Extreme weather used to be rare. Not anymore.  

As heatwaves scorch Europe and wildfires rage in Greece, here in the UK the Met Office has confirmed June was the hottest on record. In the Antarctic, sea ice levels have fallen to record lows.

This is the reality of the climate crisis and the consequences of a world warmed by “only” 1.2C. What happens to our planet if we don’t stop temperatures rising beyond 1.5C?  Floods, fires, droughts, heatwaves, and toxic air become ever more frequent, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. 

Four thousand people already die too soon in London every single year because of the air they breathe. We don’t have the luxury of burying our heads in the sand. 

Yet we face this challenge with a Conservative Government led by Rishi Sunak, whose own climate minister called him “simply uninterested”. A Prime Minister more intent on stoking climate culture wars than investing in the green industries of the future and shifting our economy away from fossil fuels.  

Ham & High: Catherine West says that the UK should be a net zero and clean air leaderCatherine West says that the UK should be a net zero and clean air leader (Image: Archant)

The UK could and should be a net zero and clean air world leader, but this month we’ve seen 100 big businesses publicly plead with the Government to show some leadership because right now we’re in danger of being left behind. “Asleep at the wheel” was the Climate Change Committee’s description, yet instead of stepping up, the Tories now want to ditch green measures and put us further away from reaching our climate goals.   

This Tory failure is disastrous for our planet, our economy and for people who are struggling. Yes, there are costs to acting, and it is right, never more so than during a cost-of-living crisis, that those don’t fall on those who have least.  

But the cost for inaction is so much greater and we are already paying it. By slashing onshore wind, failing to invest in renewables and scrapping energy efficiency programmes, 13 years of the Conservatives have left millions of people exposed to sky high energy bills and draughty homes.

The Office for Budget Responsibility tells us that the financial cost of acting now is much less than delaying and baking high carbon into our infrastructure. That’s why Labour’s green prosperity plan would ramp up investment to £28 billion per year for tackling climate change, growing the green economy and creating hundreds of thousands of good, green jobs across the country. 

I know from my mailbox that people in Hornsey and Wood Green want bold, socially just action on net zero and clean air. We cannot afford to be the generation that knew what was coming but failed to act. 

  • Catherine West is Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.