“We are living in the jaws of a climate and environment emergency” – Corbyn’s full speech

Jeremy Corbyn
Corbyn speech

Below is the full text of Jeremy Corbyn’s speech in Southampton this morning, in which he set out Labour’s plan to create ten new national parks and plant two billion trees by 2040.

Let me begin by saying just a few words about the secret Trump trade talks that Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have been caught trying to cover up.

Yesterday Labour exposed the secret plot to sell out our NHS as part of a toxic deal with Donald Trump. I revealed uncensored reports of far-reaching talks between US and UK officials about breaking open our NHS to US corporations and driving up the cost of medicines.

The revelations shredded Boris Johnson’s denials that the NHS was on the table in talks with Trump. I called for Johnson to come clean. Instead, he doubled down. But the documents reveal what’s in store under a Johnson government. He won’t “get Brexit done.” That claim is a fraud on the British people.

Instead, he will plunge us into more years of painful negotiations and broken promises while we watch our most precious institution get carved up and sold off before our eyes.

This election is now a fight for the survival of our NHS as a public service that puts patients before profits. You can vote Conservative to sell out our NHS or vote Labour to save our NHS. Labour will never let Donald Trump get his hands on our national health service, because our NHS is not for sale.

But the Trump deal plot is not only a threat to our health service, it’s a threat to our environment too. The 451 pages of leaked text I held up in front of the cameras show US negotiators complaining about our controls on pesticides. They’ve even attacked our basic rules on consumer labelling including for controversial genetically modified crops. But one thing the US government absolutely refuses to discuss is the climate crisis.

US officials are “emphatic” that they will, and I quote “not include mention of greenhouse gas reductions in trade agreements” because climate change is, they say, “very sensitive in the US.” Well, I don’t care how sensitive it is, this is the biggest threat to our future. There could scarcely be more of a contrast between the complacency and denial of Trump and Johnson and the urgency of the younger generation whose future is at stake.

I’ve been deeply moved to see school children taking to the streets to protest about climate breakdown and I’m pleased we have some climate strikers here with us today. For someone of my generation it’s inspiring but also humbling to see children teaching the adults a lesson. But I’m proud that Labour has responded leading the British parliament to become the first in the world to declare a climate and environment emergency.

We can see the effects of that emergency all around us as the recent flooding in Yorkshire and the east midlands tragically brought home with the death of Annie Hall. A Labour government will invest in flood defences especially in areas like the north west, Yorkshire and the east midlands that have been shamefully neglected by the Conservatives.

The reality is this election is our last chance to tackle the climate and environment emergency. So today, I want to set out Labour’s plan for real change to protect our planet and restore our natural world. We have no time to waste.

As David Attenborough said earlier this year: “We now stand at a unique point in our planet’s history, where we must all share responsibility … for the future of life on Earth.”

We have a choice. We can shut our eyes, cross our fingers and entrust our fate to a system that has already driven our planet to the brink of catastrophe. Or we can do everything possible to tackle the biggest threat we face. That means taking on the big polluters who profit from the current system.

If we flinch, then we will be handing down a broken planet to our children. Bringing our carbon emissions down to net zero won’t happen by itself. It will only be possible with massive public investment in renewable energy and green technology.

So a Labour government will bring about a green industrial revolution creating a million new, skilled, green jobs. One million jobs; from building wind turbines, to insulting homes, from reforesting the Great British countryside, to manufacturing new electric vehicles.

Here in Southampton you’ve benefited from geothermal power which has brought jobs and investment to the city. We need more of that kind of innovation across the country. Margaret Thatcher’s government wiped out swathes of British industry in the 1980s and Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are continuing that damaging legacy.

Labour will rebuild British industry but it will be as the green, cutting edge industry of the future. Places whose identity and pride was steeped in the skills of those who lived there will thrive once again.

Our green industrial revolution will benefit working class people with more rewarding, well-paid jobs, cheaper energy bills and new opportunities in parts of our country that have been held back for too long.

