Clearly the first priority for the Lib Dems at this General Election is to fight to stay in the EU. Our second priority is to fight climate change. In fact, the two priorities are inexorably linked. One of our key reasons for wanting to remain in the EU is that as a big bloc of 28 states we can do far more for the planet by sensible laws and sensible research than any one Country making it up as it goes along.
People keep asking me, “should kids come out of school to protest about the environment”. My answer is always, “Yes”. Firstly, understanding and participating in actions about the long-term future of the planet should be a vital part of any school curriculum. I have been heartened by the number of young people who have been prepared to make such a commitment to action to raise awareness of this issue.
Secondly, they have a right to protest because it will be them who face the problems which current politicians and others in power are refusing to tackle. In a selfish way this planet will see me out but it won’t see my grandchildren out.
So, the views of the Liberal Democrats are very clear:
1. The UK should be leading the world on tackling the environment crisis
Our planet is on the brink of being irreparably damaged and we are responsible for that damage. The climate emergency is real and our planet is heating to unsustainable levels we are witnessing a catastrophic loss of biodiversity, the air we breathe is toxic, and our oceans are full of plastics. There is no planet B. We are facing a climate catastrophe which will create huge global inequalities. We have a moral duty to act.
2. Doing the right things for the environment will create jobs
Creating the right infrastructure for the creation of more power plants from wind, water and solar sources will actually create jobs in manufacturing and construction. Harnessing the intellectual power of our world-leading universities to this issue will create investment opportunities globally for British businesses.
3. The Tories are failing to take the crisis seriously
The Tories don’t get it, given the crises we’re facing there is no room for complacency or delay. Yet this is what they’re giving us, they’re way off target for our climate change commitments, they pay lip service to the environment, they’re failing to protect our farmers and they’re focused on simply grabbing headlines rather than meaningfully helping our planet.
4. Labour’s policies will distract from meaningful action on the environment
The Labour Party wants to renationalise industries from the electricity grid, the water industry and the railways – all this will distract from the environment crises. The plans to spend billions on renationalising industries is a poor use of time and money. We do not have time to tinker with our utilities and we cannot afford to waste money that could be spent reversing the damage we’re doing to our planet on ideological projects.
Here in Liverpool things have got off to a very slow start. We declared a climate change emergency in July and did not hold the first meeting of the climate change select committee until early November. We talk about air pollution and then talk up schemes that will put more cars through our city and dissuade people from using public transport. Our recycling record is dreadful; we have failed to use Government money to plant more trees; we have seen some of our Parks threatened with development at a time when we need to preserve and enhance of green spaces.
I use these local examples because we need to move away from the warm words and platitudes and move on to positive agendas for action and involvement. Apparently, we all want to tackle climate change but some seem to want to do so a lot more quickly and at a higher level than others.
5. Liberal Democrats will place climate change at the heart of government
If we think it is a key priority, we must mean that it is a key priority for every department and every policy and every relevant law. The UK led the world by passing the Climate Change Act in 2008 and it must become a global leader again. Actions must take the place of pious hopes.
As an example, Parliament has changed the law to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 but the Tories have put forward no plan for how to achieve it.
Liberal Democrats do have a plan, we will achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the very latest. We will cut emissions by 75% by 2030 and 93% by 2040 but we need to act now, we cannot wait around until 2045. We must do as much as we can immediately.
When our manifesto is produced in a few days you will see proposals within it for:
- Investment in sustainable transport
- Investment on sustainable energy production
- The empowerment of councils to set emissions targets for themselves and in their own areas.
- Setting up a new Green Investment Bank
- An immediate ban on fracking
- A home insulation programme which recognises that our homes are huge wasters of energy
- Reform agriculture subsidies to support farmers in cutting their greenhouse gas emissions while still producing food
- Regulation of financial services to encourage green investments, including requiring all companies to disclose their level of climate risk and to set new targets in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement
- Increase UK forest cover by planting an additional 60 million trees a year
- A Nature Act, modelled on the Climate Change Act, setting targets for the restoration of nature, improving biodiversity, reducing air pollution and cleaning up our rivers
All these and so much more. These and our other policies will be underpinned by the creation of a Citizen’s Climate Assembly to improve public engagement with the climate emergency and making recommendations to government.
I believe that the Liberal Democrats are the only party dedicated to building a brighter future by tackling the environmental crises. We are the only party with a radical, credible and detailed plan to tackle the climate emergency as soon as possible, to transform our government to place the environment at its heart and to reverse the damage we’re doing to our planet. The Liberal Democrats would make Britain the world leader it should and deserves to be.
Finally, you can find out more about my personal views and priorities for climate change by watching this short video filmed on my wife Erica’s allotment in South Liverpool https://twitter.com/i/status/1193217987597213696.
If you believe that climate change and Brexit are key issues then I am confident in calling for your support in Wavertree on 12th December as the only candidate from a Party with credible policies on both.