Over the past few months, our young people have been coming out in record numbers, demanding that concrete action is taken to address the climate change crisis.
People of all ages are feeling disempowered right now as these massive forces of Brexit and climate change rage around us, but young people often feel that powerlessness even more.
After all, they don’t have the vote yet but are very well aware that they will inherit these challenges we are destined to bequeath them.
We must not only listen to our young people, but take action for their future. Environmental sustainability is potentially the biggest issue we will face in our lifetimes, and generations to come will never forgive us if we do not act.
To meet the scale of the challenges facing us, we must be ambitious about what we can achieve, as politicians as well as individuals and communities. In the past, we’ve had this ambition – I am so proud that Labour created the world’s first climate change laws, reduced carbon emissions by 20 per cent, and elevated the challenge to a cabinet position with its own department. It’s time to reclaim that ambition.
Brexit is eclipsing issues like this, and we have a Prime Minister who scrapped both the Department for Climate Change and the cabinet ministerial post for it. The Government simply aren’t taking this issue seriously. It’s not surprising that the UK is now on course to miss carbon reduction targets and a legally binding 15 per cent renewable target by 2020.
These figures underline the inadequacy of the Government’s half-hearted policies. The current climate targets already fall far short of what is necessary, and the Government are getting further off track to meeting them.
Labour understands that it’s now or never, and we’ve declared a national climate and environment emergency in Parliament, challenging the Government to do the same.
It is hard to overstate how crucial this is. This is an internationally recognised declaration that we are in a ‘Climate Emergency’, and the Government cannot continue to ignore this. Twenty of the warmest years on record have all occurred in the last 22 years – the time for soundbites and photo-ops is over.
We owe it to future generations to take action to protect their futures, and the Government must heed young peoples’ call and treat this as the emergency it is.