Whilst it might seem that Brexit is dominating Parliamentary business, this week the House of Commons debated another crucial issue – the urgent need to tackle climate change & reduce carbon emissions.
Climate change poses the biggest threat to the future of our planet. Rising temperatures, melting polar ice caps, and extreme weather events all point to the need to take urgent action. Just this week we have seen temperatures reach 20 degrees, something which is unheard of in February; whilst this time last year we saw the ‘Beast from the East’ hit us in March.
This is an extremely important issue for me and one in which I have taken an active approach both in Parliament and in Swindon. This has included working closely with organisations including Sky Ocean Rescue and the Word Wide Fund for Nature; as well as introducing kerbside recycling when I was a Lead Member on Swindon Borough Council. I also meet regularly with the Swindon Climate Action Network.
The Government rightly recognises the urgent need to reverse the impact of climate change, and there has been significant progress in the last 9 years. We have seen greenhouse gas emissions fall by a staggering 23% and we’ve invested more than £52 billion in renewable energy.
5 years ago, coal power accounted for 40% of our electricity which resulted in the heavy release of noxious gases into the atmosphere. This figure is now just 7%, and there are plans to phase out coal power by 2025.
Renewable electricity production in the UK has quadrupled since 2010. A record 29.3% of electricity generated in the UK last year came from renewable sources, and we had the first day of energy production without coal since the Victorian era.
The UK now produces enough solar energy to power almost 2.7 million homes. Here in Swindon, we should be proud of the lead we have taken. Our local solar farms generate enough energy to meet more than 90% of the town’s power requirements.
In fact, research has shown that 2018 was the cleanest and greenest year ever.
Of course there is much more to do and global action is needed. We are committed to the Paris Climate Agreement which commits us to help cut global temperatures by 2 degrees and sets out a clear long-term goal of net zero emissions as soon as possible; both issues the UK is leading on globally.
We are also doing as much as possible to reduce plastic pollution. Since the Government introduced the 5p bag charge, there have been 9 billion fewer plastic bags in circulation, and Environment Secretary Michael Gove is already looking at measures to go much further including restrictions on single-use plastics and a deposit scheme for all drinks containers.
Last year I joined a cross-party group of MPs in writing to all of the major UK supermarkets to ask them to eliminate plastic packaging from their products by 2023. Of course, reducing the use of plastics does require the need to find viable alternatives, which is why the Government is investing heavily in new innovation and research into this area.
We only get one planet and it is up to every single one of us to play our part. From recycling at home to working with other nations as part of a global effort – action is needed now and this is something we should all support.