Olivia Blake: The Climate and Ecology Bill will make us a world leader on climate action
The need for the Climate and Ecology Bill couldn’t be more urgent. In a week when most Conservative leadership candidates have ranged from silent on climate issues, to being actively hostile against their own net zero policy, Friday’s second reading debate of the Bill in the Lords presents a timely opportunity to unite against the climate and ecological emergency.
This Bill is our chance to position the United Kingdom as a world leader on climate action and move beyond the dismal record of Boris Johnson’s government.
The Climate and Ecology Bill was drafted by leading environmental experts and policymakers as a response to the worsening climate and nature crises. Although the last Labour government passed the historic Climate Change Act back in 2008, UK environmental policy since the Tories came to office hasn’t kept up with the science.
There are now gaping holes in UK environmental law that need to be corrected urgently in order for the UK to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with the strongest chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C and restoring our damaged natural environment.
The transition to a zero carbon, nature positive UK will affect all of us: how we live, travel and work. That’s why we should all have a role in planning how we get there. The Bill would create a new, temporary climate and nature assembly—a representative, UK-wide assembly of ordinary people, guided by experts—who can support politicians to chart the path we now need to follow.
Politicians have a choice between pursuing climate justice or enabling climate barbarism
This is a principle I’ve been led by in my own work. Last year, in the lead up to COP26 I organised a series of ten monthly meetings with people from across my constituency in Sheffield Hallam. From their views, values and concerns we built the Hallam Citizens’ Climate Manifesto, a shared vision of a greener future that was directed by my constituents, and which has supported my own climate work. It showed me just how much people cared about the climate crisis, and the radical changes they wanted to see in Sheffield and across the UK, to deliver a more just and greener society.
There is still time for us to rapidly cut emissions and radically scale up renewables, but we must act now. Politicians have a choice between pursuing climate justice or enabling climate barbarism. The UN expert bodies, the IPCC (climate) and IPBES (nature), and scientists the world over, are warning that it’s now or never—because if we fail to reduce emissions and halt biodiversity loss, we jeopardise current and future generations’ chances of a liveable future. There are no jobs on a dead planet; the way we measure value in our economic and policy decisions needs to include the value of protecting our environment and decarbonising our economy.
As one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, we have a long way to go to restore our natural world. The biodiversity summit, COP15, is on the horizon, where ministers are rightly calling on the world to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030. If it's good enough for the rest of the world, this target should also be one we aspire to domestically; and this is where the Climate and Ecology Bill comes in. It aligns UK policy with the international commitments the government has made at COPs in recent years and would set us back on track to tackle the crises head on.
Rather than the deafening silence in the ongoing Tory contest for leader – or worse, the active hostility to net zero – the climate and nature emergencies should be the number one priority of whoever the next Prime Minister is.
This Bill is an opportunity to take serious, democratic action to halt the rising temperatures and reverse the decline of our natural environment. That’s why I’ll be supporting it this Friday and as it progresses through Parliament.
Olivia Blake is the Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam.
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