Protecting the environment matters to us all. Whether it's looking after our countryside or tackling climate change for the next generation, these are hugely important issues.
Last week I met with residents who are concerned about proposals to build on fields near Finglesham. They are fighting plans for 3,750 homes along with schools, shops, restaurants, a doctors' surgery and a new Dover to Deal dual carriageway. I listened carefully to what they had to say. They were clear that brownfield sites like the old Tilmanstone Salads and the Betteshanger Colliery sites should be built on – not Finglesham Fields.
Therein lies the balance. There is a need for new homes – yet we must protect the environment too. Building on brownfields should enable us to have the housing we need while preserving our environment and countryside.
It's the same challenge nationally too. How can we ensure that our economy grows while guarding against the threat of climate change? The answer is we have been achieving exactly that for the past decade. Because it's incredible how much the Government has achieved on this vital issue. We've cut CO2 emissions by 3.7% a year – more than any other major industrialised country. It's been so successful that emissions are now at the level they were in 1888.
Since I became an MP, CO2 emissions have fallen by a quarter. Renewable electricity generation has quadrupled in the same period. Electricity generated from coal has fallen from almost 40% in 2012. We had our first "coal free" generation day since the industrial revolution in April. Even better, fully clean electricity now gives us over half our total.
We've also been cutting down on the plastics and micro beads that harm flora and fauna. This matters because anyone who has seen the Blue Planet knows how sea life, from the humble seahorse to the great whale, is greatly impacted by our actions.
Yet there is so much more to do if we are to properly protect our planet for our children grandchildren. I want to see us build a land powered by renewable solar electricity. From solar panels on our roofs – not solar farms in our fields. These solar panels should not simply be tasked with powering our homes. They should power zero carbon electric cars too. With advances in battery technology, this is no longer some far-off dream.
This is the future that now lies before us – that I hope will be the step change in the next decade to cut CO2 emissions even further. Indeed, environmental enterprise should be part of a wider rebirth of exports in this country – as we become a free-trading, global nation again. That way we can have strong economic growth, rising prosperity and preserve and protect our environment too.
The Government has achieved much. It has some great plans. Yet we need to go so much faster. We should aim to dump petrol, diesel and coal for good. Building a zero-carbon Britain, we can be the beacon for a cleaner planet.
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