

Green Industrial Revolution
Photograph: Oxfam

We know what the solutions are to the climate crisis: a massive expansion of improved public transport, a rapid switch towards renewable clean energy, solar panels on 1.75 million roofs, a ban on fracking and a mass insulation programme. I welcome Sadiq Khan’s recent announcement of a Green New Deal for London, which commits to bring down our city’s carbon emissions to net-zero by 2030. Let’s hope this can light the way for future Labour administrations at a local and national level.