Recently, Caroline Lucas MP put forward the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, with the support of Extinction Rebellion and other campaign groups. I totally support urgent action on the climate emergency as I have repeatedly outlined but I’m afraid this Bill doesn’t represent anything other than a statement of intent – it will never be debated or face a vote in the House of Commons so, whilst a tool to highlight the issue, it does not represent meaningful action as has been suggested around the campaign.
Firstly, regarding the issue itself. Nobody can look at the flash floods, deadly landslides and wildfires over recent years and doubt that catastrophic climate breakdown is already beginning, and can get a lot worse. I was proud that the Labour Party helped champion Parliament’s declaration of an environmental and climate emergency last May, and am deeply disappointed that the Conservative Government is failing to rise to the challenge. While the Government maintains a rhetorical commitment to a ‘green economy’, its own advisory group (the Committee on Climate Change) has demonstrated that Government policy is nowhere near enough to achieve a zero-carbon economy by 2050, let alone earlier.
Confronted by this unfolding emergency, I am clear that 2050 is too late for the UK to end its contribution to climate breakdown and runaway global heating. According to the UN, we have less than ten years left to avoid the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change. Our Government must act with far greater urgency and ambition. I am determined that the UK must show global leadership on this issue, and that starts with ambitious action at home. I believe we should aim to achieve the substantial majority of our emissions reductions by 2030 and that we need to do so through a world-leading Green New Deal.
As such, I support many of the aims set out in the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill. However, the bill has been tabled as a ‘Presentation Bill’, which is neither eligible for a debate nor a vote in Parliament. As a member of the Shadow Cabinet, I am bound by Parliamentary convention to avoid such instruments, which are ways for backbench MPs to have their say. Even so, I believe there are much more meaningful ways that we can challenge the Government in Parliament. I am working with the team in the Shadow Cabinet on plans that will include many of the principles laid out in this Bill in the widest possible consultation to build support across climate movement, trade unions, businesses and communities across the country.
More immediately, we are focused on the Government’s economic response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Government must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild our economy rapidly through a real green recovery. Seizing that opportunity, as other advanced economies are doing, requires more than rhetoric from Ministers, it requires a plan. We need that plan now so that we can invest in the green industries of the future, put people back to work in good, green jobs across the country, and support workers and communities as we make the transition to a low-carbon and socially-just economy. With a plan like that, we can raise our domestic climate ambition with a significantly enhanced 2030 emissions reduction target and demonstrate real leadership as the host of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow next year.
I can assure you that I will continue to push for the above, and more widely for bold action to tackle the climate and ecological emergency at every opportunity.