Look­ing at the other chal­lenges we face

West Sussex County Times - - Opinion - MP for Hor­sham

It is so good to see Hor­sham and our sur­round­ing vil­lages grad­u­ally get­ting back closer to­wards nor­mal­ity. How­ever it clearly isn’t the same and nec­es­sary changes to our be­haviour and to the way shops and restau­rants trade, may need to con­tinue for some time while de­ter­mined ef­fort is de­voted to vac­cines and we work to avoid a ‘sec­ond spike’.

While many busi­nesses have re­opened, others such as beauty sa­lons can­not yet and are des­per­ate to do so.

Pub­lic Health ex­perts are work­ing with the in­dus­try to see how they can do so safely – and the con­tin­u­ing sup­pres­sion of in­fec­tion is a pos­i­tive back­drop to this work.

Like­wise while the­atres and con­cert halls re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant tar­geted sup­port this week this re­flects the fact that th­ese venues, which net hun­dreds of mil­lions an­nu­ally for the econ­omy and act as a huge draw for tourism, may have a con­sid­er­able wait yet be­fore they can re­open,

While it is vi­tal we ‘stay alert’, we also need to look be­yond Covid to the many other chal­lenges we face as a coun­try: in­clud­ing the hugely im­por­tant is­sue of cli­mate change.

Last week I ap­peared be­fore the House of Com­mons En­vi­ron­men­tal Au­dit Se­lect Com­mit­tee for a hear­ing on De­fence and the En­vi­ron­ment.

As an ‘op­er­a­tional’ de­part­ment with, by def­i­ni­tion, ships, tanks and air­craft and an es­tate of some 115,000 build­ings over half of which are over 50 years old, De­fence ac­counts for around half of all Gov­ern­ment emis­sions and our con­tri­bu­tion to re­duc­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact is hugely im­por­tant.

Over the last ten years De­fence has re­duced mea­sured car­bon emis­sions un­der the ‘green­ing gov­ern­ment com­mit­ments’ by over 40 per cent. But we need to go much fur­ther and are look­ing at how to do just that - in­clud­ing tar­get­ing a ten per cent fuel re­duc­tion. Our fo­cus is do­ing so with­out im­ped­ing the vi­tal job de­fence un­der­takes daily.

Some of many ex­am­ples in­clude chang­ing the way we de­sign ships to cut the ‘drag’ through the oceans, chang­ing how air­craft are flown, in­creas­ing ‘syn­thetic’ train­ing and work­ing to de­liver greener fuel op­tions.

The other ex­cit­ing area is how we bet­ter use the De­fence Es­tate. The Es­tate is there for mil­i­tary train­ing but it con­tains 169 SSSIs and our record as a cus­to­dian of th­ese vi­tal na­tional as­sets, sup­ported by our team of ecol­o­gists, is bet­ter than any sim­i­larly large landowner in­clud­ing those whose pri­mary role is conservati­on. The Es­tate, cov­er­ing nearly one per cent of the the UK, pro­vides huge po­ten­tial in­clud­ing for re­new­able en­ergy, ap­pro­pri­ately tar­geted ex­tra tree cover and re­stored peat bogs.

There’s a huge amount to do but masses of op­por­tu­nity.

Like­wise more broadly as we face the real risk of in­creased un­em­ploy­ment as the huge Covid im­pact to the global econ­omy works through in the UK and over­seas, op­por­tu­ni­ties clearly ex­ist to in­crease skills while help­ing to meet our world lead­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal tar­gets of achiev­ing a Net Zero econ­omy by 2050: this rep­re­sents a pow­er­ful op­por­tu­nity to de­liver long term ben­e­fits which we are de­ter­mined to seize.

Jeremy Quin popped into Whis­pers in Billing­shurst which wel­comed back cus­tomers last week­end

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