Cat attends top Climate Change briefing
Cat attends top Climate Change briefing

This week I attended a briefing from Sir Patrick Vallance and other leading UK scientists on climate change, I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change, which hosted this briefing.

The briefing was an updated version of the slides that the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, showed the Prime Minister before the UN climate summit COP26 in Glasgow last year.

During the briefing Sir Patrick outlined the latest scientific thinking on the threat posed by rising greenhouse gas emissions, including the escalating risks of flooding, extreme heat, and biodiversity loss.

The relationship between humans and nature is under intense and increasing strain. Harmful activities, including habitat destruction, poor farming practices and pollution, have altered ecosystems significantly, driving many species past the point of recovery. In Great Britain alone, of the 8,431 species assessed in the 2019 State of Nature report, 1,188 are threatened with extinction. Globally, there are an estimated 1 million at risk, with biodiversity declining at a faster rate than at any time in human history.

Alongside overexploitation, humans are driving biodiversity loss by destroying, polluting and fragmenting habitats across the globe. Many of the UK’s important peatlands, which provide a home for rare species such as the hen harrier, have been drained for agricultural use.

Many species simply cannot adapt to the scale and pace of changing temperatures – warming seas and ocean acidification are devastating coral reefs around the world. This year, the Great Barrier Reef suffered its sixth mass bleaching event since 1998 with more than 90% of reefs affected. In many cases, when an ecosystem loses biodiversity, it becomes less able to store carbon, contributing to further climate change. We have a vicious cycle: climate change leads to biodiversity losses, which in turn leads to further climate change. Billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are still being sent into the atmosphere every year from coal, oil and gas burning.

As I write I am, like you, sweltering, as we face extreme temperatures, with much of England on an amber weather warning – and yet its striking by its absence as a topic for debate in the Conservatives leadership campaign. Not a single candidate for the Conservative leadership (and therefore PM) attended the event, nor have any of them raised this critical global issue in their campaigns. Instead we have a race to the bottom as they all compete to see how far they can go on un-costed tax cuts.

The climate emergency is the gravest threat our planet faces. From day one, a Labour Government will prioritise a green energy sprint, a national home energy efficiency plan, and a climate investment pledge, which would cut bills, deliver energy sovereignty, and cut emissions.

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