Importance of Natural Resources

Luke speaks on the Environment Bill at second reading


Shadow Secretary of State Luke Pollard.
Thank you Madam Deputy Speaker. The climate crisis is the most pressing
issue facing our planet what actions we take in the next few years will
determine whether we can address the climate emergency or whether we pass on
a rotten inheritance to our children to live on a dying planet it’s with great
responsibility therefore that we come to debate this this bill the government is
calling it a landmark bill world-leading legislation I fear that’s not quite
right and I think the minister should be more honest in that this still seems
like a draft to bill a bill that’s not quite there an okay bill but by no means
the groundbreaking piece of legislation that we have been promised. He’s
absolutely right and what he says and I wonder if he shares my concern and
disappointment that the secretary of state didn’t mention part eight the bill which refers to the potential for divergence from incredibly
important regulations on the chemical industry which affects our entire
manufacturing sector not just the chemical industry itself does he share
my concern that the that part eight has the ability to diverge with very serious
consequences for most of our economy. I’m grateful to my honourable friend for his
intervention I think the details around regression and non-regression is an
important part of this bill we need to make sure that we’re maintaining the
high standards that we’ve got because those high standards especially in the
chemical industries drive jobs and employment right across the country and
any risk of divergence of that affects the ability of those products to be sold
overseas and that affects the ability of jobs to be held back in our country so
that is a good issue I’m glad that my honourable friend raised it some members in this house will remember when Parliament adopted Labour’s motion to declare a
climate emergency and for me that presents us with a very simple challenge
and that is it now that Parliament has declared a climate emergency what are
you doing differently it is a challenge to us as individuals to businesses but
especially to lawmakers ministers and regulators because the climate crisis is
real we need bolder and swifter action to decarbonize our economy
and protect vulnerable habitats we need to recognize that it’s not just a crisis
about carbon although it is it’s about other greenhouse gases too and it’s also
an ecological emergency with our planet’s animals birds and insects
species in decline and habitats under threat the water we drink the food we
consume the fish in our seas are all affected by pollutants from plastics to
chemicals and as we’ve seen from the floods caused by storm Ciara and Dennis
the climate crisis is also leading to more extreme weather happening more
often and with more severe consequences. The National Flood Forum has noted that
extreme and flash flooding will be one of the greatest effects of the climate
crisis in my constituency of Pontypridd we have experienced unprecedented
flooding and the River Taff levels rose by over a metre on all previous
records if that is no wake-up call I really don’t know what is would my
honourable friend agree that the government needs to act urgently to
secure better climate protections to ensure that all other towns villages the
cities across the world and not impacted like my community has been this week.
Well I’m grateful from all more friends for her intervention and for all the
work that her and her Welsh colleagues have been doing in supporting those
communities that are under water we need much firmer action a proper plan for
flooding that reverses the austerity cuts that have happened to our flood
defences that removes the requirement for matched funding that favours
affluent communities over poorer communities and we need urgent action
from the government to address the really worrying aspects around the
legacy of the coal industry in Wales that could see a real disaster if action is not taken so I encourage her to carry on campaigning in
that respect Britain as my honourable friend has mentioned is not unique in
the challenges facing us in terms of the climate catastrophe in many cases what
will happen in the global South will be even more disastrous than what is
happening in the UK that’s why action cannot wait. I am very grateful to the honourable member for giving away he will be aware of concerns that the bill does not focus enough on the UK’s global
footprint so would he agree with me that the government should introduce a
mandatory due diligence mechanism it would help to reduce the UK’s global
footprint? Well I’m grateful for the on member for
that intervention I think it’s a good reminder that actually one of the ways
that we have decarbonize in the past few years has simply been to export our
carbon to export it not in terms of the waste that we export but also in terms
of the production of the most carbon intensive products that we use so it’s a
good point that he raised I’m gonna make some progress before I take any further
interventions mindful of the people that are following us as a nation we need a
gold standard environment bill I agree with the minister when he says that we
need that world-leading legislation but this is not that world-leading
legislation it still looks like a draft bill it hasn’t had complete
pre-legislative scrutiny for the entire bill which I think it needs it
lacks coherence between the different sections of the bill and it lacks the
ambition to tackle the climate crisis as a whole with a comprehensive and renewed
strategy now labour will be a critical friend to ministers during this process we
will not be opposing the bill today but in that spirit we hope
ministers will look seriously at adopting the measures we will put
forward to improve this bill and strengthen it especially at committee
stage there is a cause for concern that I have about the
