“WE cannot be radical enough,” said Sir David Attenborough when discussing the climate emergency in Parliament.
Yet, a few months later, the Conservatives were fiercely suppressing Extinction Rebellion protests. Amnesty International called this suppression “chilling and unlawful”.
The honest answer is that the Tories just don’t care about the climate emergency in the way that Labour does. We’ve heard the call from our young people who rightly demand their future back, and we’ve heard it from the brave scientists, writers, plumbers, office workers and anyone who has taken the time to make their message heard.
The Government can point to successes started under Labour, such as cheaper offshore wind and the phasing out of coal, but they are failing in imagination, they are failing in ambition and they are failing because they think they are acting fast enough. They are not.
The Committee on Climate Change – the Government’s own advisers – wrote recently that the Government had completed only one of their 25 headline policy actions, and on 10 of them they had not even made partial progress. The report goes on to say that the policy gap has widened and the Government is going backwards.
The Tories have no right to be complacent, given that they are going to miss their own climate targets. We are scientifically sure that this will cost millions of lives around the world.
There is so much to do to build the clean green country of the future which will be filled with good green jobs, cleaner air and more prosperous communities.
Renewable energy is central to this, so why have the Tories banned on onshore wind in England? Why are they not backing solar energy? Why are we seeing solar projects being cancelled right across the country?
We also need to conserve energy and not waste it. Why are we not seeing a big rollout of super insulation across the country? Why are so many homes still leaky? A well-insulated home helps reduce demand and emissions. This is especially helpful for those who can’t afford to use much heating. This Government promised to end fuel poverty in 2017 and failed. They’ve promised to end it in 2020; it’s clear that without radical action they’re soon to fail again.
After nine years of Tory inaction to cut bills and upgrade homes, we don’t expect radical action from them.
Property insulation rates have fallen by over 80 per cent, leaving tens of thousands of families out in the cold.
That is just in energy, but in other sectors the same problems abound.
Transport emissions increased by one per cent last year. But where is the cycling infrastructure?
Bus patronage has plummeted under this Government and privatisation of the rail sector has clearly failed, with services frequently late and costs spiralling.
Trains are now so expensive that people often choose to use their car because it is cheaper – that can’t be right. We should be making trains cheaper so that people naturally choose to use the low carbon option.
One of the largest sources of transport emissions is aviation. The Prime Minister himself said that he was going to lie in front of the bulldozers at Heathrow, but we have seen no evidence of the Government acting against aviation.
Seventy per cent of all flights are taken by 15 per cent of the people, almost all of them rich; the Government need to introduce a frequent flyer tax to slow that trend and make sure those who have the most money and are creating climate emergency are also paying for it.
If the Government are worried about public support, they should stop suppressing Extinction Rebellion and the youth climate strikers, and start listening to them. They should make citizens’ assemblies, test the ideas, learn from the people and engage with them in a positive way.
The climate emergency isn’t just the biggest threat to life on our planet, but responding to it we can also make life better. We can have better jobs – doing something not just well paid but meaningful and positive.
We can have upgraded homes – Labour is promising to install double glazing and solar power in 27 million homes across the UK to lower bills. And we can be confident about our international standing – as a country leading the world in action to save it. Only a Labour government will take a strong stance and deliver real change.
Alex Sobel is the Labour candidate in Leeds North West where he is seeking re-election as the area’s MP.