Climate Emergency

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Bim Afolami:First, I congratulate my constituent Maddie Evans from St George’s School, Harpenden, who has managed to make it out of school to come to this debate. I think she is somewhere up in the Gallery, or at least I was told she was. I congratulate her on that, and I hope she will not get into trouble for doing so. [Interruption.] Let us move on.

I do not want to repeat what has already been said in this debate, but it is important that we recognise that no party has a monopoly on virtue on this subject, and most of the speeches so far in the debate have made that clear. There are some things to celebrate: 2018 was a record year for renewable energy, and CO2 emissions have reduced year on year in every year of the life of this Government. This is the Government who banned microbeads and who have reduced plastic bag usage by over 85%. It is also the Government who support nuclear power, which helps us in our overall aims in this area.

However, I was very taken by the excellent speech by Edward Miliband. He talked compellingly about the act of political persuasion. We need to take our constituents with us on this journey; people from “planet politics” should not be telling them how they should be taxed more or have their cars taken away. We have to take our constituents with us. How do we do that? We need to show them that their lives can be better and richer—richer in both the social and economic senses—as a result of making the changes towards decarbonising our economy. How do we do that?

I thought I would give some examples of what we are doing in Hitchin and Harpenden. We are installing many more electric car charging points. We are improving our cycle routes, such as the Nickey line, which connects the village of Redbourn with Harpenden. That not only reduces car usage, but makes people fitter and happier through cycling. We are protecting our chalk streams such as the River Mimram. Heartwood forest, a new forest of almost 1,000 hectares, is just north of the village of Sandridge in my constituency and protects biodiversity in Hertfordshire.

I am listing all those things not only because I am a very proud constituency MP but to say that if we can show people how their day-to-day lives can be better and richer as a result of taking into account the climate emergency that we are declaring today, we can persuade them to make the larger, more systemic changes that I think we all realise we need to see.

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