positioning of this bill that it’s been spun so hard by successive governments
as Secretary of State’s in particular that it can’t possibly deliver the grand
soundbites that it’s been set up to do that means that a heavy lifting that’s
required now to address our decarbonization efforts and protect our
communities may be hampered because it won’t be able to deliver on those lofty
promises I really worry that unless we match those grand soundbites with
determined action we’ll be failing our children and
failing the communities that we are here to serve in the time left I want to
cover three key areas of concern about this bill first Labour’s belief that non
regression of environmental standards must be a legal requirement secondly how
the new Office of Environmental Protection needs to be strengthened and
how the ambition of government press releases needs to be translated into
genuine delivery in this bill firstly on standards and targets we are promised
during the election that the government would not lower our food standards
despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary and post brexit trade deals as
we’ve already seen with the debates around the agriculture bill
ministers have chosen to leave the door open when it comes to undercutting
British farm and food standards in post brexit trade deals the new environment
secretary cannot even guarantee that chlorinated chicken or lactic acid washed
chicken won’t be allowed into Britain as a result of the US trade deal the rough
ride that he got with the National Farmers Union this morning will just be
the start if he doesn’t come to the realization that many of us in this
house have on both sides that that commitment that he and others have given
must be put in law we can’t allow our standards to be undercut and that
principle of not allowing our standards to be undercut applies to this bill too
we need to make sure that non regression on environmental standards with the EU
is a floor that we must not go below. I’m going to make a bit of progress I’ll
come back to you in a moment if I can. We simply cannot allow our environmental
standards to be undercut in the same way as our food and animal welfare standards
risk being undercut with trade deals indeed we need to make sure that we have
measures approaching dynamic alignment with the European Union to make sure
that Britain isn’t seen as a country with lower standards in comparison to
our European friends because a lower regulatory standards and lower animal
welfare standards especially on imported food will see damage to ecosystems
habitats and the downward pressure on regulation in future times which will
damage our efforts to decarbonize our economy I want to see the lofty words
said by all the ministers on the front page and the Prime Minister about
non-aggression put into this bill so where is the legal commitment to
non-aggression on environmental protections that the British people have
asked for why is it not clearly in this bill if we have any hope of tackling the
climate emergency in a meaningful way we need to be aiming towards Net Zero by
2030 not by 2050. I thank the honorable gentleman
for giving way on the question of net zero by 2030 does he not recognize what the Committee on climate change recognizes indeed
Baroness Brown in the other place the net zero by 2050 in and of itself will
be a huge challenge for this country blindly throwing out 2030 as if that is
easy he’s doing a disservice not just to this house but to the people
watching. I’m a big fan of the honourable gentleman’s Instagram feed and I
follow it with with great passion and sometimes I feel a bit disappointed
by interventions like this we can’t afford not to hit net zero by 2030 but
the government’s currently on track for 2099 right a far-off date many many
moons away will not deal with the climate emergency that we have will not
protect our habitats that we need protecting that drive needs to be there
but we know that for some sectors achieving a net zero date by 2030 will
be very challenging for some achieving it by 2050 will be very challenging
agriculture being one of those sectors the NFU’s plans to hit net zero by
2040 is very challenging and if sectors are to deliver net zero by any date
we’ll need some sectors to go faster and further than others to create carbon
Headroom on the requirement that that progress is not double counted in carbon
calculations this supposedly world-leading environment bill so sadly
does not have a single target in this bill no duty on ministers to ensure that
Britain decarbonizes and stops the climate crisis getting any worse
secondly I want to turn to the office Environmental Protection the proposed
new regulator I know from previous debates that there are members opposite
who are not too keen on the idea of a new government outfit being created in
this space but I agree with ministers that we do need a robust regulator sadly
the one being proposed in this bill is not strong enough in our view we need it
to have teeth a remit that is unaffected by government patronage a careful
consideration of the signs and a bite that would make ministers think twice
about missing their targets that is what the Office of Environment Protection should be but that’s sadly not what this bill
envisages the new regulations does not have true independence from government
it has no legal powers to hold the government to account in the way it
needs to approving its chair by a government-led select committee where
the government has a majority I don’t think is sufficient when ministers have
been dragged time and time again through the courts for missing air quality
targets how can we ensure that this regulator would make that a thing of the
past and not a repeat prescription we need ministers to do as members on
both sides have suggested today and adopt WHO targets for air quality in
particulates we need regulators to have teeth to make sure those targets
are enforced and we need to make sure that that new regulator sits and works
