It’s no time for cowardice over climate change, Thornberry tells ministers

Emily Thornberry MP at her constituency office in Barnsbury Street. Picture: Polly Hancock

Emily Thornberry MP at her constituency office in Barnsbury Street. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Emily Thornberry has criticised the government for 'talking the talk' on climate change but failing to 'walk the walk'.

Shadow foreign secretary Thornberry accused the government of not taking a global lead on climate change and refusing to stand up to the "climate denier-in-chief" Donald Trump.

Speaking in the House of Commons she called on the government to realise that it is "too late to fix any more mistakes as we rapidly approach the point of no return on global warming".

"When the prime minister hosted the UK-Africa trade summit just a fortnight ago, having told his delegates, and I quote, 'We all suffer when carbon emissions rise and the planet warms', can the minister tell us what percentage of energy deals struck at that summit were based on the mining of fossil fuels?," Thornberry asked.

Foreign Office minister Heather Wheeler insisted the government was "weaning all the world away from coal".

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Thornberry noted that according to the Environmental Audit Committee, UK export finance has not supported a single coal project since 2002.

"So I don't know whether she's uncertain about the answer or just too embarrassed to answer it but the reality is that more than 90% of the £2 billion investment in energy deals agreed at the UK-Africa trade summit were committed to new drilling for oil and gas - more fossil fuels," she said.

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"And none of that was mentioned in the government press release which instead focused on the poultry figures of investment in solar power.

"So doesn't the minister accept that she is part of a government that talks the talk on climate change but never walks the walk?

"They make symbolic moves on the domestic front but will never take any global lead.

"And worst of all, they refuse to stand up to the climate denier-in chief Donald Trump.

"Does the minister not realise in the face of this climate emergency we no longer have time for cowardice?"

Wheeler replied: "We recognise that countries continue to need to use a mix of energy sources as part of the transition towards a low-carbon sustainable economy including renewable energy and lower carbon fossil fuels such as natural gas."

The UK's hosting of the annual UN climate summit got off to a somewhat explosive start, with the launch overshadowed by critical comments from the summit's former president.

Johnson had appointed Claire O'Neill, former MP and clean growth minister, as president.

But she was sacked last week, prompting her to write a letter that was highly critical of the PM and the Government on climate change, and leading to calls for a "heavy hitter" to be installed in her place.

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