We’re already experiencing the impacts of climate change here in the UK. This is why Labour is pushing the government to declare an environment and climate emergency.
Since the beginning of this year, Britain has been hit by nearly a hundred large wildfires, making it the worst year on record already.
According to the Met Office, the dramatic heatwave of 2018 – the joint hottest summer on record – was made nearly 30 times more likely due to emissions from human activity. Farmers described the impact of the heatwave as “crippling” and called for an emergency “drought summit”.
Over the coming years the UK is likely to experience increased average temperatures, heavy rainfall and flooding, rising sea levels and more dramatic coastal erosion, wildfires, droughts and extreme weather events.
It is those in the global south and working class communities in the UK who will experience the worst effects of climate change, despite just 100 companies being responsible for 70 percent of emissions.
Working class people will be hit first as food insecurity leads to a rise in the cost of living and as inadequate climate adaptations mean homes and communities are damaged. In Africa, Central America, and Asia flooding and droughts will severely affect crop yields, leading to food shortages.
Yet in the face of this environment and climate emergency, the Conservative government is demonstrating a chronic failure to get to grips with climate change adaptation and safeguard our infrastructure, food security and communities.
Kathryn Brown, head of adaptation at the Committee on Climate Change, said that the government’s adaptation plan simply “isn’t meeting the goals the government has set itself”.
We can make the transformative changes needed to defend against flooding, protect against wildfires, manage species migration and make our food system more secure and sustainable.
Nothing less than a Green Industrial Revolution is needed to make this happen. This not only means massive investment to make the UK a world leader in renewable energy in order to mitigate against the worst effects of climate change. It also means large scale coordination to help us adapt to the changes at hand.
At home, Labour will initiate a large tree planting programme to promote biodiversity and better flood prevention and we’re exploring the impact of heather burning on wildfires.
We are investigating how we can make our nation’s food system more secure and sustainable. This is particularly crucial given that the government has no policy on food whatsoever.
My team is also developing Labour’s “Plan for Nature” which will bring forward proposals on how we can restore habitats, reverse species decline and crucially, secure natural solutions to capturing carbon from the air and trapping it in soils, forests and peat.
But we can’t wait to be in government: we need to push the Conservatives further now. By backing Labour’s motion to declare a climate emergency, the Conservatives can take the first step to acknowledging that climate change is here – we’re already seeing its effects, and the time for action is now.
Sue Hayman is Labour MP for Workington and the shadow environment secretary.