in a complementary way with what is already a quite congested regulatory
space around the environments already. I thank my honourable friend for giving away the prospects the Union have written to me expressing their concern that only 100 staff will
be employed by the Office of Environment Protection does the shadow minister
share my concerns about this under resourcing. I thank my honourable friend for intervention and what we’ve seen since 2010 is that regulators can
still exist but their ability to deliver that regulation the quality of that
regulation depends on the resources if there is a political lever being applied
by ministers and I’ve said before I have a lot of time for the current
environment secretary but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone that follows him
would have the same approach if budgets were to be changed and political
patronage were to be applied in terms of the way it’s dealt with in terms of its
leadership and its board and that could affect the outcomes resourcing does
matter I’ll not take any further intervention so I can finish the remarks
although that would be a good time for for them thank you very much
all right and the section on water like to turn to you next
unless someone would like to intervene very briefly at this point here I would
love you to give away thank you very much. Well in the spirit of kindness next to my constituency is Luton Airport
one of the concerns that many of my constituents have is the air quality
that of my constituency in relation to Luton Airport indeed all our
constituencies will have separate issues what’s the Honourable gentleman’s view
on how we can use this bill to apply to specific instances at specific times
such as poor air quality around Luton Airport. I’m very grateful for him and I
will like of his Instagram posts as a reward for for that very kind
intervention I think we do need to address air quality around airports and
transport modes in particular the ability to do that is predicated on the
data though and that’s why my honourable friend from Warrington leamington and who
made that point earlier making sure we’re doing it based on reliable
evidence is important that means we need to have the right testing stations and
at the moment I still feel there are too few air quality monitoring stations and
I think a way of embracing that on more schools more GP surgeries more
areas of public a greater level of public dwelling is actually the way that
we need to go forwards and I think that is the way that we address it but in
particular for airport it’s about surface access making sure that people
can get to airports easier now and because I’ve been coughing and sputtering
for a while I’ll rush through briefly so I can follow the ones there so I don’t
take of anyone else’s time in relations with a section on water as all members
opposite have already addressed this doesn’t go further enough to deal with
some of the issues around water poverty all do anything to address per capita
consumption meaningful water labeling or solve the challenge of where we’re going
to get the water we need for the homes that we need to build in the future I
think if this is to be genuinely world leading I would have hoped that
government would have adopted some of the really groundbreaking areas around
water policy at the moment such as water neutrality the idea that for every new
home that we build won’t be providing anymore water
resources that will be offset by water efficiency in our existing housing stock
there are some really grand opportunities and some fantastic
water innovations but that’s why we need this bill to go further on water
efficiency in our homes actions on leaks and investment in our water efficient
technologies and a war on leaky lous as as important as that is I would also
like to see the government look at a commitment where the water industry is
moved to bring up using a hundred percent renewable energy within the next
five years that is a power that ministers already have with the
regulatory powers that efra and defra already has finally the last
section I want to turn to is about trees the minister has already mentioned that the
new bill includes a section on trees that would allow trees to be chopped
down a different way it doesn’t include any new powers to plant trees now that
seems an omission which I imagine on both sides of the house people will be
looking at the bill and saying surely that’s not right when the government is
missing its tree planting target by 71 percent already further powers to chop
down trees doesn’t seem to be the priority in my mind we need to look at
how we’re planting the only more trees different types of biodiversity habitats
and making sure that carbon is sequestered in the right way that is
really important because if we are to address the loss of species both in the
UK and globally we need to take action cop 26 provides us with a global
platform to showcase the very best of our global thinking our action and
our legislation this bill at the moment doesn’t deliver that groundbreaking
global platform that I think we need to take into that and I hope ministers will
take seriously the concerns that myself and the Honourable colleagues behind me
who will speak later will address because there is a real desire on both
sides of the house to improve this legislation to make it that genuine
world-leading piece of legislation that the minister aspires for it to be but to
do that I invite the minister to work with us to improve this legislation
simply voting down every amendment so we can keep a clean sheet
I don’t think we’ll deliver that and I hope that he will take that challenge in
the spirit that’s meant so we can work together to improve this piece of
legislation because the climate crisis needs to be addressed and it won’t be
sufficiently addressed in it in the way it needs to if we allow this bill to go
through unaltered thank you


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