Protecting our environment and addressing the climate emergency is the most important issue facing us. All the other challenges will count for little if we fail to provide a sustainable planet for future generations.
I have been campaigning for stronger action on climate change since being elected as an MP. In 2013 I worked with the Green Alliance to promote community energy production (see below), for example, and I joined with former Labour leader Ed Miliband MP to push the Government to make the zero carbon emissions target, agreed at the Paris climate talks, legally binding in the UK; they promised to do this but have not yet done so, and I continue to press on it. I signed an Early-Day Motion which called on the Government to declare a UK-Wide Climate Emergency, and supported Labour’s motion to declare a climate emergency which was agreed by Parliament.
In the recent debate on Johnson’s Queen’s Speech, I raised the climate emergency as a top concern and criticised the absence of measures to address it, also challenging their rhetoric that the UK is ‘world-leading’ on the issue. I pressed the former Energy Minister on the ambitious targets the world should adopt on carbon emissions and how she intended to work towards this at this year’s international Climate Change Conference, COP26. We must also provide support to the countries most affected by climate change, on which I have questioned the Government.
The Government have cut subsidies for renewables, while also incentivising carbon-emitting fracking until the moratorium announced in November. I have long opposed fracking and pressed the previous Prime Minister to drop Government support for it and invest in renewables instead. I also raised the effective ban on onshore wind in a Prime Minister’s Question, and have pressed Ministers on supporting solar power and using hydrogen storage for surplus renewable energy.
I have challenged Ministers on the weakness of the new Environment Bill and on whether they will keep pace with EU environmental policies, arguing that the vote to leave is not a vote to forget our commitments to tackle climate change. As part of the Shadow Brexit team I sought to maintain the environmental regulations secured within the EU together with tough enforcement mechanisms, and will continue to push for high standards and strong enforcement mechanisms in the Environment Bill which will take over the roles of EU Law and the European Commission.
I have made the case locally too; arguing for local green policies and organising public events with Sheffield Climate Alliance as part of my annual community consultation, the Big Conversation, and making the point that proper investment in local transport is key to reducing carbon emissions. I have also supported the Youth Strikes, attending some of the rallies and speaking publicly to support the school students’ action.
Other Environmental Issues
I’ve supported Sheffield Council in taking action to improve air quality locally, which requires significant funding from central Government, and their Clean Air plan. Plastic waste is another of my concerns; I’ve backed campaigns to address this, and spoken in Parliament on the complexity of the issue and the need to get it right. I also supported a Private Member’s Bill which would reduce flood risks.
As well as pressing issues in Parliament, I support practical initiatives and campaigns that will make a difference. I worked with the Green Alliance in a cross-party project to promote community energy (see here) and am a member of Sheffield Renewables. I have supported Climate Change Ambassadors, worked with the Sheffield Climate Alliance and Hope For The Future, as well as backing campaigners for a Carbon Neutral University. I’ve met with constituents who’ve come to Westminster to lobby on the climate emergency and with others backing Extinction Rebellion protests.
Supporting cycling and walking
I’ve also campaigned to make it easier for people to cycle and walk, and written to Ministers to urge proper funding for cycling and walking infrastructure. I am a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling, supported the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ cross-party report in a parliamentary debate and backed the ‘Living Streets’ walking campaign, which makes it safer and easier for older people to get around the local neighbourhood.
This is a selection of my work on these issues. Please get in touch if you want to find out more.