May 2019 Newsletter from John Howell MP for Henley
In recent weeks we have seen concern about climate change growing to unprecedented levels with it moving firmly into our national consciousness. It is an issue that I too take very seriously and am among those pleased that in Parliament we have declared a climate emergency – which now needs to be followed with action.
Last year, after the special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was published, the Government asked the UK Committee on Climate Change for advice on setting a ‘net-zero’ emissions target. This committee published their findings on 2nd May and the Minister is now looking at this evidence-based advice to determine just what actions we need to take. I look forward to some practical proposals with targets to which we can commit. Although historically in the UK we had indeed contributed to the problems our more recent track record of action on this is good and thus I am confident that we can rise to the challenge.
Whilst we cannot, and must not, be complacent, there is some good news. The UK passed the world’s first Climate Change Act over a decade ago with cross-party support. This gave us both a framework to set statutory carbon budgets and set up the independent Committee on Climate Change. Since 2000, independent analysis shows that no other major industrialised country has done more than the UK to cut CO2 intensity (the measure of carbon for each pound of GDP). Overall the UK has cut emissions by more than 40% while growing the economy by more than two thirds, the best performance on a per person basis than any other G7 nation. We are on track to meet the 2050 target to reduce emissions of all greenhouse gases by 80 per cent – but now we may need to move the goalposts and set more ambitious targets.
Taking just one example, renewable electricity generation has quadrupled since 2010 and clean electricity now gives us over 50 per cent of our total. At the beginning of this month we had the news from the National Grid Electricity System Operator that we had reached a major milestone of 1000 hours without using coal to power our homes. I understand that this equates to a whole week, and is the first such week since the 1880s.
I am aware that there are differing views on the merits or otherwise of different measures, and rightly we should continue our research. But above all I would encourage positive action. We must all ask what we can do as our contribution to resolving this problem. I am pleased to see some of our local councils making their own Climate Emergency declarations and committing to work towards zero emissions in their operations. I am also pleased to see community groups getting together to see what each of us can do in our everyday lives and would be delighted to hear from the different groups about what you are doing. Often small changes replicated across the country can make a big difference. I was recently delighted to be introduced to ‘Young Climate Warriors’ an initiative of a Henley mum which encourages young people to take part in collective action to help tackle climate change through a weekly shared challenge.
However, climate change is too broad a challenge for us to tackle alone. It is a global problem which needs global commitment to the solution and this is why international conferences on this are so important. We played an influential role in delivering the historic Paris Agreement in 2015 and only last year we helped create the first “rulebook” to bring the Paris Agreement to life at the latest round of UN talks in Poland. We also need to help developing countries where action is needed. In Paris it was collectively agreed to include $100 billion of support for poorer nations to mitigate, and adapt to, the impact of climate change. For the UK this amounts to £5.8 billion in international climate finance from 2016 to 2020. The UK has also offered to host the 2020 UN climate change conference (COP26).
I welcome learning more about what our communities are doing on this. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at the House of Commons (House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA) or my constituency office (PO Box 84, Watlington, OX49 5XD).
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