We are now just days away from perhaps the most important election in a generation. It will literally determine the direction of our country for decades to come.
There is so much at stake that I sometimes feel like I am holding my breath so suppress a scream. Last year top scientists from the UN warned us that the window of opportunity to reverse the damage is shrinking. This warning seemed to have an effect on the ground, activists started to take to the streets and made demands from their political leaders. But Johnson wasn’t convinced. The Tories have rowed back on commitments and initiatives to help us combat climate change.
Instead Johnson has been cosying up to Trump who has denied climate change and withdrew from the Paris climate change agreement. Climate change underpins our very existence and it is one of the most pressing foreign policy challenges of the next government. What are we saying to the children and the next generation if we don’t tackle climate change now?
Earlier this year the former chief scientific adviser to the government called for the UK to advance its climate targets by 10 years. This is deeply worrying because it means we are ten years behind where we should be. We need to act now to protect future generations, it simply cannot wait.
We certainly cannot trust the Tories to deal with this crisis. The fact that Boris Johnson couldn’t even be bothered to turn up to Channel 4’s climate debate demonstrates his contempt for the issue and the country. He sent his Dad, if that isn’t a virtual two finger salute then I don’t know what is. The truth is, the Tories didn’t take part in the climate debate because they have nothing to say. A slowly melting ice sculpture was the right image to replace Boris Johnson.
There is no room for half measures or business as usual. Extinction Rebellion have rightly been sending this message to all of us. If the slow progress carries on at the current rate, we won’t meet the government’s existing target to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 never mind exceed it! We have to cut global emissions in half by 2030 to have a chance of keeping global heating within safe limits. Our air particularly in London is already at an illegal limit. Children are dying and the sad reality is children under 10 have undeveloped lungs, while asthma is on the increase.
Labour is the only major party offering this radical solid plan to tackle the climate emergency. Not just words but a programme and a Green Industrial Revolution. I was proud to support the Labour Party’s motion in Parliament which declared an environmental and climate emergency.
Labour’s ambitious plans involve a Green Industrial Revolution to shift our economy towards renewable energy, investing in sustainable forms of transport like rail and electric cars. It will create hundreds of thousands of good, clean jobs that will transform our communities.
Our Green New Deal will have the most ambitious climate targets of any country in the world. And Labour will bring forward the net zero target to achieve the substantial majority of our emissions reductions by 2030, which is far more ambitious than this Tory government.
Mother Nature has a way of reminding us what’s important and who’s in charge.
In the fight against carbon dioxide, trees are the key. A large tree absorbs carbon dioxide and can provide a day’s oxygen for four people. When you look at our plans for tree-planting, we are going much further than any other party and our two billion tree target even exceeds that of the Green Party! It shows how serious and ambitious we are about the environment.
We need to send the clear message that this election is also about living healthier, cleaner lives. In Brent, the Harlesden and Neasden areas are home to three of Britain’s ten worst polluted areas. And on my doorstep is the North Circular Road, one of the most polluted roads in London. Polluted air shockingly contributes to more than 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK and that’s why we need a government that cares about everyone not just the privileged few.
The mayor Sadiq Khan is doing all he can to ensure clean air in London and bring pollution down, but to fully achieve it we need a Government that cares too. That is why a Labour government will introduce a new Clean Air Act, with a vehicle scrappage scheme and clean air zones, complying with World Health Organisation limits.
Sometimes thinking about this election makes me emotional. As a politician I know it is about poverty, homelessness, aspiration and the bigger things like climate change and Brexit – the decisions that are made in Parliament, affect people’s lives, but some politicians are so out of touch they don’t even realise it and that is what we are fighting for in this election.
So I say: if you want to end the disaster that is Universal Credit, fix the housing crisis, deliver real equality for women, Black, Asian and minority ethnic people and for LGBTQI+ people, for all the different religions, and to stop the Tory sell-off of our National Health Service – then please add tackling the climate crisis to that long list of reasons to vote the Tories out.
It is a once-in-a-generation chance to tackle the climate and environment crisis but we can only do so by electing a radical Labour Government on 12 December to transform society for the better for us all.
Dawn Butler is the Labour Party candidate for Brent Central