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Nadia on... The Climate Crisis

5 October 20 words: Nadia Whittome
photos: Fabrice Gagos

In the first of her new monthly columns, where she will discuss issues going on in both Nottingham and Westminster, Nadia Whittome talks the climate crisis... 

Hello and welcome to my first LeftLion column. My name is Nadia, I am the Member of Parliament for Nottingham East and, at 24, Britain’s youngest MP. In my monthly columns, I will be updating you on the issues I’m working on and trying to demystify Westminster, as well as reflecting on what’s happening in Nottingham. Today, I would like to focus on one of my top priorities: the climate crisis. 

On September 1, when children were returning to schools, MPs returned to Parliament after recess. On my first day back, together with Extinction Rebellion Nottingham, I joined a rally in London in support of the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. The bill, which I was among the first MPs to back, would substantially strengthen our environmental commitments and force the UK to take responsibility for the carbon emissions it generates not only within our borders but also abroad. If it becomes law, it would be an important step towards treating climate change with the seriousness it deserves.

Over the past year, the climate emergency has regularly made the news. We’ve seen images of lonely polar bears fighting for their lives while ice around them melts, horrifying videos of last winter’s bushfires in Australia, or the recent apocalyptic-looking photos of red skies in Oregon. The science is clear: if we don’t act fast, our future looks bleak.

In the past, climate activism has often focused on individual actions: like telling people to turn off the lights or shop organic. The bad news is that we won’t even begin to meet the scale on the challenge by focusing on personal choices. For instance, despite many of our lifestyles changing drastically during lockdown, the 2020 drop in carbon emissions is estimated to be between 4 and 7%. Meanwhile, studies show that to prevent an irreversible climate catastrophe, global emissions need to fall by 8% *each year* of this decade.

So telling people to buy or travel less won’t cut it. What solutions, then, are we left with? 

We need deep, structural changes on a scale far greater than any of us individually can achieve. But here comes the better news: a greener economy could, in many ways, be a more people-friendly one too. I like to imagine the current moment not just as a crisis, but also an opportunity to think of better ways we can live together as a society. 

The science is clear: if we don’t act fast, our future looks bleak

Take one example: investing in a modern, affordable and environmentally friendly network of public transport could massively reduce the need for cars and flights, while making our lives easier and more enjoyable. There is no reason why getting a train from Nottingham to London should cost more than flying to Sicily, and I’m sure many car owners would happily give up the pleasure of standing in traffic if they could hop on a fast and reliable bus. Similarly, a serious programme of building and retrofitting energy-efficient homes would both reduce emissions and bring down our monthly bills. Meanwhile, as the Covid recession threatens to bring about mass unemployment, investment in much-needed green infrastructure could create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Despair is easy, often comforting and, when we look at the scale of the problem, can seem justified. But despair won’t save us. That’s why I want to encourage some unfashionable, defiant hope. As we recover from lockdown, let’s do it with a positive vision for what our economy could look like so that it works for people while protecting the planet.

What gives me hope is the people I meet: the student climate activists I’ve been working with, some too young to even vote; Nottingham’s XR group and the Decolonise, Decarbonise initiative which links climate with global justice; the conversations I’ve had with local entrepreneurs like Mimm and Nottingham Street Food Club. 

These are the people whose voices I want to represent in Parliament – and next time XR are demonstrating, come join us in the streets!

Nadia Whittome website

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