During the Queen’s Speech Debate on the environment, I stressed the need for the UK to undergo a Green Industrial Revolution. I emphasised the rich heritage of our role in the original Industrial Revolution where Oldham rose to become the King of Cotton, and an engineering giant with world leading companies like British Aerospace, Platt Brothers and Ferranti.
I set out the case that the Climate Emergency could act as a catalyst to boost skilled jobs and rebuild the economies of our towns, recognising that thousands of local companies are innovating, creating and changing the world.
The UK is at risk in a number of ways is the global temperature is to rise by 1.5oC: flooding and coastal change; our health and productivity can be impacted; our natural ecosystems and biodiversity can be decimated; there are significant risks to global food production and trade; and the likelihood that a warmer and wetter climate in the UK increases the number of pests and diseases.
We need to take action, and we need to take it rapidly. The effects that a rise in global temperatures of just 1.5oC is worrying enough, we need to ensure that it does not rise any further. There is so much at risk here, whether it be the potential rise in sea levels; the loss of biodiversity; the acidification of our oceans; and the very fact that it is those most vulnerable and disadvantaged who are at the greatest risk. We must arrest this decline as much as we can.
Of course, that is going to have an economic cost, but it is an investment, and it must be seen as one. We can improve our environment and we can improve the quality of our lives. If we use our cars less, and this is something we’re all guilty of myself included, we can improve our health and improve the quality of the air we breathe.
Something as simple as investing in active travel infrastructure and behaviour change programmes can deliver benefits for an individual’s health, the health service, our transport system and our wider economy for a low cost.
Investment in the Green Industrial Revolution is good economics. It makes sense to invest public money into UK researchers, developers and manufactures to make sure they’re at the forefront of our Green Economy, and that we receive some of the benefits back into the public purse.
We need to stop seeing methods to prevent climate change as ‘costs’ and start seeing them as investments. We can create hundreds of thousands of Green jobs across the whole of the UK, we can use this as an opportunity to address some of the much-needed issues in our country and our economy.
We can use targeted investment to make sure high-skilled jobs go to places where they’re needed the most; we can set up energy co-operatives so people aren’t fleeced by big energy companies and to ensure that investment goes back into communities where they’re needed.
Last week I signed up to the Friends of the Earth Climate Pledge, and I meant it – this is the start of my journey to ensuring the climate crisis is at the forefront of my work in Parliament.