Luke Pollard MP Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
Yesterday harrowing figures released by the ONS saw the UK economy fall by 19% for the three months to May. The Bank of England policy team has warned that a ‘V-shaped’ recovery from the coronavirus crisis would likely to stall at the end of 2020 because of rising unemployment.
The climate emergency may have fallen down the political agenda in the last few months, but the need to combat the effects are as pressing as ever. Luke and his Front-Bench colleagues in the Shadow Cabinet has been working on a plan to tackle unemployment while addressing the climate crisis simultaneously.
Luke Pollard MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:
“As Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment I have been working alongside Ed Miliband, the Shadow Business and Energy Secretary and Annelise Dodds, the Shadow Chancellor in how we build back better once we come out of the current pandemic. The decarbonisation of our economy needs to be integral to any coronavirus recovery package.
Ed has been vocal in need for what he calls a ‘Zero Carbon Army’. This ‘Army’ would be tasked with planting trees with nature-based solutions. They would repurpose our towns and cities, so they lend themselves to walking and cycling. These are all areas I have been leading the team on.
The ‘Zero Carbon Army’ would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs spread evenly across the country. We know that the economic impact of COVID-19 could create a million young people unemployed. The Conservatives seem to be dragging their feet at the cost. However, the human cost of inaction is far greater.
Trees play an essential role in providing habitats for our wildlife and help offset carbon to fight the climate emergency. Last year the Conservative Governments missed their own tree-planting agenda by 71%. This last month, we have seen the Government announce yet another new consultation on its tree planting strategy. Trees do a significant job. If we are going to tackle the climate emergency bold, radical plans are needed, and tree planting can be at the centre.
We don’t just need to plant trees in our urban environment but our marine one too. I speak a lot in Westminster about the need to plant seagrass. Seagrass sequester 35 times more carbon than trees. Seagrass covers just 0.2% of the ocean but provides an estimated 10% of its carbon storage. Planting more seagrass around our fantastic coast can be part of nature-based solutions to climate change. This is another area I am pushing Minister’s to move on.
On the plan to repurpose our towns and cities for walking and cycling: Research has revealed that the majority of us are wary of returning to public transport after the lockdown ended and people are resorting to private vehicles. This is having a disastrous effect on our environment. I want to see a huge shift upwards in funding for walking and cycling, which would simultaneously address air quality and the climate crisis.
I tabled an amendment to the Environment Bill that recently proceeded through Parliament so that air quality targets would meet internationally recognised World Health Organization standards. The hefty Conservative majority meant this reasonable amendment was voted down.
A report by the Royal College of Physicians found that 40,000 deaths are attributable to air pollution in the UK every year. We need to tackle air pollution because this is not just air or climate problem; it is also a social justice problem: breathing clean air is a human right.
Exposure to PM2.5 should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air, according to the World Health Organisation, but in Plymouth, there are communities where the figure is 12 micrograms. This is not acceptable. All our children deserve to breathe clean air. The repurposing of our communities to enable more people to cycle or walk to work would work wonders for air quality. The pandemic has given us a real opportunity to build a better society. A more just society where your postcode does not determine the amount of clean air you breathe.”
Luke has been one of the most outspoken Members on the effects of climate change often taking the opportunity to speak and directly call on the Government to take more immediate and meaningful action to protect our planet and vulnerable natural habitats. In the past year he has spoken about the need to invest in electric vehicles, end the use of diesel and petrol engines, the need for more action to protect coastal nesting sites for birds, to prevent over-fishing, to fight plastic pollution and for more movement on air quality to list but a few.
You can keep up to date with Luke’s campaigns on his Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – simply search for @LukePollard.