Climate Change Debate

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Department: Cabinet Office
Monday 24th July 2023

(1 year ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan (Con)
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on securing this important debate. My focus this evening is to concentrate just on one issue—one example of where global warming and climate change are having an adverse effect and acting as a multiplier or accelerator to the damage being inflicted on our environment. In so doing, I declare my interest as chair of governors at Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools.

At our schools we have decided to champion climate change and sustainability. Our flagship policy is the health of the River Wye. Our objective is to place sustainability at the heart of everything we do, and for that reason we are one of only eight schools in the United Kingdom on the ISC advisory group on sustainability. The River Wye is in sight from all our schools. It runs through Wales, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire. The River Wye is ill; it is in poor health. Local practices, many uncontrolled, are impacting the ecosystems, and global warming compounds their damaging effect. Treated sewage is discharged into the river and combines with run-off from farms. When combined with rising temperatures, conditions become perfect for algal blooms, which limit oxygen levels in the river and act to distress the lifestyle of the whole ecosystem. The depletion of ozone is happening due to global warming and is a major factor behind rapid growth in algal blooms.

Global warming compounds the problem. At seven to 16 degrees centigrade, fish are happy and active. By 19 degrees, temperatures are too high, and fish are stressed. Aquatic life at this temperature and above will increase the risk of fish mortality. Last month, temperatures in the River Wye during the daytime exceeded 20 degrees, leading to fish mortality, and the incidence of such high temperatures is not a one off but regularly reoccurs. The Wye Valley is an iconic landscape, hugely important for biodiversity. It is an SSSI and part of it comprises the River Wye special area of conservation. Yet it is dying.

My intention on focusing on the Wye this evening is to demonstrate that climate change must never be viewed in isolation from the wider devastation to which it contributes. The decline in the health of our rivers is magnified by climate change, which can turn manageable problems into a heady cocktail of aggressive destruction, as they increasingly oscillate from flood to drought. On the River Wye we have a duty not only to take action against the huge algal blooms, the invisible poison of phosphate and the dumping of over 1 million tonnes of manure from farms housing up to 10 million chickens; we have to engage in the climate change debate, to which the impacts of these actions are linked.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hastings: we need to campaign. It is vitally important to engage with young people in all our schools in the UK, following the lead we are taking in Monmouth, and to assist in ensuring the integration of environmental and sustainable principles into the educational delivery and operational procedures in all our schools. We must do all this with the same commitment as we intend to generate with our focus on the River Wye. It is one of our great rivers, which must be nursed out of intensive care and away from its current spiralling decline to once again becoming the river which used to see 2,000 to 3,000 salmon run every year, not today’s few hundred stressed fish. We will do that only if all politicians lead by example and work with all students in the United Kingdom, as we intend to do with the people in Monmouth, those living in our towns and villages close to the river, and the many organisations that come together and work so diligently to save the Wye.