Restoring Nature and Climate Change Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate

Restoring Nature and Climate Change

Caroline Lucas Excerpts
Monday 28th October 2019

(11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard

My hon. Friend is right; I will come to some of those points later.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green) - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:37 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman is being generous with his time. It is great that we are all paying tribute to our local wildlife trusts; I will put in a word for the wonderful Sussex Wildlife Trust. Does he agree that we need urgent action? Ministers could make a decision right now to ban the burning of blanket bog, ending the release of huge amounts of emissions that could otherwise be captured by peat. When we consider that globally peatlands can store more carbon than rainforests, we need to be doing much more and not burning them.

Sir Oliver Heald Portrait Sir Oliver Heald - Hansard

Only if they are wet; they have to be wet.

Break in Debate

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:54 p.m.

I am grateful for that intervention. It must be a wonderful thing to be able to see that the trees that were planted then have now come to fruition. That is also an important point.

If we are to consider all these points alongside a future generations initiative, we need to make not only individual and cultural changes, but systemic, Government-led ones. Tom Maddox, of Natural Capital Hub and Flora & Fauna International, told me of the need to adopt a holistic approach, and in 2021—

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:54 p.m.

rose—

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:54 p.m.

I will just finish the sentence. In 2021, the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration starts—a huge opportunity. Let us beat the curve and adopt those radical and far-reaching changes now.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas - Hansard
28 Oct 2019, 4:54 p.m.

I apologise for interrupting. I thought there was a semi-colon there, but perhaps there was not. I know the hon. Gentleman is concerned about an outbreak of unanimity, so in case that should happen, can I put it to him that natural climate solutions must be supported, but only in addition to, not instead of, rapid emission reductions in every part of the economy? Does he share my concern that Heathrow airport, for example, is pushing a set of ideas about peatland restoration as part of its so-called carbon-neutral growth plans, but not changing business as usual? We must not use natural climate solutions as a way to avoid real carbon reduction.

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.