WOODBRIDGE, 27 OCTOBER 2023 — Lord Deben, the former chair of the UK Climate Change Committee, and former Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment and MP for Suffolk Coastal, on Thursday urged voters to hold politicians to account over climate change during a talk in Woodbridge for the River Deben Association (RDA).
With elections due next year and audience members still reeling from recent heavy rains and flooding, Lord Deben told a capacity audience at Quay Street Church, that it was time to push local and national politicians to deliver policies that will address climate change as well as biodiversity loss and environmental pollution.
“Our job is to make sure our politicians know what their responsibilities are,” Lord Deben said. “No candidate should think they can get away without understanding that climate change is an existential issue which they have to face.”
Lord Deben, who chaired the Climate Change Committee that advises government for 11 years until standing down in June 2023, urged the audience to quiz MPs and candidates on their position on climate change and insist on action not just policy statements. “We have got to turn the consensus that created the Climate Change Act 2008 into a consensus for action: the Act gives us the targets, the action we haven’t had yet.”
His talk on Thursday evening, titled Net Zero—where are we now? assessed the UK’s faltering progress towards its emissions targets. He criticised a lack of leadership and delivery illustrated by the recent government U-turn on North Sea oil and gas extraction and backtracking on other climate mitigation issues, such as EV cars. Despite this gloomy background, he found grounds for hope in local action, pressure, and interventions.
Lord Deben’s talk was hosted by the RDA, which has since 1990 been the leading voice for the understanding and protection of the River Deben striving to conserve the river for all users, and he urged the audience to see efforts to clean up and protect the river as an important part of climate action.
“Climate change is not something different and separate from dealing with nature, dealing with biodiversity, cleaning up our rivers: climate change is the symptom of the degradation of all those things,” he said.
“We have a dirty river, a polluted river, and therefore we don’t have the biodiversity that used to be true of our river. We have a river which has overflowed its banks, and that’s partly because of the way we have treated the river and not looked after it,” he said.
Lord Deben argued there is no need to choose between fighting climate change and tackling the cost-of-living crisis because they are the same battle.
“The things you have to do for climate change are exactly what you have to do to reduce prices: you have to move to renewables, you have to do more with less, you have to make sure that you are not wasting anything,” he said.
He concluded that conserving energy in our homes and coming up with imaginative solutions were essential if we are to answer the inevitable question from future generations, of what we did to help fight climate change.
“We should want to answer that question of our grandchildren,” Lord Deben said, “but it’s all moving so fast that we shall have to answer the question for ourselves.”