Column: Talking Politics - Climate change and disposable barbecues

Environment: Holly Lynch MP on Calderdale moorland.Environment: Holly Lynch MP on Calderdale moorland.
Environment: Holly Lynch MP on Calderdale moorland.
Holly Lynch MP (Labour, Halifax) on how vulnerable Calderdale is to extreme weather.

It has become all too apparent in recent years just how vulnerable Calderdale is to extreme weather.We are no strangers to having to constantly work to protect ourselves from flood-risk, as well as outbreaks of fires on our moorland during hot, dry spells.Our local authorities and emergency services now work all year round to mitigate against these threats, with the recent record-breaking heatwave putting them under unprecedented pressure.During the peak of the heatwave between July 18-21, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service attended 734 incidents. Locally, the Calderdale District of WYFRS responded to eight primary fires and 45 secondary fires. Despite natural weather conditions providing enough of a challenge in itself, 14 of the fires responded to were deliberately started.One of these fires was caused by a disposable barbecue, which left our moorland reduced to grey ash.

Thankfully, firefighters were able to put the fire out before it came more severe. Yet, this disposable barbecue fire was not a one off. Between 2019 and 2020 alone, disposable barbecues were the confirmed cause of 240 reported fires nationwide.One of the stark realties of climate change is that we will experience more extreme weather. This has to motivate us to change our ways. But we also need to ensure the fire service have all they need to respond to these increased risks.Currently, the toolkit used by local authorities and the emergency services to prevent moorland fires is not robust enough.Local authorities are able to introduce public spaces protection orders, which are designed to deal with a specific problem in an area by imposing conditions on the use of that area.Here in Calderdale, people are prohibited from lighting fires, barbecues or Chinese lanterns, and from using any article or object that causes a naked flame and which poses a risk of fire in certain restricted areas. Despite this, the fires persist, so what more can be done?Back in March, I organised a debate in Parliament and urged the Government to ban the sale of disposable barbecues. I appreciate that for many this will be seen as a big step to take, but we need to take drastic action to help tackle these devastating fires. There is a growing consensus within the emergency services that this step could help stop future fires. Just last week, London’s Fire Commissioner called for a total ban on the use of disposable barbecues in the city.Following my debate, the Government confirmed that they would undertake research on banning disposable barbecues. However, progress on this has been scant.Climate change is a global issue, but we have already seen the shocking and destructive impact that it can have here at a local level. Whilst banning disposable barbecues would directly and instantly limit the number of moorland fires, we also need a Government which has a serious, long-term strategy in tackling climate change because nowhere do we feel extreme weather more acutely than here in Calderdale.