Last Friday I joined the climate strike and march on Broad Street. Broad street was filled with school children and adults demonstrating that we cannot keep going with ‘business as usual’ in the face of global climate emergency. It was one of hundreds of marches across the UK and the globe on 20th September, telling our national and world leaders that we want drastic changes to combat climate catastrophe now, as record-breaking temperatures and increasing natural disasters hit the globe.
I have witnessed the growing number of environmental refugees in our constituency – the human impact of the climate crisis is right on our doorstep. I am doing all I can to help in these cases, but we need to tackle the root of the problem.
It was so humbling to see the march organised and led by the youth of Oxford – but not surprising. Every Sunday, when I knock on doors in Oxford East, children and young people run up to the door asking me what I am doing about the Climate emergency. I have received letters from tutor groups who are setting up climate groups in their schools. The level of engagement from our youth is inspiring – and should be encouraging the adults in parliament to listen.
One of the most important messages at the rally was that we can make the change – if we act now. There are lots of exciting projects which are demonstrating how Oxford East is leading in green innovation. Three weeks ago, I joined in with the ‘mini-Holland’ weekend, which looked at ways we can drastically decrease traffic in Oxford East, including a conference where I heard plenty of new ideas – ideas we need to fight global heating. I also got to try out some interesting biking solutions which would enable more people to cycle, ensuring our city remains accessible.
The recent Connecting Oxford proposal from the city and county council is equally very encouraging – new bus routes and bus ‘gates’ will ensure that cycling and public transport are quick and convenient, encouraging Oxford to move away from cars but stay connected. Positive progress also seems to be coming out of discussions of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. At a conference a few weeks ago, there was support for a train line, rather than an expressway – which would encourage greener travel and have less of an impact on the local environment too.
I am proud to represent a city which is leading the way with environmental innovation and action. But we need to make sure the whole country, and world, is making similar progress. As I wrote in my last column, the early finish of parliament has meant that we cannot discuss these issues on a national level, as we desperately need to do. As I said in parliament on the hottest day of the year in July, we simply cannot return to business as usual in the next parliamentary session. We need to ensure the climate is front and centre of our politics.