Fri, 19 April 2024

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By Earl Russell
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The Role of the Climate and Ecology Bill in Getting Us to Net-Zero

3 min read

With the Climate and Ecology Bill making its way through the Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Energy Security and Net Zero, Wera Hobhouse MP, discusses how the bill can help the UK achieve its net-zero goals.

Tackling the climate and nature crisis is the greatest challenge facing humanity. Yet, in the UK we are failing to take our responsibilities seriously, with a government not acting at the pace required. The Climate Change Committee has suggested the UK is no longer the world leader in tackling climate change.

On greenhouse gas emissions, the UK is working to outdated targets set well over a decade ago. We have failed to take responsibility for the emissions from offshored manufacturing over recent decades, and meanwhile the government cuts taxes on internal flights, pretending that this will have no impact on our emissions. 

Our natural environment is also in decline, the Office of Environmental Protection has warned key UK ecosystems are at risk of collapse. Our rivers are in a terrible state. A report by the Environmental Audit Committee last year warned that there is a ‘chemical cocktail’ of sewage, agricultural waste, and plastic polluting our waters. Navigating our way out of this mess will need bold action. 

I believe the Climate and Ecology Bill (CE Bill) is vital to put the UK back on the right track. It is now supported by 168 parliamentarians from all main parties, and 237 local authorities The bill sets legally binding commitments both to restore nature and to strengthen the UK’s targets to cut emissions to ensure we meet our commitments under the Paris Agreement. The bill will also require that we take responsibility for reducing our impact overseas, both ecologically and in terms of emissions.

Importantly, the CE Bill will focus minds on the here and now. Currently, politicians are deferring real action on climate. Instead, this bill will ensure that the UK keeps its remaining CO2 emissions within a total carbon budget. This better reflects CO2’s cumulative action in the atmosphere.

Since we have taken our foot off the pedal, reaching the pace required for net-zero will be challenging. We will need the ingenuity and resolve of British businesses to grow supply chains and train workers at speed, and to innovate in the low carbon economy. With so many stopstart initiatives over recent decades, companies will need the rock-solid assurance of the CE Bill’s statutory commitment to environmental goals if we are to unlock the huge amount of private investment needed.

Whilst we depend on the UK Parliament setting in motion the transformative changes necessary, everyone will have a part to play. Achieving a broad public consensus on the way forward will not happen when targets are achieved top down. That is why the CE Bill would set up a ‘Climate and Nature Assembly’ of ordinary citizens, selected at random, who would hear from the experts and help guide the government’s strategy.

It would be fitting for the nation that sparked the Industrial Revolution to lead the world to a post-carbon, nature-positive future. If we are to encourage other nations to push for climate action at the pace required, we must lead by example. The CE Bill can be that example. It would set a gold standard for other nations to follow.

The CE Bill could contribute significantly to building our green future, lead to greener jobs, and cheaper bills. It can also help rebuild the badly neglected health of our nature. It is a bill that can play its part in helping us reach net-zero in time.

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Read the most recent article written by Wera Hobhouse MP - New oil and gas licences signal Britain is not serious about tackling climate change