Zac Goldsmith was one of a number of MPs to speak in the first debate Parliament has held on the issue of climate change for more than two years.
He began his speech by joking that there are those in his constituency who fear he cares too much about environmental issues. He said: “In an effort to chip away at my gigantic constituency majority in Richmond Park and North Kingston, one or two local opponents enjoy telling my constituents that I care more about the environment and climate change than I do about Brexit, and they are right—I do, for all the reasons we have just heard. So they can stick that on their leaflets.”
In his speech he pointed out “the five warmest years in recorded history have been since 2010 and the implications are truly alarming: ecosystems forced through such rapid changes that they are unlikely to be able to adapt; lands becoming harder and harder to farm; and refugees on a scale we have never had to deal with before as a species.”
Zac defended the school children who have taken time off school to protest the issue. He said: “the idea that children missing a few hours of geometry or physical education to ring the alarm bells and wake up our political system is somehow a wasted opportunity or the wrong thing to do just seems churlish. It seems absurd and mean-minded.”
And talking directly to climate sceptics, he added: “of course we can quibble with the predictions, because climate systems are complex. Nevertheless, we are faced with a pretty simple calculation: what happens if we ignore that overwhelming scientific consensus, listen instead to the sceptics, and are then wrong? The IPCC predictions have told us that we would be risking life on Earth as we know it. We would be risking civilisation. What happens if instead we listen to that consensus, take action and are wrong? Well, by accident we would end up with a cleaner and eventually cheaper energy system. We would end up protecting more of the world’s forests and ecosystems. We would end up with an economic system that was more circular and less wasteful. It really is not a difficult calculation to make.”
Zac described the scale of the change we need to bring about to get on top of the issue, including a rapid shift to clean, renewable energy and a much quicker transition to electric vehicles. He placed a particular emphasis on the need to protect the world’s forests.
He said; “Apart from transport, deforestation is the single largest source of emissions. It accounts for around 20%—a fifth—of all carbon emissions. Forests are one of the world’s largest carbon sinks, absorbing around 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon a year and storing many billions more, yet we are losing 18.7 million acres of forests every year, the equivalent of 27 football pitches every single minute. It is self-evident madness.”
He added; “In addition to being at the forefront of the new net zero revolution, which is what it is, let us also be world leaders in restoring ecosystems on a scale that finally matches the problem.”
Read the transcript of Zac’s speech here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-02-28/debates/9E4B3F01-254A-4806-BA5D-4CE3F3C52C16/NetZeroCarbonEmissionsUK’SProgress#contribution-C35B9C8B-FE64-42C1-BFBE-CA60CD4CA71F