My work to support the environment internationally and in North Essex, including the Blackwater Estuary, Bradwell and the Dedham Vale AONB
Welcome to a summary of my work on environmental issues over the past decade. Let me be absolutely clear, climate change is happening. It may be uncomfortable news to hear, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Unquestionably, action needs to be taken. For those saying that humans aren’t to blame – I would encourage them to look at the evidence. But most importantly, man-made climate change doesn’t need to be completely certain to be worth fixing. It doesn’t even need to be possible. For this issue, at this moment, the stakes are so high that a human cause merely needs to be possible.
The consequences of global warming – and it is a global phenomenon – will not only be felt by people in the United Kingdom. Rising sea levels will damage coastal communities here, but in low-lying regions of the world that are particularly vulnerable. Increased desertification will also affect some of the poorest people in the world, as will warming-linked expansion for habitats for insects carrying infectious diseases. Habitat and biodiversity destruction will lead to more mass migration as people escape increasingly inhospitable areas.
Serious progress has been made. The UK has hugely reduced its reliance on coal – producing nearly one tenth as much energy with the fuel now as it did in 1990. In that time, the amount of renewable energy: solar, wind and tidal, has skyrocketed. Businesses have also played their part: about one third of the reduction has come from carbon savings there.
But more needs to be done, and it needs to be done at an international scale. The United States and China are the two biggest contributors in the world, and India has had the fastest rate of international growth of any major economy. There are serious arguments to be made about the payoffs between rapid industrial development and decarbonisation, but the key point is that we need to be having them. More urgent and perhaps more radical action is necessary as there really isn’t any time left to waste.
Environmental issues also extend far beyond these major national and international efforts. Our coasts and waters, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, habitats, biodiversity, use of plastics and our energy consumption; I have worked on all of these in the last few years along with some tremendous local campaigners. Those of you who follow my work on these issues will know the environment is close to my heart.
I am one of the 117 Members who originally signed the letter calling for Net-Zero emissions before 2050, and have long campaigned on this issue. That the Government has now intends on making this law is a tremendous success for all of us striving to safeguard our environment for future generations. I wrote the article below with my Parliamentary colleague, Alex Sobel MP, for the Times on this very issue.
“Whisper it, but there’s something both of us agree on. It’s hard these days to find anything where all MPs are united, bar the continued abuse and harassment that elected representatives receive on social media. But on climate change the House of Commons is mostly united, and for good reason. A warming planet is one of the most serious long-term threats our country faces, a fact long acknowledged by defence chiefs. It’s why over 100 MPs from across all parties have signed a letter to the prime minister urging her to back a target for zero net emissions before 2050.
The landscapes and institutions we cherish are at acute risk from temperature rises. Our farmers, fishermen, NHS workers and firemen are among those expected to feel the full force of a projected increase in heatwaves and floods. It’s why the UK has proudly led global efforts to tackle this menace for the past two decades. That leadership is the cornerstone in the UK’s relationship with the Commonwealth and developing countries globally. And it’s leadership that is expected at home: nearly 70 per cent of Britons want the UK to remain part of the Paris agreement on climate change, which targets mid-century zero emissions.
It’s what is expected from a permanent member of the UN security council, and it is a logical strategy from a country that counts itself as a global trader. We’re the fastest G7 country to cut carbon pollution, a standard-bearer across Europe and the world in developing new, hi-tech green technologies. In 2016 a fifth of all electric cars sold in Europe were made at the Nissan plant in Sunderland. By 2030, the low carbon economy could be worth £600 billion and employ five million people across the country. British manufacturers and scientists are world leaders in hydrogen, smart grids and lightweight composites that will form the cars, planes and trains of the future.
It’s the present and the future we both had in mind when we signed the letter. You’re unlikely to hear President Trump say it, but all nations are ultimately going to net zero — so this is about getting British business ahead of the curve. It’s a target in line with the UN’s Paris agreement, and in line with other pioneering and fast-growing economies such as Norway and Sweden. In practice it means more trees and spaces for nature, where farmers are rewarded handsomely for feeding us and protecting the land. It means more efficient homes keeping us warmer in winter and cooler in the summer, and cleaner transport fleets that will reduce air pollution and protect children’s lungs. It means cities that are kinder to residents, promoting public transport and offering better opportunities for exercise, reducing pressure on the NHS. And it means the UK setting the global agenda: fearless, bold, brave.
This is an agenda that should unite the country. It draws on support across the political spectrum. From Bright Blue, the Institute for Public Policy Research, Policy Exchange and the New Economics Foundation and Chatham House, great British ideas to tackle this threat are pouring in. By aiming high we have an opportunity to lead, to listen to Commonwealth partners on the front line of climate impacts, and to develop new trade links with India, China and Africa. An opportunity to rebalance our economy, refocus investment and productivity while backing the hundreds of thousands of low carbon jobs that already exist.
Left or right, remain or leave — we are united in desiring a cleaner and safer future for our children and grandchildren. On that, if little else, we can definitely agree.”
I am supporting a campaign asking that the MPs Pension Fund move away from companies in the fossil fuel sector, instead investing in the renewable technologies sector. This is another step towards achieving a zero-carbon future.
Read more about the Divest Parliament pledge here:
Campaigning for an extension to the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) covering the Dedham Vale
During the last two parliaments as your MP, I campaigned to have the Dedham Vale AONB extended westwards. The extension I support recognises the importance of this ‘green space’, which must be kept free from development. The protections this status grants will preserve the characteristics of the iconic North Essex and South Suffolk countryside in this area.
This area and its historic ties to Constable are a part of the history and character of North Essex. It must not be built over. I will continue to press the Government to review this proposal and look to extend the AONB in the coming years.
Local Marine Conservation Zones & preserving marine reserves around UK dependent territories internationally.
I campaigned for the Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) at the Stour and Blackwater estuaries, and the drastic improvement in the water quality and biodiversity at each shows how important this status is. I have held meetings with the Essex Wildlife Trust and continue to support their efforts preserving the wildlife native to Essex. I also support the creation of massive marine reserves around UK dependent territories around the world, like Pitcairn Island in the Pacific, and around the Falkland Islands and Ascension Island in the Atlantic. The UK will have a larger area of sea and sea bed under protection than any other country.
Bradwell and the Blackwater Estuary
I am opposed to the proposed new power station at Bradwell.
My concerns with this proposal are twofold. There are major worried over the environmental impact on the estuary, which is now covered by a Marine Conservation Zone which I helped secure. Our fishing and oyster industries in the area rely on a well looked-after habitat and a new build would jeopardise this.
The accompanying cooling systems would circulate water from the estuary, damaging the marine environment. This would fly in the face of the Conservation Zone status and reverse years of improvement in the estuary since the old power station was shut down. Unless measures can be taken to avoid this damage and guarantees made that the marine environment will not be negatively affected, then this build should not go ahead.
There are also significant implications over the use of a prototype reactor, designed and built by the Chinese. This raises questions over our energy security and I have made this case to Ministers
I have heard a great deal of worry from Mersea Island and the surrounding area about these plans and rest assured, I continue to oppose this proposal.
Local environment events & Green Heart Hero
I have had the pleasure of Chairing a series of Climate Change debates in Essex which have been arranged by the Chappel and Wakes Colne Women’s Institute and the local North Essex Conservative Policy Forum.
These events came from an appointment at my advice bureau when a group of campaigners from the WI came to hear my views and lobby me on climate issues. They were pleasantly surprised by my existing interest and knowledge. Since then, they have championed the cause and kept me closely involved in their tremendous work.
Topics discussed at these events cover an array of topics from national campaigns to tips on reducing your own impact on the environment. They usually take place in October every year and if you are interested in attending please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Even if you only have a fleeting interest in the environment, they always prove fascinating and your views are fed into the Conservative Policy Unit for the Government to consider.
As a result of my work with the WI and on other climate issues, I have received nominations two years in a row for the Climate Coalition’s ‘Green Heart Hero’ award for Greenest MP. I am honoured to have been nominated and I will continue to work in the interest of the environment.
Plastics in Parliament and on our coasts
I campaigned for a ‘plastic free Parliament’ in 2018 and signed Early day motion 963. This supports the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free Parliament campaign to eliminate single-use plastic items from the parliamentary estate and calls on the Government to take steps to introduce a phased ban of such products across the UK.
The vast amount of plastic that enters the oceans every year damages marine life and spoils coastal landscapes across the UK and the world.
The Government is taking action to address this and in its 25 Year Environment Plan, it pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042. More must, however, be done and we all have a role to play. In 2017, the House of Commons purchased over 2 million avoidable single-use plastic items, including plastic straws and stirrers, coffee cups and lids, plastic cutlery and water bottles. This must change. I have switched to my reusable cup and am encouraging my team and colleagues to do the same.
Single use plastics decimate our oceans and beaches. In Harwich and the surrounding communities, locals are all too aware of the impact single-use plastics have. Our beaches are a major attraction for local residents and tourists alike. Whenever I visit a beach, I collect plastic which has been washed up or left behind by other visitors and the amounts are quite substantial. It is selfish and irresponsible to think that someone else, or worse yet, the sea will take your rubbish away. I ask that all beach-goers please take your rubbish with you when you leave, and to anyone else who volunteers their own time to take part in litter picks and beach clean-ups, I am so grateful. It makes a tremendous difference.