We owe much to Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee, who came to power with a landslide victory after World War II on a promise to rebuild war-torn Britain. He was true to his word, and brought in national insurance, social security for unemployment, and set up our NHS. I was proud to celebrate the NHS’s 70th birthday last year with healthcare workers from across the district who I nominated for a national award. The NHS Parliamentary Awards are now an annual occasion, and I have nominated more of Wakefield’s health heroes this year.
Attlee also set up our National Parks, and they are 70 years old this year. The 1949 ‘National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act’ gave us national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Nature Reserves, national trails and access to open land. It opened up and preserved our beautiful countryside for everyone to enjoy. There are now 13 national parks in England and Wales, visited by 110 million people a year.
So it was devastating to see the wildfires at the end of April on Marsden, Ilkley and Saddleworth Moors. After the hottest Easter weekend on record, the blazes destroyed thousands of hectares of valuable moorland, peatland and nesting sites for birds. I would like to thank the firefighters of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service who worked long and hard to put the fires out.
Sadly, wildfires will become more common as our climate is warming. We must take rapid action to prevent the catastrophic consequences harming our children. The world’s leading scientists warned last October that we only have 12 years to avoid irreversible damage by keeping global average warming below 1.5°C. Climate activists inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion have been protesting outside Parliament and the Labour Party has declared an environmental and climate emergency.
Achieving net zero emissions cannot wait. I raised this issue in Parliament with the Minister for Energy & Clean Growth. We must rapidly decarbonise our homes, transport and agriculture to meet that challenge. The Committee on Climate Change recommended last week that we achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest – this should be the Government’s priority.
This challenge was brought to life by David Attenborough’s ‘Climate Change – The Facts’ and ‘Blue Planet II’, which highlighted the blight of plastic pollution. The Environmental Audit Committee last year heard that 700,000 plastic bottles are littered on our streets every day. Our parks have faced cuts of up to 97% in recent years; it is vital we turn back this plastic tide. But what can we do in our communities and at home to make a difference? One of the simplest steps is to use less plastic. Recycle more and carry reusable bags and cups. We can also volunteer to tidy our green spaces – I helped out at the Lupset Community Clean Up, organised by local Labour councillor Michael Graham. Together, we can protect our environment for future generations.
As ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with my office if you need my help: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Wakefield Express on Thursday 9 May 2019.