Philip Dunne is a former Defence Minister, and is MP for Ludlow.
We face a pressing climate emergency. The public quite rightly expect the Government to address the challenges we face right now. This is a huge agenda, which will be one of the defining policy areas of this Parliament.
Measures to reduce consumption of fossil fuels through renewable sources to cut emissions and protect the natural world, will impact on much of how we live our lives: how we travel (public and private transport), how we live and work in buildings (heat and energy use), how much and what we consume (food, clothing, consumer and industrial goods) and how we use our land and oceans (sustainable farming, fishing and forestation).
The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) scrutinises performance against this whole agenda, since it looks across government, rather than shadowing an individual department, and looks beyond to the environmental impact of public and private sectors.
This is why I am standing for Chair of the EAC. I profoundly believe we have an obligation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it.
My interest stems from representing the Ludlow constituency since 2005, unarguably one of the most beautiful in England, comprising 600 square miles of farmland and forestry, half in Shropshire Hills AONB. Shropshire is one of the five leading English counties generating renewable energy, and my constituency hosts one of England’s last breeding grounds for Freshwater Pearl Mussels and one of few southern breeding sites for Curlew, and is a key site for the rare Wood White butterfly, for which I am Species Champion in Parliament.
Last year, I helped successfully fend off a large development of part of the Mortimer Forest near Ludlow, and I have helped deliver a community hydro-electric generation scheme in Ludlow.
So my constituency has been at the heart of my environmentalism since first elected – a local perspective on the international issue of climate change.
I joined the EAC as a member two years ago, as my first act on ceasing to be a Minister (in Defence and then Health). Aside from Mary Creagh – who was an excellent Chair in the last Parliament – I had the best attendance record on the Committee since joining.
I have sought to shine a light on issues profoundly impacting our environment, but not so visible to the public. I raised adaptation for climate change through better NHS preparedness for heatwaves, more transparency to encourage Green Finance and greening of UK export finance, in improving biodiversity, air, water and soil quality. I also led the EAC investigation into hand car washes, which pollute watercourses, but also revealed modern slavery in our midst.
The coming task is significant. My intent, if Chair, would be to work collaboratively with colleagues to encourage individual interests of members. A focus would not just be on problems, but also on solutions: seeing how British innovators in the technologies of tomorrow can build on existing UK world leading strengths in finance, green energy and engineering.
We have a huge opportunity to showcase our international leadership at the 2020 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November. I hope the EAC can push the agenda further and faster for government, local authorities, and local communities to lead the way internationally to commit to action on climate change and help the UK become one of the first countries to reach net zero emissions.
Before entering Parliament I had a twenty year career in finance and business, and was a board member of various medium sized companies for 30 years. I am an experienced Chair, having chaired two public companies, and been a group leader on my local Council.
So I believe I have the right experience and passion to drive forward this Committee, in scrutinising and holding the government to account for its record on the environment and climate change – and hope my colleagues in the Commons will back me tomorrow to become the new EAC Chair.