Because too often people are made to feel like the cost of saving the planet falls on them while the wealthy can fly about in private jets and heat their empty mansions.

But it’s not only about cutting down the amount of carbon we’re pumping into the atmosphere. It’s also about protecting our natural world and creating the conditions for it to flourish. So today we’re publishing Labour’s ‘Plan for Nature.’ And as the centrepiece of that plan we have a very exciting announcement.

A Labour government will create ten brand new national parks, increasing the total size of our national parks by 50% meaning three-quarters of people will live within 30 minutes of a national parks. We will consult widely on the exact locations of the parks but obvious candidates include: the Cotswolds, the Chilterns, the North and South Pennines, Coastal Suffolk, Coastal Dorset, and the Lincolnshire Wolds.

A new authority will be tasked with ensuring the parks help tackle the climate crisis and restore nature but they will also be for leisure and for beauty. When Labour created the first national parks in the wake of World War II it was part of a radical plan to open up the best of our nation to everyone, from all walks of life. That’s the spirit that a Labour government will take forward as we create ten more Parks … giving people access to the green spaces so vital for our collective wellbeing and mental health.

Our country is defined by its beautiful landscapes its rolling hills rugged coastlines and idyllic woodlands. Travelling around Britain by train as I do, I am so often in awe of the beauty that exists right here at home. A Labour government will protect that landscape which is so precious to us all.

At the Labour Party conference each year we finish by singing those wonderful words by William Blake vowing to build a new Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land. That is our commitment that we will achieve together.

The ten new national parks will be the heart of a much bigger network of protected areas joined up by nature-friendly corridors of hedgerows, pathways and canals. But that’s not all we’ll do. Because a Labour government will set a target to plant two billion trees by 2040, starting with 300 million in our first term.

We’ll plant trees in national parks, we’ll plant them in the National Forest, which we’ll look to extend to Sherwood Forest. We’ll plant a million new trees on land owned by the health service, creating an NHS forest and we’ll work with communities to plant trees in towns and cities too.

These will be mixed native species creating wildlife-rich woodlands. And we’ll stop paying farm subsidies to billionaires and instead create a fund to plant organic fruit orchards producing local food.

We’ll expand and restore our habitats and plant trees so that we can create natural solutions to bring down emissions and allow our wildlife to flourish, because currently wildlife is in crisis. Since 1970 the turtle dove population in Britain has declined by 97%.

Animals that are part of our national culture are in frightening decline: the hedgehog, the natterjack toad and the red squirrel. Once these native species disappear they don’t come back.

We’ll take specific steps to protect and restore their populations. And on animal welfare we’ll ban fur, end the use of cruel snares and halt the badger cull. And unlike the Conservatives you can trust that Labour will never allow the return of fox hunting.

We know from the uncensored Trump trade documents that the US is pushing the UK to accept chlorinated chicken on our dinner tables. And the US wants to roll back our laws protecting animals too. As the party of animal welfare Labour will never accept that.

In parts of our country the air we breathe is poisoning us. Air pollution contributes to more than 40,000 deaths a year. The number is staggering. Children living in inner city areas can have their lung capacity reduced by up to 10% due to air pollution. This cannot be right.

Children shouldn’t have to pay with their health for the failure of politicians to tackle this problem. So Labour will introduce a new Clean Air Act, encouraging cleaner transport and clean air zones around our children’s schools.

We are living in the jaws of a climate and environment emergency. We cannot afford more wasted years of Conservative inaction from a government bought and paid for by the big polluters and the billionaires. Labour is on your side and on the side of the environment.

Our Plan for Nature is a radical and innovative response to the emergency we face and it’s just part of the green transformation of our economy and society that a Labour government will bring about.

The future is ours to make provided we act now. Together, we can change course and leave a country and a planet that’s fit for the next generation. It’s time for real change.

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