“I am going to speak up for the 3,000 young people who came out in Leeds two weeks ago on the youth climate strike and all the other thousands of young people who came out in every other town and city in the country.”
Thus began Alex Sobel MP’s latest speech in the House of Commons. Following last month’s student-led climate change protest, that saw thousands of local school children fill Leeds city centre, Mr Sobel is taking steps to make sure that this inspiring civil action is not dismissed or forgotten. Speaking before Parliament on 28th February, Mr Sobel called on the government to declare a “climate emergency,” as they would for any other civil emergency. Using the strongest terms to evoke the immediacy and priority of the issue of climate change, Mr Sobel described “the precipice of disaster” upon which we now find ourselves as a species.
In Mr Sobel’s emotive speech, he decries the lack of serious contemplation of the dramatic legislative and policy changes that are required to combat climate change, seeing that we are instead, “on a trajectory towards the global extinction of humanity.” For Sobel, the slow and ponderous rate of effective policy implementation to tackle climate change is letting down the younger generations, and amounts to avoiding the issue.
Mr Sobel joined calls for a ‘Marshall Plan for the Environment’, to provide jobs and investment in measures to tackle climate change. Such an ambitious policy would see the UK become “a leader in decarbonised technology,” generating jobs, fuelling clean economic growth and distinguishing the UK as global leader on this issue.
What is most clear from Mr Sobel speech is a warning that the UK government and Parliament cannot afford to continue to delay serious change. For those who see such change as impossibly complex and costly to implement, My Sobel reminds us that, “After the second world war, we got together and we rebuilt this continent.” For Mr. Sobel this surely suggests that we are capable of rebuilding “a planet free of emissions,” which should be “our single, unifying goal.”
“This is the brave new world we need to aspire to. We do not need gradual change; we need a paradigm shift in our system. I call on us not to have a green new deal; I call on us to have a Marshall Plan for the environment across Europe and across the planet.
We need electric vehicle charge points in every parking bay. All new houses need to be made in factories from airtight and energy-efficient timber. We need to harness the internet and open and smart data, so that everybody knows everything about their lives, from the quality of the air to the amount of carbon in their clothes.
We need to re-energise our relationship with our European Union partners—I say that in the strongest sense—to engage and to create this plan.”
Mr Sobel outlined his plan further in a piece in the New Statesman. Making comparisons to the Marshall plan for full employment, brought about after the second world war, he said "We need to rebuild our economies to be cleaner, cheaper, greener, more circular and completely zero carbon. This involves creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs in the UK."
When local campaign groups, community leaders, politicians and citizens of conscience joined the staggering turn out of student protesters in Leeds city centre, the message offered was clear. Tens of thousands of young people across the country are keenly aware that not enough is being done to protect their futures. The government and political class have been called out as collectively guilty of a dangerous complacency.
As a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group, Mr. Sobel has long held environmental protection and climate change as amongst his top concerns. The message from his speech in Parliament last week is that it is high time that it became the top concern of our elected officials, such that effective action can take place now!
For Mr Sobel, it is time to turn up the heat on our government and representatives. As he poignantly warned the government and his fellow MPs, “If we do not get there we are failing not ourselves, but our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. At the end of the century, they will look back on the Governments of the early part of the century and say, “They failed us. They did not do what was needed.”