MPs debate climate after school strike – but only a handful turn up

The debate came after thousands of schoolchildren and teachers walked out of lessons to call for greater government action on climate challenges

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said she had secured the discussion after being inspired by the thousands of UK schoolchildren who went on strike over climate change this month and wanted to thank them for forcing MPs into action.

Moran said climate change had not been debated in the main chamber of the House of Commons for two years. She spoke, however, to a chamber where the seats were predominantly empty.

At points, as few as 10 MPs sat on government benches, although the opposition side was more occupied. The lacklustre response to the debate from the government was in stark contrast to the condemnation by Downing Street to the thousands of children involved in the strike for climate change, calling it “truancy”.

Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), said politicians needed to shape and bend the financial system to invest in a green economy.

“To achieve net zero [carbon emissions] we have to reduce our emissions rapidly and at scale in every area of our economy and our lives,” she said.

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, said last year’s UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – detailing the difference between meeting a 1.5C rise above pre-industrial levels compared with 2C – gave the most alarming picture yet of the impact of climate change.

He said: “If you look at the trends, we are not heading for that apocalyptic 2C rise, we are heading something that looks more like 3 degrees, the consequences of which we cannot possibly estimate.”

In light of that, he said “the idea of children missing a few hours of geometry or PE to wake our political system up is somehow the wrong thing to do just seems … absurd”.

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, who secured the debate with Moran, said long-term climate targets had to be amended to net zero. She said even after all of the international conferences and pledges, the Earth was still set to warm by 3-4C.

“Time is quickly running out to limit warming even to the 1.5C or 2C aspirations of the IPCC. We face a climate emergency … It calls for unprecedented boldness of vision and a new way of thinking.”

Sandra Laville

This article first appeared on the Guardian

edie is a member of the Guardian Environment Network

Comments (3)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Mr Kettle meet Mrs Pot – calling kids standing up for what they believe in, and for their future, truants then not bothering to turn up to debate and maybe take some concrete action smacks of hypocrisy of the highest kind. Mind you what do we expect from our elected representatives really.

    While parliament bickers and works to the next 5 years and re-election can we really expect any of them to make the tough decisions that might be needed to halt the damage let alone repair it? What is needed is a cross party, non politically motivated panel of MPs, Scientists, Economists and other experts in various fields to sit round a big (recycled) table and thrash out a sensible, realistic plan for the next 50 years not the next 5.

    I say well done to the kids for standing up and making a noise. I’m of the "Hammer to Fall" generation – "we who grew up tall and proud, in the shadow of the mushroom cloud". Today’s kids are growing up in a much more scary shadow so it is up to them to "scream it louder and louder".

  2. Richard Phillips says:

    I note that Ms Moran stands out as the sole MP who has graduate qualifications in the Physical Sciences.

    In spite of Chairing the Env Audit Committee, Ms Creagh is a graduate in European Studies and languages. Ms Lucas holds both a degree and doctorate in English Literature. Mr Goldsmith holds no graduate titles.

    But the subject under discussion is pivotal upon an understanding of the science behind any change in global temperature, and its putative influence upon a lasting (for generations), trend in a changing world climate pattern.

    These are complex scientific issues, certainly not yet well understood.

    Reliance upon mathematical modelling has profound weaknesses, if ALL parameters are not properly quantified, the model will reflect this, and in the climate field it is a both brave and foolish man who will not recognise this fact.

    The "Hockey Stick" is a case in point. Several versions have been produced, three I believe, and the statistical mathematics have been overturned by the highest statisticians in the US Government, years ago.

    But as long as "the system" must elect only MPs to positions requiring broad technical knowledge, and in this area they are almost non-existent, we shall continue to be deep in the mire. We have never had a Ministerial post in the energy sector, filled by a physical science or engineering graduate, never!

    Richard Phillips

  3. Richard Phillips says:

    Quite separately, Kieron is absolutely correct in his point:

    "What is needed is a cross party, non politically motivated panel of MPs, Scientists, Economists and other experts in various fields to sit round a big (recycled) table and thrash out a sensible, realistic plan for the next 50 years not the next 5."

    It is not as if such persons are not available, but business lobbyists are to avoided like the plague.

    Richard Phillips

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie