World leaders, royalty and celebrities arrived in Glasgow this week keen to play their part in the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. A Conference of the Parties (COP) brings together almost every country on earth for global climate summits, allowing countries to collaborate and work together to tackle climate change.
Away from the glitz and glamour (which can often be more of a distraction from the key issues) there has been some constructive discussions and some essential pledges made. One such positive to come out of Glasgow has been the collaboration of more than 100 countries, which have 88% of the world’s forests, to work together to halt and reverse the destruction of our forests, particularly rainforests, by 2030, backed up with £14billion in public and private funding to make this deliverable.
I have long campaigned in Parliament to protect the world’s natural habitats and have worked closely with the World Wildlife Foundation to support protecting endangered species. The amount of forestation which has been destroyed in the last few decades has been devastating. An area the size of 27 football pitches has been lost every minute. It isn’t just the Amazon where forests are being destroyed, it is all across the planet – northern forests in Canada and Russia, to tropical forests in Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also being lost.
As David Attenborough put so well when he spoke to delegates at COP26; we must turn this tragedy into triumph. Forests and green spaces are the lungs of the planet, absorbing around one-third of the global CO2 released from burning fossil fuels every year. Reversing the loss of the earth’s lungs could not happen sooner and I am glad that this commitment has been signed by all of the key countries.
Of course, it is important that we do our bit locally as well, and I am delighted that Swindon Borough Council is taking action to protect and enhance green spaces through its Swindon Forest Meadows Project. Being run in conjunction with Wilshire Wildlife Trust (WWT), the project will support initiatives covering more than 170 hectares of land - such as Sevenfields, Hreod Burna Urban Forest and other WWT reserves.
The UK are also keen to see more countries sign up to the commitment to reach net zero emissions as a result of COP26. I often meet with local climate groups in Swindon, and I know just how important this is, especially to the younger generation. We absolutely have no choice – for the first time those most affected by climate change are the young people alive today, not some far off future generation. We must turn this around and continue to do all we can to save & protect our precious planet.
Back in Parliament – it has been a bad week. Firstly, Owen Patterson seeking to escape his punishment issued by the standards committee. And Claudia Webbe, the 7th Labour MP in just 10 years to receive a jail sentence, in this case for threatening to throw acid in a women’s face. These incidents continue to paint our profession in a bad light. MP’s are no different to the public, they should rightly face justice whether they have broken the code of conduct or the law.