The Environment Bill is nowhere near bold enough to match the scale of the climate crisis
The Government’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is too little and too late, says Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Luke Pollard MP.
The climate emergency is real, and every day it gets just that little bit more real. Unprecedented bushfires have raged through Australia, tornados across America become more dangerous every year, and here in Britain, regular flooding has become the norm.
I was proud to stand on the manifesto that Friends of the Earth said was the very best for our environment and climate at the general election. And it seems the Conservatives liked our idea for a Green Industrial Revolution so much that they have decided to take it for themselves.
I welcome the government’s newfound commitment to tackling the climate crisis. But their new Environment Bill is big on the soundbites and the headlines, but far too weak on the detail and nowhere near bold enough to match the scale of the crisis.
The Government’s commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is too little and too late. This target excludes emissions from aviation and shipping, two of the most carbon intensive industries. It does not set any legally binding targets until 2037. That’s a lifetime away. The targets are set so slow and so low that they are almost impossible not to meet. And even then, If the government keeps going the way it is going, it will miss its net zero targets by a cool 50 years – so we would not be carbon neutral until 2099. It’s simply too lethargic. We need to be aiming for net zero by 2030, and some sectors even sooner than this, by 2025.
We cannot accept the Tory logic that cutting carbon is a pursuit best done by individuals on their own pace. This leads to one inescapable destination: those that can afford to decarbonise will do so and those locked in poverty may not. At the very heart of our values in the 21st century is the principle that environmental justice must go hand in hand with social justice. That is why I want to see all the government speak loudly and boldly about their plans to address the climate crisis at the same time as the speak about their plans to address poverty.
We have reached a consensus that our energy production has to be renewable, and we’ve seen this through the explosion of challenger renewable energy firms. We now need a bolder vision for housing, water commerce and transport to name but a few. This must include Ministers rediscovering the “green crap” so shunned by David Cameron, and a wholesale adoption of a much more ambitious set of priorities. Frankly, I’m content with the Government having the glossy soundbites if that accompanies truly meaningful action on the climate emergency. At the moment, the soundbites mask inaction and delay and that is simply unacceptable to me and the public.
Labour had a bold prospectus on the climate emergency at the election. I want to see it implemented. I would prefer that to be by a Labour government but without that I’m willing to work with the Government to drive the change that is necessary and give long overdue attention to the pioneering work of local councils. When it comes to our environment, we cannot just stop at planting more trees and protecting the nature we already have. We need a comprehensive plan for rewilding nature, to improve our biodiversity and create more carbon sinks across our country.
We need urgent and bold action if we have any hope of taking on the climate crisis. From what I have seen over the last ten years of Conservative government, I do not think this is what we are going to get.
Luke Pollard is Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.