Conservative MP Pauline Latham asked the government to encourage the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to work closely with Australian MPs “to make them much more aware of the problems of climate change in their country, as well as the world”.
Tory MP Mary Robinson, who spent Christmas in Victoria, warned entire ecosystems could be lost to the fires.
“The support being given at the moment is hugely important, but when the fires die down, will the government have talks with Scott Morrison and the government of Australia about the environment and how we can help in future, for the good of not only Australia but the rest of the world?”
The huge fires have been headline news in Britain for several weeks and have even forced Tourism Australia to pause part of its new $15 million UK advertising campaign.
All participants in the House of Commons debate expressed sympathy and concern for Australians and praised volunteer firefighters trying to bring the blazes under control.
Labour’s shadow minister for peace and disarmament, Fabian Hamilton, labelled the disaster as “nothing short of a catastrophe, for not just Australia but the whole world” and condemned Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“When the fires are finally extinguished, it would be remiss of us if we did not discuss the underlying causes of these unprecedented events; 2019 was the second hottest year on record, and the past five years fill the top five positions as the hottest years on record,” he said.
“Any group of individuals who can look at those figures and continue to deny that global warming and climate change are real issues are equivalent to those people who still insist that the world is flat.
“Yet, sadly, such individuals include the current President of the United States, Donald Trump; the current President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro; and – I say this with great regret, given what his country is currently experiencing – the current Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison.”
Morrison has repeatedly said he accepts climate change is real and that he recognises the link between global warming and extreme weather events.
Conservative MP James Cartlidge noted that for the the first time the majority of the UK’s energy generation in 2019 came from zero-carbon sources but said the British Parliament “should not be lecturing Australia when it is in the middle of a national emergency if it is not yet doing the same”.
His colleague Sir Oliver Heald also said now was “not the time to be criticising Australia but to be helping them”.
The UK has passed a law to transition its economy to carbon-neural status by 2050. Johnson has established a new committee of cabinet to focus on climate change and is expected to outline new details later this year about how the UK will lower its emissions to the extent needed to meet the 2050 goal.
Bevan Shields is the Europe correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.