It’s astonishing how much power one person has to make change. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage rebel, has become the symbol of leadership in 2019 through her efforts to drag climate change firmly back on the international agenda.
Despite Trump’s rejection of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the rise of nationalism and its own brand of fake news and climate change denial and all-consuming issues like Brexit, Greta has begun the fightback on behalf of humanity.
This is the great issue of our time and while she doesn’t claim to offer all of the answers, Greta has forced us to ask some very searching questions.
Last year’s Special Report on Global Warming describes the enormous harm that a 2°C average rise in global temperatures is likely to cause. The expert panel representing countries around the world confirmed that limiting global warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from governments, councils, wider civil society and the private sector.
Locally, I’m pleased that our councils have followed Greta’s lead, recognising that change will have to start from the bottom and work its way up. The climate change conversation is now taking place locally and is rightly focussed on the “emergency” and the urgent need for radical action.
I’m pleased that Gateshead’s Labour-led Council has formally declared a climate change emergency and is now taking proactive steps to make change locally, knowing that we can no longer wait for national governments to act.
So I applaud Gateshead for their ambitious plans to make their services carbon neutral and achieve 100 per cent clean energy across the Council’s full range of functions by 2030.
And by shifting to a zero carbon approach by 2030 they are now working with other relevant agencies and local business to making the borough carbon neutral within the same timescale.
Councils will only be able to make the real change required by working with others; so it’s vital that we include young people, local residents, the private and voluntary sector in the process, ensuring that they have a voice in shaping their future.
Only then will the UK Government and others around the world be pressured by their citizens into providing the powers, resources and green new deal for skilled work, homes and public transport that will improve our lives.
In Westminster, the starting gun for the Tory leadership contest has been fired. While the 11 candidates to become the next PM jockey for first place, the issues that matter most to people continue to be ignored.
Alongside Brexit, this contest has pushed everything else off the parliamentary agenda, so other important decisions aren’t being made.
The political deadlock means that people living with rare medical conditions such as Phenylketonuria (PKU), Cystic Fibrosis, Sickle Cell & Thalassaemia and others are being let down; they are not able to access the proper treatments for their conditions in the UK, despite these treatments being widely available throughout Europe.
The 4,400 people living with PKU understandably feel that the government is failing them. The drug they need – Kuvan – has been available throughout Europe and around the world since 2008, but is still prescribed on the NHS, due to the failure of politicians and the “big pharma” industry to find a solution.
BioMarin, the major pharmaceutical company who developed Kuvan currently charge £70,000 per year, per person and offer no discount to the NHS for its use, even though they have generated substantial revenues from the sale of the drug around the world.
As Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on PKU, I have been campaigning for Kuvan to be made available in the UK. Our APPG was launched following pressure from my constituent Barbara McGovern, whose son Archie has PKU.
Her personal story and grassroots campaigning have inspired our cross-party group of MPs to call on BioMarin to make their treatment more affordable.
Barbara, like Greta, is leading the way and by following her lead I am hopeful that we can secure the change needed to improve access to treatments on the NHS.
These strong women have recognised their power to make change. What can you do to change the world around you?