Restoring Nature and Climate Change Debate

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Restoring Nature and Climate Change

Alison Thewliss Excerpts
Monday 28th October 2019

(11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:56 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady; I am sure there is no danger of complete unanimity breaking out when she is in the room. She is right that, when it comes to the issue of Heathrow, there is certainly not likely to be unanimity. That is an important point, because sometimes—I am not saying this about that particular project—it is pretty clear that there is some greenwashing going on, and we must always be mindful of that.

I turn to the Government and ask for a couple of commitments—first, clear leadership and a commitment to implementing nature restoration measures, rather than simply leaving them to the market, where simplistic short-term economic arguments too often win out. Yes, restoration can make absolute economic sense on a macro level, but individual actors need encouragement, education and direction on why they should change their behaviour. Targets and monitoring are vital there.

Secondly, as I suspect is often the way, I want to press for more ambition from the Government. The 25-year environment plan includes measures that would improve our natural environment, yes, but many would say that we should go much further. The commitment to restore 500,000 hectares, for example, is half what a single company has pledged in Indonesia. We should look at what others have pledged in the Bonn Challenge. The commitment to raise forest cover in England from 10% to 12% takes us from sixth lowest in Europe to eighth lowest, still behind Scotland and Wales. Most European countries have over one third of their land covered in forest. Belgium has a similar population density to us, but over twice the forest, so we can do more, and we can challenge ourselves further.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP) - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:57 p.m.

I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman pay tribute to the efforts of the Scottish Government, but does he agree that the efforts of organisations such as Network Rail hold them back? It is trying to cut down swathes of trees along the railway lines through my constituency, removing a nature corridor that is important to local people.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard

The hon. Lady is absolutely right and points to exactly the kind of trade-off that I was referring to. As a member of the Select Committee on Transport, I should be at this very moment questioning Mr Williams on this issue. She is right to draw attention to the many trees that are being destroyed.

Let me conclude with a voice from a future generation, because last week I received a letter from Maggie, a 10-year-old girl from a primary school in my constituency, and I would like to quote one or two of the things she said:

“Sir David Attenborough said that ‘nature recovery’ laws must be created to ensure ‘habitats are expanded and reconnected’. Please ask the Government to pass a law to protect our wildlife!”

She went on:

“Secondly, our wildlife is endangered by the plastic in the sea and us cutting down their homes. We also need to stop littering around our environment, fields and especially on the beach! To sum up, I need you to tell the government that they need to act now and my question for the government is: do you want to keep ruining animals’ lives, or do you want to save the animals and our world from climate change?”

I must say that in my political life I have rarely invoked Maggie, but today I hope the Minister will rise to the challenge of 21st-century Maggie and act to protect her, and our, future.