Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
1 May 2019updated 08 Sep 2021 6:51am

The science is clear: the earth is heating up and irreversible global climate change is already in motion

The time for action is now.

By Sue Hayman

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.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

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”.

Content from our partners
Helping children be safer, smarter, happier internet explorers
Power to the people
How to power the electric vehicle revolution

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.